Bob Pusateri(@SQLBob) is this month’s host for T-SQL Tuesday with a topic I definitely can relate to. Bob asks bloggers to talk on their presenting experiences: how they got introduced to it and why do they keep doing it. Since I’m right on the heels of giving my Server Core talk at SQL Saturday 197, it’s perfect timing.
To put my presentation experiences in context, let’s first talk a bit about some of my performance philosophy. I’ve written about my musical background before and how it relates to giving technical talks. One of my chief theories of performance (and art, for that matter) is the requirement of an audience, that art is not really art until you have an audience to appreciate it. It’s all well and good for me to practice and play by myself, honing my skills and rehearsing pieces, but none of this becomes music until there are people to listen to it and hear my message. Art is about communicating with that audience, sharing something of yourself through your performance.
This is a philosophy that directly translates to the presentations we give in the SQL community. The main driver is for us to share our technical knowledge with our peers, to create and education conversation with those who do what we do. For many, it’s intimidating to present when you think you have nothing to share. When we realize that we can teach our audience something new, it’s an epiphany of what our impact can really be. This was exactly the “hook” that got me into presenting.
It was March 2011. I had recently read Brent Ozar’s (@BrentO) landmark post: Rockstars, Normal People, and You. I wasn’t sure about presenting, but I’d figure I’d give it a bash, so I reached out to the Denver User Group to see if I could sneak in for a slot. After initially being told that my first chance would probably be something in the summer, I got a call from the VP of Events to see if I could give a short talk for the March meeting. Apparently, the regularly scheduled speaker had to cancel and the group needed someone to fill in on short notice.
I had about two weeks. In retrospect, that is a TON of time, but as a new speaker I felt like I was cramming last minute for an exam. I put together a short presentation on database security, built around this cool extended stored procedure I found: xp_logininfo. The night of the meeting came along and I went to the podium to warm up the room for Doug Lane(@thedouglane) with my “dinky, little presentation” . The 30 minutes flew by, I think partly because of my nerves and I talked quickly, but everything went fine. My demos worked, no one laughed at me, and my biggest sin was not speaking up so the back of the room could hear me.
Then came the “hook”. As I was packing up for the evening, Tom Norman(@ArmorDBA) came over to talk with me. Tom’s been a regular at the user group for a while who has given his own share of presentations. To this day, I remember what he said:
“I’ve been a DBA for over twenty years. You taught me something new tonight.”
Needless to say I was flattered, but it took a couple days to sink in. When it did, it hit me: these were people that benefited from my performance, an audience that enjoyed my performance. I was able to take my technical knowledge and mold it into something more. Two years later and I’m a regular speaker in the mountain west area as well as VP of Events for the Denver group. I’ve had the opportunity to speak at SQL Rally and many other SQL Pass events. Presenting has been so much fun and it’s opened countless doors and started numerous friendships.
I want to thank Bob for giving speakers a chance to share their experiences. My biggest hope is that we can encourage those who haven’t started speaking to do so. If you’re reading these T-SQL Tuesday posts and you haven’t given a talk yet, go talk to your user group right now. The SQL community is always looking for speakers and, whether you believe it or not, you have something I want you to teach me.