Question from a Software Apprentice – What blogs do you read?

For the past 8 weeks, I’ve been mentoring some up and coming Java and .NET apprentices at the Software Craftsmanship Guild, and I’m excited for this current cohort.  From high school student with internships to corporate investigator… marketer to older developers wanting to learn new things… soccer referee to mechanical engineers… these are just some of the many talented apprentices that I’ve had the pleasure of mentoring throughout their journey as they learn about the wonderful world of programming.

While talking with them about their interviews, one of them asked me today about what blogs I read.  That had me thinking, as it’s been awhile since I’ve opened an RSS feed reader.  With 2 little guys to chase after, I’m lucky if I find a time to get some reading in.  However, I do find I’m getting a little better with podcasts.

These are some of the resources I recommend to our .NET apprentices:

  • Technology and Friends with David Giard – as he interviews all sorts of people in the tech world, and it’s no secret that I really enjoy talking with Dave when I get a chance to sit down with him.  He’s covered topics such as SASS (Syntactically Awesome Stylesheets), Cryptography, PowerShell, Kinect, JavaScript, Security, Self-Marketing, MakerSpaces… and a lot more!
  • Hanselminutes and Scott Hanselman’s blog – because I absolutely enjoy the fact that Scott is one person in his blog and not just a persona.  He’s not just Scott the .NET guy.  He’s also Scott the husband, the dad, the diabetic, and takes on other roles as needed.  The fact that he’s all of his roles in his blog and not just the tech side is what appeals most to me.
  •   .NET Rocks! – for anyone wanting to know more about the .NET community, Carl and Richard do a great job of covering what’s going on and who’s who in the community.
  • MSDN Magazine - another great source of what to know in the .NET world

For the Java apprentices:

  • Java Magazine – learned about this from the Java cohort instructor, and it’s interesting to see familiar names and topics that even I as a not-an-everyday-Java-person could follow

What resources do you recommend for junior .NET apprentices to learn more about what’s going on in .NET?  Are there sites you recommend for those who want to know more about what’s going on in Java?  What about general tech sites?  What do you read?

Speaking at Link-State 2014

The ACM chapter at Case Western Reserve University is putting on their 3rd annual Link-State conference on Saturday, September 20, 2014.  I’ve been asked to give a talk there, and I’m super excited about it.

About Link-State

Link-State is a conference that the ACM@CWRU hosts for students and professionals to network and learn more about what’s going on in the world around them.  Some of their past topics and speakers included:

  • Moving the Cloud – Ben Kaplan, Microsoft
  • The Dirty Work: Scaling Out Websites With Your Own Two Hands – Fred Hatfull, Yelp
  • A Practical Introduction to DevOps with Chef – Nick Barendt, LeanDog
  • A Day in the Life of an Open Source Analog Electrical Engineer – Chris Gammell, The Amp Hour
  • Doing Fun and Unnatural Things With ‘@font-face{}’ in CSS – Eric Meyer

My Presentation – The Case for the UX Developer

There were three topics that I was tossing around for the event, but the one that really jumped at me was the one that I’ve been meddling with for awhile – user experience for the developer.

When people hear the term user experience (UX), many automatically assume it’s a thing for only designers to understand.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.  I can’t Photoshop my way out of a scandalous picture – I’m far from being a designer.  At the same time, I understand a lot of UX concepts, and I find that this knowledge makes my projects a lot easier and my coding a lot easier.

For example, I recently served on a website committee for the city where I currently live.  I was the techie on board, and going into it, I already had personas created so that we knew who are targets were and what needed to be included.  So even if a group wasn’t represented based on those of us on the committee, I had already done the research to represent those other cases.  Having those personas made it easier for us to think of the use cases for the site and come up with questions on where there may be gaps.

Throughout the development of a product – be it an application or a website, it is important to keep the end users in mind.  In the beginning, identify the target users and bond with them.  Empathy for the end user goes a long way in development, as this talk will show.  Interviewing, personas, usability testing, and refactoring are some of the tools that developers can wield while crafting solutions.  “The Case for the UX Developer” will show developers how to take advantage of tools to become better developers.

