Challenges of Speaking—Being Ready for Anything..

I have the good fortune to have a job that allows me to travel around the world speaking about technology. I love this—it gives me a way to see new places, experience other cultures, and meet a lot of wonderful people how have similar interests to me. I always say about half of my job is working on computers and databases, and the other half is talking and writing about them. I’ve been speaking professionally for almost 10 years now, and have had a lot of unique situations.

One of the biggest challenges is that I speak a lot about cloud computing—generally speaking this involves connecting over a myriad of ports to internet connections that may or may not be blocked. Here are some tips that I’ve used to deal with getting to the cloud in various bad network configurations.

  • Use a VPN to remote desktop to another machine that can get out
  • When you realize the network is blocking RDP packets use your phone to tether
  • Set up a VM in Azure with RDP running on Port 443 (https port) and RDP to that
  • Finally, use screenshots, if all else fails
    All of these are complicated by foreign countries, different networks, different network policies, etc.
    The one that takes the cake for challenges though is losing the projector. I had this happen for the first time at a SQL Saturday in Houston—I was doing an session on SQL Server High Availablity and Disaster Recovery and projector locked up. It was a session I easily could have done as a white board. However, the staff was able to get me up and running again.
    Recently, I had my machine lock up, during a session at SQL Saturday Cleveland, so while I was trying to get it to work, I calmly pulled out my second machine, fired it up while I got my other machine working, and kept going. I had another failure, so I restarted on my DR machine. I’m not saying you need to have two laptops in your bag, but it is a nice to have.
    Finally, this week while I was teaching in India, I lost video again—this time there weren’t good white boards. My topic was networking in Azure—so I worked with another presnter to do a live session with each of use representing parts of the network. The session went over quite well.

So what are the tips you need to know:

  • Always have a DR plan (this goes for travel, presenting, IT, and life in general)
  • Stay calm, getting overly nervous does you or the audience no good
  • If things go really sideways, don’t be scared to co-present with someone. It’s a good rescue mechanism
  • Your audience wants you to succeed, they aren’t against you. So relax.
    When all else fails, scotch.

About jdanton1
A DBA, cyclist, cook (who likes to play chef occasionally)

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