Welcome to the Presentation

IMG_2276Big or small – it’s always been a goal of mine to speak at a developer conference on a topic of pretty much anything where the focus is solely on getting the information out there.  Like anything in life you cannot go straight to uber Architect, you need to put in the time and hustle to make it happen.  Outside of your place of employment, no one is going to hand it to you, you need to go get it.

This morning I did that.

This isn’t the first presentation I’ve done, but I’d easily say the first one where it was in front of my peers – not people looking to buy a product, not people getting started with a product, not a mix of influencers and decision makers but a group of developers looking to learn something new, looking to add something to their toolbox, looking for a spark or idea on how to approach a problem in their company.

Before, during and after I thought of a number of things that I thought of, need to do a better job of and need to adjust for on the fly.  If this is something you’re looking to do, maybe they’ll help you out.

Time Management

When speaking at a conference, you have a set amount of time, know your limits, speak within it.  There is only so much you can cram in and you want people to be wanting more of what you have presented.  I thought about using my phone as a stopwatch but didn’t want it to go off and play some goofy, distracting toon.  Instead the timer on my Powerpoint deck (Speaker View) did the trick.  Be respectful of your audience’s time, they have other sessions they want to go see and yes, they probably need to go to the bathroom as well.

Audience Size

Don’t change your message based on the audience, who is there came to see what you have to show and tell so show and tell them.  If anything the experience is probably a little more intimate as people can ask questions during the way – which in general I’ve always thought makes a session go better and allows for both speaker and audience to get more out of the session.  Does your audience not know what you are talking about?  I.e., it’s all net new, then give them those nuggets of wisdom all the way through and help them get on board.

Equipment

Get there early and validate it all, stand at the back of the room and see what people will see.  One mistake I made was I went to the back of the room, looked at my deck and it looked pretty good when the font was 30+, but when the code samples came up, that little bit of blur made it impossible for the audience to recognize.  I had to do some on-the-fly translating but this probably would have made it much easier for people to see.  Another thing which I have yet to invest in is one of those $25 USB presentation controllers, every time I use one I think – “How did I not use this before?” – well today I didn’t have one, because I have yet to buy one, and was sorely missing it.

Welcome Friends

Sitting in the corner on your phone, waiting for the session to start isn’t the most welcoming of ways to bring people in.  I’m not great at this, but I forced myself to put it down and welcome people as they came in – maybe start up some small conversations re: past sessions, the city or keynote.  It’s not hard and breaks the ice a bit – makes everyone feel comfortable and if anything gets your mind off what is next.

A Gift from the Demo Gods

In development circles, there is a small prayer that happens before a demo – “Please let this work and I will do anything…” – it always stinks when something you have put so much effort into blows up in your face.  I had this happen late last night, I had got lost in what I was building and in the final demo, messed up some earlier ones.  It was too much to backtrack on as the final demo is really great so I turned it into an opportunity to show the audience why they should do the opposite I had done and what happens when you don’t build follow the steps I was outlining.  Not sure how it went off, but I was up front about it being a “dog’s breakfast” which got a few chuckles.

Laugh it up

You are only human and can only do so much.  Despite our best laid plans, the internet will crash, someone will disagree with you, there will be a fire alarm (not today, but some day) – have a laugh, make a joke when something goes wrong and enjoy it.

Now if you’ll excuse, I need to go prepare for my next presentation.

I don’t Jog, I Run

I’m not some expert runner/jogger who has run a gazillion ironman and triathlons, but I have noticed something over the years whether it is on the treadmill or on the street.

I don’t build up, I don’t start slow, I don’t wait for the first incline – I just run.  When it comes to the hills, I run even harder.

And I’m not big on doing it in groups either, I’ll do it now and again, go out with the family, but really when I want to run, to push myself for myself, I’ll run solo, even through the rain.

I’m sure there is some psychology behind this about constantly going and going, never stopping, blah blah, blah – “the Runners Mindset” – sure okay.

And I’ll pay for it, after going hard at the end of a race on a hill, only to get to the top and hit the wall – take that self-confidence and hubris.

It’s not about to change and I wouldn’t want it to.

But it is a hard thing to teach to someone who jogs and vice-versa – just like it’s hard task to get someone to try something new that goes against the grain of what they have been doing their whole life and/or career and where they have planned for themselves to keep going to.  It’s not easy, but it’s possible and where you first have to get on the same page is the race and the goal, if you can come together on that, then the getting there is a simple matter of implementation.  If you can’t come together on that, then you’re never going to get there.