Learning More About Link-State 2014

I’m excited about giving this talk – it’s been in the works for awhile, and now’s the right time for me to unleash it.  Want to know who else is speaking at Link-State 2014?  Follow #linkstate and @cwruacm on Twitter and stay tuned to their website at:!

Microsoft MVP Again!

I wanted to take the time to thank all of those people who are responsible for my Microsoft MVP status.  I got the email this morning that I’ve been renewed as a Microsoft MVP in Visual C# for the 6th time!

So what’s this mean that you’re a Microsoft MVP?  How did you become a Minimum Viable Product?

Ha! I am not a Minimum Viable Product or even a Microsoft Garage project. ;)

Seriously, though, I’m a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional in Visual C#.  That means that somewhere in the community or Microsoft realm, there are people who find my contributions to the community valuable enough to get this recognition.  Some of my contributions include:

  • Blogging
  • Conference Organizing – Local, both in Cleveland and Columbus
  • Conference Speaking – Local and regional opportunities
  • Serving on a local high school’s advisory board and giving them guidance on including Microsoft technologies in their programs
  • Volunteering with Cleveland GiveCamp (which will be on July 18-20 this year!)
  • Serving as an MVP Mentor

Does this mean you know everything under the sun about C#?

Not a chance.  You do realize what you’re asking, right?  There isn’t a Matrix program that could be used to get me to spit out all the solutions to C# problems.  However, I do know where I can find these solutions or at least others who may have encountered these problems.

For those who don’t realize just how large C# is, some of the things you can do include:

  • Create PowerShell cmdlets to work with C# libraries.  Yes, those can be C#!
  • Create a WinForms application that can work on multiple platforms. Yes, C# can run on non-Windows platforms thanks to Mono!
  • Create shiny looking desktop apps using WPF.  Yes, C# can be used for those, too.
  • Create websites using ASP.NET MVC.  Or if you’re not a developer necessarily but want to get using some of the Microsoft web stack – use WebMatrix to try a project written in C#, such as Orchard CMS.
  • Go mobile and create apps that run on tablets and phones.  Yes, thanks to Xamarin, you can use C# to build apps to run on non-Microsoft platforms.
  • Create add-ins for Microsoft Office products.
  • Create projects that run in Windows Azure.
  • Create games using XNA Game Studio.
  • Control robots and other small electronics using the .NET Micro Framework and Gadgeteer.
  • Create an API for your clients to work with their data in your databases using WCF or even ASP.NET MVC.

And these are just some of the things that you can do with C#… there’s a whole lot more!

Are there any perks of being an MVP that you really like?

You can find out a lot more about what the award includes on the MVP Award Value page on the MVP program’s website.  Honestly, the part I like the most about being an MVP is networking with other MVPs and seeing how we can help each other and our communities out.  As we have relationships with the product teams at Microsoft, we can carry feedback from the community to the product teams.  Being an MVP has given me the ability to see that Microsoft doesn’t only solicit feedback from the community, but they also act upon it.

Okay… so I know something about Microsoft’s stuff and am very involved in the community.  How do I become an MVP?

Get noticed!  As MVPs, we talk with other MVPs and learn who the up-and-coming community members are.  We can pass this information along to the MVP Program by nominating people for the award.  Each expertise has their own guidelines on what they’re looking for, so it can vary.  But the heart of it all is definitely community engagement.  You can read more on Becoming an MVP on the MVP website.

So what can we expect this year?

This year presents new challenges.  I’m now figuring out how to balance work, community stuff, and now a growing family.  Owen (Sir Squirmy II) arrived in April, so I’m slowly getting back into things.  I’m on the planning committee for Dog Food Con and am planning on staying behind the scenes of Stir Trek again as well.  We’re talking about doing a SQL Saturday here in Cleveland next year, so I’m going to try to help with that as well.  As for presentations and blog posts, stay tuned, as I’ve got a bit in the queue.

Looking Forward as the Coding Geekette

In the last post, I mentioned that it’s been busy.  So a quick update on some of those things…

Conference and Event Planning

UXPA Cleveland – Introduction to Test Driven Development

This talk was given at the end of February.  It was well-received, and it’s a talk I’d love to give again.

