Being a Speaker

Back in 2013 I attended my first PASS Summit. I was a first timer and Bill Fellows was my “big brother.” I had no clue what I was getting myself into. This is my story on how I became a speaker.

At my first summit, thanks to Bill, I was meeting people just about from the moment I got there. Bill knew lots of people. He’s tall and bald and hard to miss. And wears shorts. Everywhere. Regardless of temperature.

Where was I…oh yeah…speaking. While at summit that year I met and talked to many people. A few of them asked me “Have you ever thought about speaking?” I politely replied that I hadn’t, but I really wanted to ask them if they had forgotten their medication that day, or if they needed to be examined by a professional. Me – a speaker. LOLOLOLOLOLOL! Bless their hearts!

But then I thought about it. Why not speak? What would I talk about? What was something cool that I had done that people would want to know about? Could I do this? I showed people how to properly gift wrap a present in speech class (oh yes I did…and there is a right way…and you’re probably doing it wrong) – could I teach them something that would actually have some career benefit?

Yes. Yes I could.

I started to think about what I could talk about. I submitted a session to a SQL Saturday event later in 2013…and I was not selected. I didn’t know it at the time but I had picked a topic that was rather niche and would not have a real following. I found this out when I went to the event (yes, I still went…I was going to this one regardless) and talked to the organizers. This also allowed them to know who I was, so when I submitted again, they would be able to put a face with the name.

The following year I submitted a panel to a different SQL Saturday…and they picked it! This allowed me to get my feet wet while having some other more seasoned speakers there to help drive the conversation. In the weeks leading up to the event, we met and ironed out the details of what we would talk about. During those meetings I learned a lot from them, and they helped make that first session for me a success.

As a speaker, there are good days…and not good days.

A few months later I did my first solo session – and it did not go well. This was a tough pill to swallow. What happened? Simply put, my session didn’t reflect my abstract. I was disappointed in myself. It takes a few days for me to get over things like this, but since this was my first solo attempt, it really made me question whether or not I wanted to do this. Could I be good at this? I went home and re-wrote the session. Then looked at it and re-wrote it again. The next time I gave this session it went much better, and my feedback reflected it.

I love things that challenge me. Speaking does this, and does it in ways I would have never imagined. It takes me out of my comfort zone. No matter where I am for the foreseeable future, I will be speaking.

Speaking has taken my love of learning new things to the next level. Not only am I learning for the sake of a problem or making a business case for something, but now I am learning with a goal or being able to facilitate the learning of others. When I refine my skills, my session material gets better too.

My passions have found an outlet with speaking. It’s thrilling and sometimes frustrating. When you are speaking you never know what’s going to happen. Sometimes you have a lot of questions from the audience. Other times you have none. Sometimes you don’t know the answer. As much as you practice, it doesn’t change the fact that as many times as you give a certain session, no two of those are alike because no two audiences are alike. The one thing that is consistent is that the more times I am able to speak, the more people I am able to reach and help improve their SQL Server skill sets or adopt a new skill set with PowerShell. I don’t know where speaking is going to take me, but for now, I’m down for the ride to find out.


If you are interested in speaking, and would like to find out more, here are a few blog posts I found on this subject.

Paul Randal (via Grant Fritchey) – I think this one lays it out pretty good.

Cathrine Wilhelmsen – A really good post on when things don’t go as you had hoped.

Thomas La Rock – Once upon a time, he was a mere SQL fanboi.

Kevin Hill – On starting to speak and then after his first time speaking at SQL Saturday.

These are what I could find. If you have a blog post on speaking leave a comment and I can add you. 🙂

2 Responses to Being a Speaker

  1. Summary of my first SQL presentation….less than a year ago:
    http://dallasdbas.com/thoughts-new-speaker/

    The post that started my new addiction:
    http://dallasdbas.com/t-sql-tuesday-speaking-presenting/

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