On a side note – I should probably look into one of those Zombie runs.

The Impatience of Ordering Food

Last week, I was sitting in a local coffee shop, doing some work before a meeting watching people order their breakfasts.

I saw this one person sit down with his order, look at it, know it was wrong and just start to erupt.  He ate it, but he was not happy about it.  Then I started to look at the line-ups as people were becoming more and more frustrated with how long it was taking to place their orders.

Some were getting angry, some were checking their watch – their impatience was growing.  Think about when you go to a restaurant and order dinner -and it starts to take a long time – you’ve waited over an hour for your food and still nothing, better yet, it finally comes and it’s wrong.

Cue the eruption.

I don’t drink coffee, I drink tea and I have been there on those occasions, when I have ordered a tea, driven all the way to work, finally sat down and taken the first sip of my tea only to find out that it’s a coffee?  How dare they?  How dare they get my order wrong?  At those times I’ve felt the need to fling my drink across the room at the wall.

Now look at when I bought my first car, much larger expense than a cup of tea, it had problems within the first 24 hours, called it in for a fix it’d be in the shop for a few days.

Was it a downer?  Yes.

Did I lose my cool?  No.

You’d think it’d be the other way around, I paid more for the car and it’s broken but yet it’s the cup of tea that drove me nuts.

Is it the convenience of ordering food that makes us impatient?

Is it the immediate gratification of food that makes us crave nothing less than perfection?

Or is it a simple matter of the combined factors of only having x time, to consume something of y quality and z cost that boxes us into feeling this way where in a larger purchase we have more of these factors in spades?

Don’t know, but change food to software and what does that do to your perception of what you are getting for what you are paying?

How to Scale One

You know the person on your team that knocks it out of the park – all day, every day – they show up, deliver and leave you sitting at your screen thinking – “Wow, amazing, just wow”.

And you always ask yourself that one question – “How do I clone this person?”  or in more realistic terms – “How do I scale past one?”  And maybe this is you, running the solo company, making a go of it, you’re killing it in the market, but also killing yourself in the process.

 

And at some point you realize – I can only bill so much so now I need to either raise the rates because my time is that valuable or start sleeping less to produce more?  But then if I sleep less do I lose out on quality on the product of what I am trying to deliver?  And what if the product is me?

Sorry no easy answers on this one – no perfected time management principles that result in an aha moment of awakening.

Only one very simple question.

Will you scale by resources or by people?  If you scale by resources you are on more of a path towards product development, if you are scaling for people, well that’s great and can work very well, but then you are also in the dilemma of now figuring out how to Scale past your next one that you’ve brought on.

No simple answer, I could answer it a 100 different ways, but a scenario you need to be aware of when growing your company.

 

 

The Freelancer’s Dilemma

Who is the freelancer?

What is the freelancer?

By definition – someone that works for different companies at different times rather than being permanently employed by one company.

They have no benefits, no job security, no full-time place of employment, no paid for training, vacation is when they can get it and they pay for their own travel.  And yes, with multiple clients comes multiple conflicting schedules.

That’s what you hear about the most, what is often not spoken about is how they have the freedom to work on a variety of different projects on a perhaps a variety of different technologies and a variety of different times.  If you don’t want conflicting clients, don’t take conflicting projects.  If you want to take vacation, plan your work around it.

The problem with being a freelancer is that we expect it to come with all the benefits of being a full-time employee but it is a completely separate job category driven by those with an entrepreneurial streak not sure where they fit but wanting to try a number of different things before they do decide.  Or maybe a way for them to figure it out along the way.

You can freelance with benefits and find mobile places of employment to get out of the house and better yet you can charge all your parking to your company at large.

The real killer that holds people back from Freelancing full-time isn’t any of these things – it’s the having to sell yourself over and over and over again.  When you apply for a full-time job, you do this once, you apply, you get the job (or you don’t and you rinse and repeat somewhere else).  But once done it’s over.  When you are freelancing, you are constantly doing this, constantly selling yourself, constantly keeping your LinkedIn profile up-to-date – that’s the dilemma.  That’s the piece that holds people back from jumping in again and again.

So if selling yourself is what is holding you back, than figure out a way to do it, to do it better and to improve with each project, don’t take one large, 5 year project, take a bunch of 6 month projects and get used to that feeling of uncomfortable until you find the next dilemma to work through.