[slideshare id=31743982&doc=introductiontotestdrivendevelopment-140227203520-phpapp01]

Private speaking engagement

I had the privilege to speak at a local manufacturing firm for their International Women’s Day event.  It was great to talk about using technology to become more efficient.  I was able to recommend apps and provide real-world situations for how these apps can improve their day-to-day lives.  This talk reminded me of how much I love bringing tech to the non-techies.

Women and Technology Seminar

This event was well-received as well.  It was great chatting with ladies about tablets and Windows 8 and how they could get ahead.

Stir Trek

Another successful event is in the books!  If you have any feedback you’d like passed on to the board, feel free to email me at sarah at this domain and I’ll pass it on.  Mark your calendars – next year’s event is on May 1, 2015!

We didn’t see you at Stir Trek…

There had been talks throughout my pregnancy of going early, and I didn’t want to take any risks of going into labor while down at Stir Trek.  Little Dutkiewicz #2 – also known as Sir Squirmy II or Owen – was born on April 16.

Little Dutkiewicz #2, cuddled up to Mama
Little Dutkiewicz #2, cuddled up to Mama

Going Forward…

I’ve been on a maternity leave break since he was born.  However, I’m also ramping back up on work, as it’s something I have to do.  If you need any help in the web development arena, feel free to drop me a line.

I am on an active conference planning committee.  In fact, our call for speakers for Dog Food Conference 2014 should be open soon.  I would love to see more people there!

I am getting back into attending user groups.  This Wednesday, Ohio North SQL Server User Group is having a gathering where we can propose questions to the group and get answers from each other.  It’ll be nice to see the community talking.

Also, Cleveland GiveCamp is still accepting requests from non-profits and is now taking volunteer registrations.  July 18-20, I hope to see you at Cleveland GiveCamp!  I’m not sure what role they’ll commit me to, but I’m hoping for Team Floater again, as it was great to be a firefighter throughout the event.

As for blog posts… stay tuned, as I will hopefully resume blogging a bit more frequently!

Look out world… the Coding Geekette is back!

The Quiet of the Blog….

Yikes… it’s been over two months since I’ve blogged!  Besides the holidays, there’s been a lot going on here that’s kept me away.  So what’s going on?

Get-ChildItem, Take 2

Little Dutkiewicz #2 is due at the beginning of May!  So I’ve been spending a lot of time offline getting ready for his arrival.

Conference and Event Planning

After CodeMash happened, I’ve been heads down in event planning.  These are some of the events that came up.

SQL Saturday #241 – Cleveland – February 8

From everything I’ve heard, it was a successful event!  SQL Saturday was held at Hyland Software, with pre-cons at Hyland and at the Microsoft office in Independence.  You can see the whole line-up here:

Unfortunately, I had an emergency keep me away.  However, it was great to follow the #SQLSat241 stream and see everyone enjoying the event.

PowerShell Saturday 009 – Cancelled

Working with two other primary organizers and a few other organizers, we were planning on doing a PowerShell Saturday in March in Toledo.  Unfortunately, there were some scheduling issues that came up, so this event is cancelled.

UXPA Cleveland – Introduction to Test Driven Development (For Developers and Non-Developers)

My friend Laura reached out to me to see if I could give a presentation for the UXPA Cleveland chapter.  I’m excited to be speaking on the concepts and tools of TDD this coming Thursday, February 27th.  I’m even more excited that I’ll be speaking at OverDrive’s new campus.  I left OverDrive before the new campus opened, but from the stories I hear and the pictures I’ve seen, it’s a great place to check out!  Want to know more about the event? Check out the UXPA Cleveland website!

Private speaking engagement for a local company

My friend Pieri of PC Computing passed on an opportunity to speak at a client near their International Women’s Day event.  I will be speaking at a breakfast with some of their female employees on taking advantage of technology to make life management a bit more efficient.  By becoming more efficient, this will hopefully inspire them to use their freed up time to help themselves more!

