This post is just some reflections on my experience on speaking, as part of the newcomer track at SQL Grillen 2018
Pre SQL Grillen
This is the first part of this post is written on Tuesday 19th June 2018 only 3 days to go before the session. My current feelings are rather to say the least nervous. Added to that is a considerable feeling of imposter syndrome. At this time my thoughts and feelings are these -:
Rehearsals - without a doubt, going over the presentation multiple times has helped so much more than anticipated. Whilst at this point the words that are going to be used have been repeated many times. They are in my mind. As each slide comes up, there is little doubt in my mind what I'm going to say or how.
Less is more - the amount of material that came out of my research into the topic, not all of it has made it into the presentation. So, what made it in is just what is required to get my point across. Which has upsides and downsides. It should make the session better, more focused, and if people ask questions after the session then other examples and illustrations will spring to mind. On the downside there is part of me that feels like my audience is not getting all that I want to get across. Then again there are only 60 mins which is more than enough for most people.
Imposter Syndrome - not sure what can be said about this. It seems natural, there are many presenters who feel the same. Right now, the best strategy seems to be to focus on the presentation. The goal of the presentation to help one person take one thing away from the session. Who that person is at this moment I do not know. So if just one person takes one thing away that I will count as a win. That person might just be me, which is also good.
Mentor - SQL Grillen, did an awesome job with the new comer's track. Assigning each person, a mentor, for me, I was very luck and have been assigned Cathrine Wilhelmsen as my mentor. Her insights and attention to detail was invaluable in so many ways. Cathrine made excellent suggestions and helped me to see the presentation from the point of view of a non-native English speaker's. Most importantly just generally very encouraging :->
Post SQL Grillen
Phew! OMG! That was soooo scary! Can I try that again?
Back in Sunny Glasgow. Now looking to see what lessons I can learn, and other thoughts spring into my mind.
Bunny in the headlights - It's easy to forget that as a speaker that I felt front and centre. That is to say, everyone can see you and knows you're a speaker, thats how I saw it. Even better or worse, each of the new speakers was given an orange apron to wear. The other speakers had different colours. For me, it was a strange feeling not in a bad way, more that I am usually part of the audience. On reflection its not a bad thing, all part of the learning experience.
Rehearsals – This really worked for me I was able to sit at the speaker's table check my equipment worked, run over my presentation quickly and that was me ready to go. Doing so many rehearsals (and not having any demos) meant for me that I knew what I was going to say and all the notes I needed were on the slide deck. Sitting at the speaker's desk was scary, with so many people who I have seen speak before. At least I was able to make it to a session before I was due to present. Which allowed me to relax and listen to the awesome trio of Rob Sewell (@sqldbawithbeard), Chrissy LeMaire (@cl) and Cláudio Silva (@ClaudioESSilva) talk about the new dbaChecks module.
The Presentation - nervous? YES! Waiting for the session to start was the worst part. Having seen some advice from Brent Ozar I had some music playing (that only I could hear) only thing was I had to resist dancing around. Knowing the presentation allowed me to concentrate on other things.
Audience – making sure I spoke to the whole audience front row to back, both sides, making eye contact with everyone, looking at their body language, to see if my points hit home
Pace - at some points my pace was a little faster than should be, I felt able to vary according to the material and audience reactions.
Body language - both my own to ensure I got points across. More importantly the body language of the audience. Was the audience looking at the slide, or looking at me, did they react how I expected?
The Audience - Think about this afterwards, there were so many more people than I would have even dared hoped for. My guess was about 30 people, some of the people I recognized, my colleagues from Scotland, Craig Porteous, Paul Broadwith, and of course Cathrine :->, and Grant Fritchey aka "The Scary Dba" (yes really!). Somethings seemed to work really well, like the acronyms game, and my alternative job description, yes you had to be there to get the point.
Feedback - for me this was the hardest part. The best that I had expected something like "Meh".
What I did not expect was people saying how well I had done. Grant Fritchey who attended my session, congratulated me on my presentation, even tweeting about as well. Then Alexander Arvidsson also congratulated me on the presentation, his kind and encouraging words can be found in this blog post. Catherine was very generous with her compliments and encouraged me to review the feedback, which was complimentary and insightful.
Finishing - needs more rehearsing, so that the presentation finishes on more of a high, at least from my point of view.
Timing – instead of using a stopwatch, I used a countdown timer. At several points, I was trying to see how much time had elapsed. As my notes had time elapsed at key points. The countdown timer did not make it easier for me to see the time elapsed.
Hard work – Over the years I have been fortunate enough to see many people speak who make it look so easy. Having done it now, its like a swan look they look graceful and elegant as it glides across the water's surface. Yet hidden away underneath the water are the webbed feet working really hard all the time. That’s my experience of presenting, making it look easy requires a lot of hard work, which remains unseen, the way is should be.
