This edition of the T-SQL Tuesday blog party isn’t a technical one. Hosted by Bob Pusateri, this one is timely for me. Bob invites us all to write about how we came to love presentating. That’s good timing as I’m actually giving two sessions at the SQL Intersection conference today.
That’s actually how I felt the first time I had to stand up in front of the class in school and give some sort of report. I can’t tell you when the first time I did it, but I do know that all through high school, and even college, I was scared to be in front of people, palms sweaty, bowels rumbling, and cheeks flushed. I couldn’t imagine voluntarily choosing to stand in front of people and talk about anything. Even talking to a group of 10 people at a party in college made me nervous.
I Need Money
College is expensive. When I went through college it was a fraction of the cost today, but it was still expensive. To help out my family, I worked almost full-time to cover my living expenses. The most efficient way to do that was to work in the restaurant business. I learned to cook, clean, and wait on tables. I never had to really speak to a group larger than 8 people, but I was constantly meeting new people and talking to them every night.
One summer, while home working at a local hotel, our bartender called in sick. I volunteered to jump in, did a good job, and spent the rest of my college career mixing drinks. Around this time the movie Cocktail was released, and many of my fellow workers learned to toss and spin bottles, myself included. It was a little like being on stage in front of groups of people, and over the next few years, much of my shyness in front of strangers disappeared.
Watch and Learn
I worked hard early in my technology career to learn as much as possible. I read books, magazines, trade articles, and more, trying to learn as much as I could about the various pieces of technology in my companies. I also attended lots of talks at user groups and MSDN local events. I watched many speakers talk about subjects that I had read about, and worked with myself. I learned lots of things, but more and more I realized that I knew much of what speakers were presenting. I started to think that I could present as well as others. I gained confidence from watching others validate my knowledge.
Eventually I started SQLServerCentral and there was a year when the founders wanted to do some joint presentations. Brian Knight and I had a debate about identities v GUIDs. It was my first time speaking at the PASS Summit and it wasn’t so bad. We had a lively debate, some input form Microsoft in the audience, and I realized presenting wasn’t so bad. I didn’t jump right in, but a couple years later I was asked to do a short presentation at a local user group and accepted. Fortunately for me this was a small group, and I ended up presenting for 15 minutes while seated a a conference table. Much like being in a corporate meeting, I felt the same mix of nervousness and confidence, but sitting down helped me.
Over the years I’ve had some good and bad presentations, but I’ve tried to learn from what has worked well and from what other presenters have done. I have written about presenting and tried to help others. These days I’m fairly comfortable talking in front of groups. I know I’ll make mistakes, and that someone in the audience might know more than I do. I know I’ll stumble over sentences. However I move on and don’t worry about those issues. I try to learn from them, but I don’t view them as failures.
Today I love presenting about various topics. I speak on SQL Server and professional development topics 10-15 times a year. I usually end up giving 25-35 talks, often on 8-10 topics a year. It’s fun, and I really enjoy the chance to teach people something or help them improve their careers.