Women and Technology Seminar

Pieri and I are teaming up to help promote three chapters of professional women’s organizations down in the Medina area – the American Association of University Women, the International Association of Administrative Professionals, and Working Women Connection.  (Disclaimer: I am a member of the Working Women Connection Cleveland East chapter.)  We’re teaching women about Windows 8 and some tips & tricks for iPads and Surface tablets.  Our event is Saturday, March 29th at the University of Akron: Medina County University Center.  If you’re interested in learning more about those groups or topics, please check out our event on Eventbrite.

Stir Trek: Winter Soldier Edition

Once again, the Stir Trek board is planning for a super awesome Stir Trek conference.  This year’s event is Friday, April 4th – opening day of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  We’re holding this at a new location – the Rave Motion Pictures theater at Polaris.  While we enjoyed our experiences at Marcus Crosswoods in the past, their comfy new seats unfortunately would’ve made us cut the number of attendees at the conference, and we couldn’t do that!  Tickets have gone up to $75.00, which covers:

  • Conference admission – with over 40 sessions of technical and career-related content
  • Well-known local, regional, and international speakers
  • Breakfast and lunch
  • Attendee T-shirt
  • Private screening of the movement and refreshments during the movie

For those familiar with the event, we’ve also done away with the +1 registration option.  If you need a +1 registration, you’ll be able to purchase those from the theater directly.  As in the past, registration is handled via Eventbrite.  Hope to see you there!

What happened to WiT Wednesdays?  Will you pick those back up?

While I really wanted to run with that idea and even had great ideas for it, I just haven’t had time to get all of the posts written out or interviews done.  Basically, life happened and WiT Wednesdays have been back-burnered.  They may return but not with the frequency that I had hoped.

So this little guy in the making… he’s not letting you slow down, is he?

The overachiever in me isn’t letting me slow down.  I’m going to continue to speak and organize events as long as I can, and then once he’s here, I hope to be back at it again within a few months.  I’m not ready to put my career on hold – I’ve got things to do. :)  So stay tuned for more events on where you can find me in action!

Thoughts on Speaker Selection Tactics


After reading Justin Searls of Test Double’s post on Calls for Transparency, it got me thinking.  I’m on a variety of conference and event planning committees, and no two events follow the same speaker selection process.  These are just some of my personal thoughts and do not reflect the views of the committees that I serve on.

Blind Speaker Selection

None of the speaker selection committees that I’ve served on have used this process.  While I like the idea of anonymized submissions for an initial filter, I eventually like to know more about who’s delivering the topic – not necessarily who by name but who by experience.  Has this person spoken at conferences of this particular size?  If not, have they had significant amount of speaking at conferences or venues smaller than this?  If there was a way to convey this information while still somehow maintaining the anonymity of the speaker, I would definitely prefer this method. 

Invite-Only Selection

This definitely has its pros and cons.  For one, it could be a matter of the committee selecting only their friends and their heroes.  Or it could be seen elitist and that the committee only wants a certain caliber of speakers, which makes other speakers feel like they aren’t that caliber.  It could also be seen that the committee wants the best speakers possible to help ensure the success of their event – so they want the best speakers for their attendees so that the attendees get the best bang for their buck.  For the committees I’ve been on that have gone this route, I recommend speakers who are known for their topics and appropriate for the event.  While I love my friends, my job on a speaker selection committee isn’t to ensure that they get picked – my job is to make sure I’m selecting people that the attendees will want to hear.  As time goes on, this gets harder and harder to do, as there are so many people out there that are great speakers but days are only so long and conferences can only be so long. 

Open Call for Speakers, Non-Blind Selection

This is the most common tactic I’ve seen on the committees  that I’ve served on.  I like it in that it opens the submission  process up to the whole community, bringing in speakers that we may not have even known about or even bringing in new speakers who are ready to present at our event’s level (whatever that translates to).  This presents some problems though:

  • More submissions means more for a committee to filter through and decide on.  This can make the process that much more difficult.
  • Being non-blind, there’s always the fear of the committee selecting just their friends.
  • Being non-blind, there’s also the fear of the diversity factor. People fear being selected (or not selected) because committees may have quotas or ideal mixes in mind.

