Follow the yellow brick what? My road to public speaking.

[caption id=“attachment_313” align=“alignright” width=“300”] Follow the yellow brick Road! Original Image Credit: airdiogo on flickr[/caption]

If you would have asked me 2 years ago if I had ever considered public speaking my response would have been a definitive no! In the words of the cowardly lion, “Not no way! Not no how!". Well, a lot has changed since then. This is the story of how I went from being the cowardly lion to presenting at my local SQL PASS chapter.

My story begins at PASS Summit in 2013. I was immediately taken aback by the energy and the connection I felt with the SQL Server community. I started working exclusively with SQL Server in 2007 and Summit 2013 was my first major conference as a SQL DBA. Prior to 2007 I was a DBA on the other major platforms, and I had been to user group conferences for those platforms, but I never felt the connection that I felt at Summit 2013. Talking to other attendees, talking with speakers, talking with vendors. The people I met at Summit loved what they did and it totally showed. What really did it for me were the speakers. They were real people. They were down in the trenches with me doing the same types of things that I did at my job every day. Some of the sessions I went to were about things I already had some knowledge on, but many times the speaker offered a different perspective. I love challenging my own ideas and learning new ways to think about things so I really didn’t mind the overlap of knowledge. At some point during the conference I started thinking that maybe I too had something to share!

[caption id=“attachment_313” align=“alignleft” width=“300”]Finding some friends for my journey! Original Image Credit: airdiogo on flickr[/caption]

On the final day of the conference I attended a presentation that I normally would not have atended in the past. By that I mean it wasn’t technical. Up until this point I have always focused solely on technical sessions, but this was a Professional Development session about presenting. The presentation was titled “DANGER! The Art and Science of Presenting” by Mark Vaillancourt and his presentation was fantastic. It gave a good overview on how to choose a subject, how to prepare a slide deck, how to overcome your public speaking fears and most importantly how to have fun doing it. Mark’s presentation pushed me over the edge and set me on my journey of giving presenting a try. Mark if you end up reading this, thank you.

One part of his presentation mentioned an organization called Toastmasters. Toastmasters is dedicated to helping people become better public speakers. Members attend regular meetings where they are able to practice speaking in front of the club. Each speaker receives a speaker evaluation and is offered constructive feedback, which is very valuable in becoming a better speaker. Conveniently for me, my company has a Toastmasters Chapter that meets twice a month right in our office, so after I got back from Summit I signed up. I’m not sure you will find a better organization to help you become a better public speaker. If you have a local Toastmasters chapter and you are interested in public speaking, join it, you won’t regret it.

[caption id=“attachment_313” align=“alignright” width=“300”]OMG flying monkeys! We must be close to Oz! Original Image Credit: airdiogo on flickr[/caption]

If you don’t have access to Toastmasters club don’t let that stop you. There are plenty of resources about public speaking on the internet. How to choose a topic, how to creating your slide deck and demos, how to use body language, using presentation tools, the do’s and don’t of giving a presentation, and so much more. There is more than enough information out there to help get you started and keep you on track to becoming a speaker. I found myself binge watching TED talks just to pick out the finer points of other speakers. Watching their mannerisms and facial expressions, listening to their vocal inflections and dramatic pauses. Just watching and listening can give you a very good feel for what really gets the audience engaged, and what might not.

So here I am, a year and a half after I went to PASS Summit. I have given 5 speeches through my Toastmasters chapter, I have given a handful of online presentations to my team on various technical topics, and to top it all off I just gave my first presentation to my local SQL PASS user group Intro to SQL Server Automation with PowerShell. I know I have a lot more to learn about becoming a better speaker but I am well on my way.

[caption id=“attachment_313” align=“alignleft” width=“300”]We’ve met the wizard and he aint such a bad guy after all!Original Image Credit: airdiogo on flickr[/caption]

If you’re still reading at this point and are thinking about speaking I highly encourage you to give it a try. I truly believe that everyone has something to share and chances are, someone is out there just waiting to listen to what you have to say.

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