Last point is to thank the SQL Grillen team. William Durkin, who does an amazing job of making everyone feel welcome. Ben Weissman for creating and picking the speakers for the newcomers track. There are as l know so many more in the SQL Grillen team, thank you to all.
There are some ideas which are being considered. Where, when and what who knows, watch this space.
There is saying “if you want to change some things in your life, you have to change somethings in your life”. So this blog post is part of me changing something in my life. Whilst I might think its a good idea to publicly commit to something then work towards that goal, this is not something that I have done for before. So here goes. Yes this was inspired by the T-SQL Tuesday topic in December 2018, which I mis-read the date for :-)
BIML - this just seems to have so much potential, finding myself writing more and more SSIS packages that have patterns, now's the time to learn more and do more.
My preferred method is video training. This means I am in control of the tempo, if I have 5 mins then can watch a video (or part of). On the other hand if I have not grasped something it is possible to repeat it till I get it. One course on Microsoft Virtual Academy (https://mva.microsoft.com/) about the use of the APPLY keyword I had watch several before grasping the concept. At the moment Udemy is working well for me, just make sure you wait till the one of the regular sales.
In person events is something which has been of massive benefit for me. My first visit to SQL Bits was without doubt a career and life changer. Having the opportunity to hear from so many fantastic amazing speakers is a wonderful. Then there is the networking that is another story, even for a confirmed introvert like me!
Books are still a part of my learning. Recently I have found myself reading more using electronic books. There is difference between a physical book and an electronic book. The later is easier for to take my library with me. So it doesn't matter if the book is at home or work.
Teach - the go to person regarding SQL server in my company is me. At the moment I am writing some lessons to teach what I know about SQL Server and related skills. This encourages me to make sure that anything I am teaching that I have a through understanding of the topic.
Blog - writing posts has been patchy, so this is my commitment to write at least one blog post per month. This year I refuse to allow impostor syndrome to put me off (no excuses).
Submit sessions - on this subject, time to take my own advice / encouragement to speak about what I know, My success is built on those who have taken the time to speak and teach, and I want to give back.
Stack-overflow - having attempted to answer some questions previously with varying degrees of success. Rather than waiting, now the strategy is chasing down questions that I can answer / contribute Who knows chances are that it is myself who will learn more than anyone else :-)
Attend another conference - SQL Bits has been and will be the highlight of my technical year (SQL Geek Christmas / New Year). In 2018 my minimum commitment is to attend at least one other event. If possible as a speaker, volunteer, or at least as an attendee.
Soft skills - ask my partner she will tell you these could do with some work. As a self concession introvert, its not easy to work with people. Recently small achievements mean that it inspires me to learn and work harder.
#SQLGLA 2018 - the Glasgow SQL server user group ran, their first event (2107). This was an amazing learning adventure, so we are getting bigger, watch out Glasgow.
Now that I have committed these goals time to go and start making them happen. Expect a summary in, December 2018.
On the the 10th of November 2017 the Glasgow SQL server user group ran #SQLGLA. This was a half day event, primarily for SQL server professionals in Scotland. Although we did have some visitors for further afield. Namely our four MVP speakers, William Durkin, Chrissy LeMaire, Andre Kamman and Rob Sewell.
Now the event is completed, we have gathered and compiled the feedback. Now I feel that there is time to think about the event. It's been a bit a rollercoaster ride, with the full complement of good bits and scary bits. Much of the thanks for making this entire event a success goes to my co-organiser Craig Porteous. Without Craig this event would not have come off at all.
It would be fair to say that both Craig and myself had visions of very few people coming. Other than the speakers, volunteers and ourselves. People did come and as often happens at these, people you did not expect arrived and those we expected did not arrive. All part of the learning curve. My memories of the actual day are, we arrived at the venue, we all ran up and down stairs, realized what we had forgotten to bring, set up the venue ready for our guests. People arrived, attendees, speakers, sponsors. Speakers, spoke, people mingled, chatted, had tea, coffee, sandwiches, then drank beer, & wine. We cleared up, said good bye. Some people head off to the pub to continue the fun. It was a fantastic day, all the objectives we had aimed for were achieved.
As we know these events do not run themselves. There is a dedicated team of selfless people who make these events happen. Craig Porteous my co-organiser put a massive amount of work into making this event happen. Even more his selfless decision to have one more drink at the SQL Bits party meant he met William Durkin, and the conversation resulted in the event :-). We were also very kindly blessed with two very enthusiastic and industrious volunteers Edith and Paul. Who always seemed to be in the right place at the right time, and just did what needed to be done.
This event was a huge learning experience for Craig and myself. This event combined with running the user group has taught me more than a few lessons. Some of which we have learned, some I am sure we are still learning. Now the event is over, and I have sometime to look back, I will blog about some of the lessons. About running a user group and a larger event such as #SQLGLA.