The Diversity Factor

This is one thing that I’m sure other speaker selection committee members have weighing on them.  In a non-blind selection or even in an invite-only selection, you can make sure that your selections meet whatever it is that you’re shooting for – be it mega rockstars, more female presenters, or some other mix.  As a female presenter who has been on teams that have tried to take on the diversity factor, I’m begging you other speaker selection types – don’t choose speakers just to meet a quota.  If they don’t talk on topics relevant to your event… if they aren’t experienced enough to be speaking at your event…. please, please, please don’t select a speaker just for diversity.  While diversity is nice to have, sacrificing the quality of your event at the risk of diversity isn’t necessarily a good idea.


I’m currently on a bunch of planning committees.  We have an open call for speakers for SQL Saturday #241 (closing on 12/15); however, our pre-con talk speaker(s) are invited.  For PowerShell Saturday 009 in March 2014, we’re still in our early planning stages, and we are reaching out to local PowerShell resources to help find speakers.  If you’re interested in speaking at PowerShell Saturday 009 in Toledo, OH, definitely email me or ping me on Twitter.  For my event in late March, there are only 2 of us presenting, as it’s a small event and we’re doing it to promote some local groups.  As for Stir Trek, just stay tuned to @stirtrek on Twitter or the website for further news, as it’s always an evolving process – what started as invite-only eventually grew to invitations and open call for speakers.

I can only hope other conference organizers see Justin’s call for transparency and get on board with it.  I don’t know if there’s a speaker selection process that isn’t subjected to criticism – they all have their merits and pitfalls.  But hopefully through transparency we may be able to find a better way of selecting speakers for our events.

WiT Wednesday #5 – Thanksgiving Post

With Thanksgiving in the US being tomorrow, I wanted to take some time to thank some of the women in tech that I deal with and who are active in my local and regional tech communities. These are some of the women that I have met and have learned from them or been inspired by them or their social presence.

Jennifer Marsman

She’s a super-accomplished developer evangelist for Microsoft here in the Heartland District. Whether it’s hosting a hackathon or writing an app like ELIZA or just getting involved in general, it’s great to see Jennifer’s excitement for tech and the amazing things she comes up with! She also has a family and juggles the roles of mother and wife, and she’s one of the ones I look up to as I embark on the journey of balancing that many roles.

Carey Payette

She’s a developer evangelist for Telerik and lives in the Heartland District as well. Whether she’s blogging, speaking, or even organizing events, she’s always on the go. And when she isn’t doing stuff in the tech community, she’s also a mother and wife, and like Jennifer, she’s one of the ones I look up to as well.

Pieri Levandofsky

I recently met Pieri through Working Women Connection, and I understand now why my fellow local chapter ladies thought of her when they first met me.  She has been running her own computer consulting company for awhile. Pieri is involved in a variety of local groups, and she’s always up for teaching people how to benefit from tech, how to approach tech, and how to make tech less scary. I’m working with her on her event on March 29, where we will be showing women how to use Office tools and tablets to increase their productivity. When Pieri isn’t doing community work, she’s not only a mom and a wife, but she’s also a grandmother!

These are just some of the inspirational women in the local and regional tech community. I look forward to being inspired by more. I am very thankful for these ladies, as they’ve been great influences on me.  Hope you all have a happy and enjoyable Thanksgiving!  (And for those who don’t celebrate, then have a happy and enjoyable Thursday!)

WiT Wednesday #4 – Reaching Out to Younger Girls

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been featuring some very influential women in tech.  This week, I want to take a break to focus on some groups that work with women in tech, specifically with the younger demographic.  Since I’ll be speaking on Women in Tech next week at the Avon High School Tech Club, I figured it’d be great to tell them of these groups as well.

Rails Girls –

While this adventure started in Finland, Rails Girls has grown to be a world-wide non-profit volunteer community that encourages women to understand technology and build their ideas.  They teach concepts including sketching, prototyping, basic programming, and an introduction to the wide world of technology using Rails.  I really heard a lot about this from two girls from Colombia who presented before me at Strangeloop this past September, and so of course I was intrigued.  Past events in the US have been held in Chicago, South Florida, Raleigh-Durham, Columbia (MD),  Austin (TX), Washington D.C., Los Angeles (CA), Philadelphia (PA), and Pittsburgh (PA) – just in 2013 alone!  The next event here in the US is January 17 & 18, 2014 in San Francisco.  You can find out about Rails Girls’ events at

HER Ideas in Motion –

Based here in Cleveland, HER Ideas in Motion is a non-profit focused on getting girls into technology and media arts.  They try to reach out to girls ages 11-14.  They deal with tech clubs, hands-on workshops, and other events to get women into these areas.  They provide mentoring from technical and creative women in the professions.  My friend Nicole Capuana is one of my favorite local UX resources, and she was the one who mentioned this group to me.  If you’re in the Cleveland area and either have girls who are interested in technology or are a woman interested in mentoring these girls, please check out their website.

