This is my first time blogging for T-SQL Tuesday and I join in because this topic is one I have passion for.
Lets start by saying, public speaking is a very scary thing for many people. I know many database professionals who attend every SQL Saturday within 500 miles. You guys know who I'm talking about! These guys have accumulated so much knowledge from all of the sessions they've attended they should put together a session and submit.
Lets talk about me, I really hate talking about me, but, lets talk about me. :-)
I grew up being that loud mouthed, outgoing and aggressive...oh wait, not me my brother. Starting over, I was the shy guy, no kidding guys stop laughing. I had very little confidence in high school and about the same in college. When I told my guidance counselor that I wanted to study computer science he basically said I was overreaching. My ego was so small I almost believed him. Wish I remembered his name...jerk.
I started taking classes at Ball State University as a Computer Science major. During my study I decided to take a public speaking class, I can't remember why, I just remember if scared the bejesus out of me. My first talk was short and I could hardly speak from the shacking. I was miserable and a little embarrassed. To add insult to injury the lead cheerleader from high school, you know the really cute one...was in my class. What luck.
I made it through class, probably passed the class due to sympathy from the instructor and swore I'd never speak in public again.
Yep, there it is. Never again. Not if you paid me millions of dollars. Nope, no way, no how. You see where this is going right?
I have been a database professional for more than 20 years; do you think there is anything I can teach the newbies? You betcha. I remember back in 1996, when I was converting a Microsoft Access "app" to use SQL Server as the back end. The time I was a manager in the cellular phone fraud department at BellSouth Mobility. The fraud detection software we had was very limited in its capabilities because cell phone fraud was fairly new. Remember 1996 was the Atlanta Olympics. The fraud was a coming and it was going to be big.
I figured out how to pull the phone calls of all calls logged as fraudulent from the fraud system into MS Access and eventually into SQL Server 4.2 .... argh! I used the data to cross reference common phone numbers called by the fraud phones. From that I was able to create a rule that would allow me to generate a sheet for the Secret Service. Yes, it was pretty cool. There was my start with SQL Server.
Speaking, back to speaking...so, over the years my confidence in what I was doing grew. I was giving little training sessions to the customer service reps on how to handle the calls from people with fraud on their bills. Yep, public speaking at a smaller level, but still pretty scared when I started. Usually about 15 minutes in my excitement about my subject took over. I forgot that I was frightened of speaking.
As I progressed through all of my positions I had to talk to bigger groups of people, and still was extremely nervous speaking.
Years later I started meeting some of my DBA friends at a restaurant/pub called Taco Mac. These guys all were active with SQLSaturdays. I started helping by volunteering and eventually being on the organizing team in Atlanta. I had been to two SQLSaturdays before. At the time Aaron Nelson, Julie Smith, Audrey Hammonds, worked for me and got me involved with PASS. Aaron convinced me to go to SQL Rally in Orlando, then PASS Summit in Seattle the same year, 2011. Work even paid for it (amazing).
So what does this have to do with speaking? There are several things you have to do to speak:
- Have a presentation.
- Submit to your local user group or any SQLSaturday.
- Get picked (usually pretty easy).
The part I left out; usually you need someone to push you over the edge, coax you to pull the trigger. Take that first step.
That part was played by Aaron Nelson, Geoff Hiten, Rob Volk and Ed Watson. Weekly, Thursday nights, someone would tell me, you have to put together a session. I always came back with, Yeah, I know. Working on it.
Performance tuning and troubleshooting was something I did a lot and enjoyed doing. It is so much fun taking a developers code that he has improved run times from 15 minutes to 12.5 minutes. This query can't be improved! Let's deploy it to production. Ummmm... let me look at it. A few changes in the query and it is coming back in sub-second times. Its the face of the developer when he sees it that makes my day.
This is where I would start, showing a few best practice settings, a few ways to use existing free tools to help find the problem query...tada, I have a presentation. I named my session Performance Tuning for Mere Mortals. Why? Because I want to teach the beginners things I didn't know as a beginner.
I submitted for Jacksonville SQL Saturday since I knew a few of the guys going, but I didn't tell them until I got picked. I GOT PICKED! Wow, suckers, I'm a newbie, with a history of being deathly frightened of speaking. They picked me? Just to be clear, the Jacksonville SQL Saturday team follows the guidelines of give new speakers a chance. That's how we build the army of speakers to teach the masses for free.
Why am I doing this? I don't know. I'm not nervous yet...maybe later.
We loaded up my big blue Durango, with Rob Volk, and Damu Venkatesan.
The day of the event I had the pleasure of meeting several people who gave me some advice before my session...still not nervous...ok..cool... Chris Skorlinski an escalation engineer from Microsoft did a similar session before mine in the same room. So I went early to see his presentation. It had some good stuff in it that maybe I could add to a future presentation. I love going to sessions to learn from the speakers about speaking. I always learn something new. Chris and I talked a lot about presenting and he gave me a load of tips and tricks.
Now its my turn, not nervous yet. Wow, I had more than 40 people who want to here MY session... so I started. There were a lot of questions which was awesome. Even better one guy in the back of the room asked a few meaningful questions... I think he was a plant. :-) I remember seeing him in the speaker ready room.
Wait, still not nervous, but running out of time... I get a little worried about running over... yes this is my first session and I had way more questions that I expected... but its all cool. I like to build in extra slides just in case I get waylaid by questions or get no participation at all. Time is up... what? I finished on time and I didn't pass out. 1 down and I'm still buzzing from the adrenaline. I had multiple people come up and thank me for the great session...wow.
I went back to the speaker ready room and Chad Churchwell, Microsoft PFE (the guy from the back of the room) was in there. Again, I asked for feedback and tips. He gave me some great ones. Here was my start, all of the speakers are willing to help make you better and in a very positive way. I still talk to Chad every once in awhile, and I keep hoping to see Chris at a SQLSaturday...I have to do Charlotte next year.
Today, I've spoken at 20 SQLSaturdays and given 4 precon sessions. I've also presented twice at PASS Summit (the last two years). Not too bad for someone who was afraid of speaking.
The moral of the story is, you have something to tell, period. If you're a data professional that something could improve someone's life (business or personal). It could be the one thing that took them from beginner to senior, the spark needed to achieve great things, or even the one thing that stopped them and others from doing something stupid in production. :-)
You do not have to be an MVP or Microsoft employee to speak. You do not need to be a senior data professional. For that matter, you don't have to be a data professional at all. Just ask Karlyn LeBlanc who is not a data professional but presented Balancing Work and Home to Create a Better You at multiple SQLSaturdays I attended. Great session.
See, there really isn't any excuse for not putting together a presentation. You too could be presenting at PASS Summit next year! Take the first step. Put together a presentation. Ask me @SQLDiver to give you some feedback before submitting it. I'll even help with your abstract!
And for those friends that still aren't speaking... you know who you are...I'm writing this for you! Get your presentation together.
See you all at a SQLSaturday soon!!