This article is about what you should do when putting yourself out there and speaking at local tech meetups or even large scale conferences, the mindset you need to have and how to get the most out of these events and things you should do to put yourself in the right place at the right time and possibly gain more than you intended or set out to do.
So this is the first article I have written on this blog that has not been tutorial based or a notification to my followers of new technology in the ASP.NET, MVC, Responsive Design arena. Instead this will (hopefully) be more of a self help/get your ass out there and do something article.
I have not had a lot of speaking engagements at tech conferences, actually I have only really had one. I have spoke and demo’d, helped organize and even worked behind the scenes at a few user group meetups. More recently I have been attending .Net User Group meetups in Florida. I have been to many from Miami to Orlando. Then I took the bold step of telling the organizer at my Orlando Meetup that I would like to speak at the Orlando Code Camp. Now this is not your typical code camp. Each year it has grown larger and larger and has attracted some pretty big names in the Dot Net / Microsoft Desktop and Web Technology space. This year the keynote was delivered by John Papa (who also presented) and we were graced with other household names in this industry like: John Sonmez, Jeff Fritz, Bill Reiss, Jeff Putz, Shayne Boyer, Stan Schultes, Paul Hacker, Jim Wooley, Joel Cochran, Kendal Van Dyke, Ken Tucker, Andy Warren, Brian Minisi ok thats enough, but you get the point. Point is this was a large event.
To get ready for the event I created a fictional business website (Tasty Baked Cheese Cakes) that I would build in front of the attendees using Foundation 5 for my talk “Designing Responsively in ASP.NET MVC“. In hind sight I should have made it more simple, but you live and you learn. Now because I picked a rather large event with many MVP’s and great speakers and I picked a topic that was both very relevant and also hardly covered at this event, my session was packed. People had to stand in the back of the room. My hand would not stop shaking, so I had to put it in my pocket. My demo failed.
OK, here is the first lesson. Always bring a backup of your completed project or several backups of different phases of the demo. This saved my ass. Yes I was a bit embarrassed that it failed at a critical point, but I tried to make it look like it didn’t phase me and moved onto the finished project and did some analysis of the final code. I had to think on my feet a bit because instead of building the pages, I now had to go through finished code and explain what steps I took to get to the finished product. Again I wish I could have done things differently but this is the hand I was dealt. Disaster averted and after the session I actually had people asking me questions and verbally telling me they enjoyed my session. I actually walked with a group of them out of the classroom and carried the conversation on down the hall. I made myself accessible to them and answered as many questions as I could. If you are going to take time to talk at a code camp or tech meetup or even convention. You need to make yourself accessible.
Another huge tip is to provide minimal URL’s and information for the attendees to take away. When I started my talk I gave my twitter handle and website (@httpJunkie & www.httpJunkie.com) they are similar and very easy to write down. during my presentation I provided one link to a tutorial, I said, “To go into detail would take to long, but I have a tutorial on this.. go to ( Ri.ms/MVC4to5 ) if you are interested”. Here I utilized a URL shortener from TinyArrows.com in order to make a link that was easy to read/write and visit. Also this was an optional piece of information that I just threw out there. Now at the end of the Session I ended and brought up my powerpoint to the last slide and said “Thank you for coming out, all resources and links for this session can be found on my blog at the following address:” ( Ri.ms/Responsive ) againI used a URL shortener from TinyArrows.com that was not only short, but very easy to write down or even remember if they had to. I also provided my website on that slide. Here is the slide below:
I wanted to leave an extra few minutes for questions and have this up while I answered any questions. It’s short and to the point and instead of providing a plethora of links I put them all on a page on my blog and simply linked to that. Try the link!
Another thing that I did in order to try and leave a lasting impression on the event organizers was offer my time before, during and after the event to help in any capacity needed. I stayed late and helped Esteban from ONETUG pack up all their food and supplies. And I truly believe that next meetup or next Code Camp he will remember me. During this time I made it a point to let him know how my session went and made sure that I wasn’t appearing desperate or overstaying my welcome even as a volunteer. I’m here if you need me, if not.. See you at the after party!
I have one final thing to share about my visit to the Orlando Code Camp that was unintended, but actually turned out to benefit me and introduce me to one of my favorite .Net Speaker/Professionals. I was very interested in attending John Sonmez’s session titled “Marketing Yourself To Boost Your Career” ok, not only is this exactly what I’m trying to do, but I would have probably sat through any session of his. He is a truly inspiring guy and very smart. Since my session was overattened and I ended up sitting on the floor in another session, I decided to show up to the session before John’s with presenter David Laietta “Get involved in the tech community“. It sounded great and up my alley, plus.. if I sat through it could get a good seat for Johns session. Five minutes after David’s session should have started we were told that he would not be showing up due to car troubles. I stood up and asked the class, “Do you guys want me to present my session on Designing Responsively in ASP.NET MVC?”, what do you know, they all said yes and even waited for me to run and get my computer from my car. Talk about being in the right place at the right time. I got to speak twice to two different sets of people that day and again after the session I had a lot of questions. Homerun in my book.
But that’s not where this story of being in the right place at the right time and going above and beyond ends. John came into the room to start his session and the projector wouldn’t work. To make a long story short, I tried to help and because of that, John recognized me in the hallway after the session and we continued talking at the after party and I feel I made a great connection with someone I look up to in this community.
Now, I’m not a huge believer in karma, but I do believe that if you put yourself out there, go above and beyond and step up and make yourself available when others don’t.. you will indeed get better opportunities and benefit from them.
I want to thank Esteban Garcia for giving me the opportunity to speak at this event, answering my questions in the middle of the night and just being a very nice guy and letting local developers speak at his events. I also want to thank John Sonmez for being approachable and willing to engage. I’m not sure still what his product is, but I may buy it anyways!
Thanks to everyone who came out to Orlando Code Camp and if you did watch my session let me know what you think.