I arrived in Orlando for the DevConnections conferences on Saturday evening to present two breakout sessions at ASP.NET Connections, one on ASP.NET 2.0 and one on Visual Studio Team System. The conferences started with a joint keynote on Sunday evening which covered ASP.NET 2.0 and SQL Server 2005. Monday was slated as “Microsoft Day” which is when all the sessions presented by Microsoft employees were scheduled to occur. The remaining sessions for the conference were spread across subsequent days through Wednesday afternoon.
I presented on the following topics yesterday:
- Web Application UI Integrating Master Pages, Site Navigation and Themes (10:45AM-11:45AM…just before lunch)
- Using Visual Studio Team System to Build Enterprise ASP.NET Applications (1:30PM-2:30PM…just after lunch)
This was my first time presenting at a conference so I spent a lot of time Friday-Sunday working on my slides, practicing my demos and practicing speaking to a large audience (intonation, projection, pace, inflection, enunciation, etc.) I also brainstormed a few jokes (in the event my demos crashed) and anecdotes (to keep the crowd engaged).
For my first time presenting, I think the sessions went well. The biggest disappointment for me was I went over ~10 minutes in each of my sessions. I was more worried about not having enough to say to fill an hour and was surprised when I saw I would need to exceed the allotted time for my first session. I was utterly shocked when I saw I was going over in the second session as well — TB has always said I am too verbose. The irony of all this, considering entry #1 on my list assessing “marketing types” after my first month on the job, certainly isn’t lost on me as I approach Month Four. The “endeavoring to find out” will begin closer to home than I expected.
Lesson Learned: Practice runs with a clock are essential to finishing on time.
The good news is just about all of the ~200 attendees in my first session and ~100 in my second session stayed around to hear what I had to say despite my running over. TB says that was a good sign especially for the session just before lunch. She thinks the audience would have left if I was boring or doing a terrible job. Perhaps they were just being polite. :sarcastic:
The scariest moment began 30 minutes before my second session as I prepared to do one last run-through of my demo. Sitting in the speakers lounge, I tried frantically to get the virtual PC image I needed to boot to no avail. Without that image the the demo was dead-in-the-water and the session would be about 45 minutes of crickets chirping and me apologizing profusely that the audience would not be getting the session it paid good money to see. I pictured me standing up on stage like 😐 then :ashamed: and the audience looking back at me like :shocked: then :furious: … not a good state to be in immediately before a presentation.
About 10 minutes before my session was to begin, I headed to the room to get my laptop connected and to continue troubleshooting my demo. Three minutes before I was to start, as a final shot-in-the-dark based on the errors I was seeing, I decided to establish a VPN connection back to the Microsoft corporate network hoping the issue was caused by my laptop not having been connected to the mothership since Daylight Saving Time ended. I thought the laptop may have needed to renew a security certificate or update my local credentials store, etc. Lo-and-behold, one minute before I was to begin the session (with everyone already seated), the virtual PC image finally booted up.
Of course this meant I started the presentation frazzled and the demo was not staged the way I had practiced but I switched my laptop display onto the projector and jumped right in.
Lesson Re-emphasized: Weird things happen inexplicably when doing demos. Plan for the worst, hope for the best and hang on for the ride.
The remainder of the conference I will be catching up on some work, attending a few breakout sessions and trying to meet a few people from the Microsoft developer community. I have an aunt, uncle and first cousin (the child of a different aunt/uncle) who I plan to see while I’m here as well.
Orlando’s weather is very different than Seattle’s with constant sunshine and 80-degree temperatures during the day. There are too many kids though with this part of the country being the Land of Disney and this part of the year being when many schools have spring break. If TB thinks I’m verbose, she obviously hasn’t taken an elevator in Orlando with a group of pre-teen girls returning from the pool. Calgon, take me away…