DigiGirlz –

DigiGirlz is a Microsoft YouthSpark program that has Microsoft employees working with high school girls on getting into technology.  They run DigiGirlz Day events and DigiGirlz High Tech Camps throughout the world.  These events cover topics such as:

* Career planning
* Information about technology and business roles
* Microsoft product demonstrations
* Thought-provoking exercises
* Developing cutting-edge technology

Some of the DigiGirlz events are for as early as grade 7 through as late as grade 12, with the age requirement of 13.  Check their events schedules to verify your local requirements.

Girl Develop It –

An international organization certified by the Board of Education, Girl Develop It is trying to make software development easy, affordable and accessible to all women (as stated on their About page).  They are throughout the US and also have international presence in Canada and Australia.  Some of their events include:

* Hackathons
* STEM fairs
* Nerd parties
* Code & coffee
* General meetups

Some topics include:

* Responsive Web Design
* JavaScript & jQuery
* WordPress

These are just some of the few groups that I know that encourage girls to get into technology or into some aspect of STEM (science, technology, engineering, & math).  If you’ve got more recommendations, please leave me a recommendation on my WiT Wednesday Recommendation Form!

WiT Wednesday #3 – Mary Lou Jepsen

This is the last of the women from my History of Women in Tech presentation that I’m going to mention in this series, at least for now.  If you want to see the other ladies mentioned – including the ladies of the ENIAC, Barbara Liskov, and Frances Allen – you can check out my presentation over on SlideShare.  (And yes, for those of you wondering, this was a recorded session, but InfoQ won’t be releasing the Strangeloop presentations for a few months yet.  When the presentation is live, I will be Tweeting about it, so follow me at @sadukie for more details.)

While Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper are no longer with us, I wanted to also focus on some women who are with us and active today.  When I read up on Mary Lou Jepsen, my inner geekette was psyched to see such an interesting story!

Tell us about Dr. Jepsen’s interesting story.

The first thing that caught my mind while researching Dr. Jepsen was her focus areas for her degrees.  From art to optical sciences and then applying those to technology, Dr. Jepsen has quite a story.  Check out this list:

  • Bachelors Degree in Studio Art & Electrical Engineering
  • Masters Degree in Holography
  • Ph D in Optical Sciences

Some of the things that she’s done in her career include:

  • Co-founder of the One Laptop per Child project
    • Deployed XO laptops – lowest-power and most environmentally friendly laptops – in over 50 countries in 25 languages.
      • Laptop with sunlight-readable display
      • Ultra-low power management system
    • Every child in Uruguay got one
  • Founder of Pixel Qi – focusing on low-cost, low-power LCD screens
  • Head of the Display Division, Google X Lab

With her varied background, you can see her contributions in:

  • Head-mounted displays (devices similar to Google Glass)
  • HDTV
  • Projectors
  • Holographic video systems

So wait… she’s out there today and doing cool stuff.  Does she have a website?

She does!  Check out her site at:

So You Want to Get Into Speaking….

Over the past decade and change of speaking at various events, it’s finally now becoming less intimidating and a ton more fun.   I’ve had people ask me various questions about getting into speaking, and so I wanted to take a few moments to share some of my key notes.

Find topics you’re interested in and excited about.

This makes it even easier to talk about the topic.  If it’s something you’re excited about, your audience will pick up on your excitement and has a better chance of staying engaged.  If you have the passion for something, your passion will help get others curious about your interests.  And if you start to lose that passion, have no fear – it’s possible to reignite your passions.

Find other speakers to learn from or even co-present with.

