Emerging Speaker series: Bring the right equipment and don't be afraid to say "I don't know."
This is the second post in the series I call the Emerging Speaker series, where I continue to talk about my journey to becoming the best public speaker I can be. Read the first post for context – this story continues where the first post left off.
After being accepted at ThatConference 2015, I set out to prepare the talk that had been accepted, Real-Time, Cross-Platform Mobile Apps using Xamarin and SignalR. It was so exciting for me, but still extremely nerve wracking. I had built an app using Xamarin and SignalR for my previous company and had a lot of fun doing so, so I thought that others might think it was interesting as well. I wrote my code and slides and released the whole thing on GitHub. (It’s terribly out of date now, but might be worth a look to someone.)
I took this pic the night before my talk. It was a big moment for me!
I Googled a few local stores, but most of them were closed at that point and wouldn’t be open in time the next morning. The only place that might be remotely related was Wal-Mart, so I went there to look for a video connector (Mini-DisplayPort to VGA specifically). Nope, they didn’t have any either. I started to pace the isles, panic setting in more, when I looked at the computers and had an idea.
I’m not proud of it, but I ended up buying a laptop from Wal-Mart with the right video connector and returning it the next day after my talk. I simply used the laptop as a dumb terminal by remoting into my Mac.
That was lessons four and five for me. Lesson four, know what the venue provides and what hardware you need to bring. The video cable was a big oversight for me and I should have known better.
Lesson five, *know someone to contact in an emergency speaking situation. *I didn’t know anyone there and didn’t know who I could talk to. I realized later that the conference organizer’s cell phone number was on the website the whole time – chances are he probably could have helped me.
Anyways, I setup both laptops and did my talk. I was still really nervous beforehand – still breathing shakily, still sweating. I did a power pose beforehand, which does seem to help me. It went over well and was pretty popular by my standards – I didn’t pack the room, but about 150 people showed up.
However, I gotta say I wasn’t prepared for some of the questions – questions about stuff I’d never used before. Which brings me to lesson six, and it’s a big one so I’m making it really big.
It’s ok to say “I don’t know” to a room full of people.
It was hard for me to tell people that I didn’t know something, especially since I was presenting! I felt like I was supposed to have all of the answers. I got some pretty complicated question about a server setup with a backplane for SignalR that I stumbled through with some wild guess. It would have been much better if I has just told the guy I didn’t know what he was talking about.
The power in being able to say “I don’t know” without any angst cannot be understated. I was talking to someone the other day who told me, the difference between a mid-level and a senior-level software engineer is being able to say “I don’t know” without hesitation.
Anyways, my session was in the very first group of sessions. Since it was the only one I was doing, I was happy that I had the remainder of the conference to relax and see other sessions.
After ThatConference, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next, except I knew I wanted to be speaking at more conferences. So, I reached out to Scott Spradlin again and told him I’d be submitting to DODN. He told me he’d look for my submissions. I submitted the same things that I had previously submitted to ThatConference and what do you know – the same session was selected! I felt pretty accomplished at this point.