My first talk was one of the few where I had a co-presenter.  My friend Kevin Otte saw my potential as a speaker – he saw my enthusiasm and energy and knew I could do it.  He talked me into presenting at the local Linux user group on the Samba web administration tool.  Kevin was my co-presenter, and for me, I felt much better working with him, as we had been friends for awhile and he was a Linux guy, someone the audience could easily relate to, whereas I was the token girl there.  To me, he had early credibility, which I think helped our talk.

My second talk was part of a team presentation at a major conference, and I did miserably, as stage fright and some other internal noises got to me.  Thankfully, my teammates were able to pick up the pieces and fill in the gaps.  And after we were done, they reassured me that things would be fine.  And a month later, I would be back to presenting at the user group, this time on my own, and I was psyched.

You can find a lot of speakers over in the Speak.NET and INETA communities.  Many of those speakers are approachable and may offer more words advice on how to get into the community and into speaking.

Practice. Practice. Practice.

Especially when you’re just starting out… practice, practice, and practice.  Practice giving your talk to yourself in mirror.  Give the talk to your pets.  Give the talk to the people in the cars around you in rush hour.  Give the talk to your significant others or friends.  Give the talk to the open air around you.  Give your talk to as many people as will listen before the big day so that you become comfortable with what you have to say.  And ask others for feedback – you’d be surprised what people can pick up in a presentation, not just from verbal cues.

If you’re doing demos, make sure to run through them and verify that everything is working.  Back up your demos and presentations to the cloud, just in case your hardware fails. (Trust me – I’ve had hardware failure on the day of and it wasn’t a pretty day for recovering the talk.)  If you’re that worried, capture your talk on video as a backup.

Start small and work into the bigger groups.

When you’re just getting into speaking, it’s easier to start with smaller groups and get your message out that way.  The smaller the group, the easier it is to sort through feedback and then hone your presentation for the future.  This, to me, is probably the most logical from smallest to largest:

  • Company presentation for your team
  • Presentation at a local user group
  • Presentation at a local event (SQL Saturday, Day of .NET, PowerShell Saturday, etc.)
  • Presentation at a regional conference (CodeMash, StirTrek, That Conference, devLink, etc.)
  • Presentation at a national or even international conference (PyCon, VSLive, TechEd, deConnections, SQL PASS Summit, etc.)

Don’t picture the audience naked. Just don’t.

Some things can’t be unseen.   Seriously, did you really want to see that? Probably not.

Now if you are giggling, okay, giggle the nervousness away.  But seriously… WORST. ADVICE. EVER. is to picture your audience naked.

Remember that they’re trying to get something out of your talk.  Whether it’s someone who wants to learn more for their own gain or for their employer’s gain or maybe even someone scouting you for another conference, you never know who’s there or why, so bring your A game and just be the best you can be.

Learn to channel your nervousness into excitement.

As an introvert, this was one of the toughest things for me to deal with.  However, I finally hit a point where my nervousness for the most part flips right into excitement because I convinced myself – people come to my talks either to be there for me or the topic I’m speaking on.  Keeping that in mind, the more people walk in, the more excited I get.  I found this to be very true at Strangeloop.  I was terrified at the thought of speaking in front of hundreds of people in a theater in an opera house.  Introverted me was like “Lights! Camera! Die!”, but I had to keep ignoring that.  As I sat in the theater that day, with my voice fighting to stay since I was losing it due to sickness, I was nervous about losing my voice, but I was getting more excited as people filtered in for my talk.  I can remember texting one of my more outgoing friends about how the excitement was finally there and the nervousness not-so-much.  Words can’t explain how much easier it is when you present with excitement rather than with nervousness.

Quit second guessing yourself and just do it!

When I was younger, I had a project that challenged myself, and I ended up calling it Project Nike, because Nike’s slogan is “Just do it!”  After giving it that name, any internal roadblock I tried to create would crumble because I let the words “Just do it” carry me through.

Don’t worry yourself to pieces over the little things.  Find a topic you’re excited about, a group to present to, and just jump in and do it!  Take feedback as constructive criticism, and improve for the future.

I hope to see more new speakers in the community and would love to shepherd more into speaking!