First talk retrospective

I made it through my first lightning talk at the May meeting of the Nashville .NET user group. If you want some background you can check out this post on my preparation for the talk.

This post is going to be mostly for me to look back on in the future in case I decided to attempt another talk, but I am sure if someone is a new speaking it could be a useful as well.

Retro

Overall the talk went OK. There was no huge epic failure, but it far from a good talk. I was extremely nervous which lead to me be locked to the podium and flying through the talk way faster than I should have. I am pretty soft spoken and didn’t project as much as I really needed to. As a result of that is my points weren’t as clear as I would have liked.

David Neal was right that the audience does want you to succeed. There were a couple of questions at the end of my talk which made me feel that my point wasn’t totally lost. I got feedback for some of the audience members and other speakers which I included in the previous paragraph. All the feedback was presented to me in a kind manner which I greatly appreciated.

The future

In the future, if I try speaking again I have a lot of things I can improve on. I know that sounds negative, but I am looking at it as an opportunity to grow. I now know that I will need more time during the prepping stage to practice out loud and in front of people.

I love technology and sharing what I learn with others. That is one of the reasons I write this blog every week. Speaking may or may not be part of the future way I get to share with other, but I am happy to now know it is something I can do. It would require a ton of work, but it is no longer something I can’t ever see myself doing.

Preparing for my first talk

I will be doing an intro lightning talk on JavaScriptServices at the May meeting of the Nashville .NET user group. The meeting will be over by the time this post comes out, but I wanted to share my outlook on it before hand.

Background

This will be the first time I have done any sort of talk since the required speeches I did in grammar and high school. In college, all the required speaking was attached to some sort of group work in which I was happy to do some extra legwork if another group member was willing to do the presentation.

Based on what I have written so far I am sure you have picked up on the fact that speaking is terrifying to me. Although I have forced myself into more social situations in the last few years it has done nothing to alleviate my fear of speaking to a group of people.

Motivation

Trying speaking is something that has been in the back of my mind for a few years. Speaking is an area I have always shied away from, but over the last few years listening to people like Scott Hanselman, Cory House, Jeremy Clark and David Neal among others and their take on speaking/giving back to the community planted a seed that speaking is something I need to try at least once.

David Neal’s talk on Public Speaking without Barfing on Your Shoes was especially encouraging to me. Here is a recording of the talk from the last Nodevember.

Preparation

I decided on JavaScriptServices because it has provided a great amount of value to personally and I want more people to be aware of it. With the topic in hand, I moved on to making an outline of what I want to cover. Since this talk should max out at 10 minutes my initial outline ended up needing to be scaled back.

The next thing I did was to create a checklist of all the thing I need to do before the talk. The following is an example of where it stands at the moment.

  • Flesh out the outline
  • Add important items for each point in the outline
  • Create and test demo
  • Test demo offline
  • Create a couple of slides
  • Practice out loud

Of the above having to practice out loud is the one I dread the most. I am not sure what it is about hearing one’s own voice, but it is always disconcerting.

 Wrapping up

I am still in the prepping stages and ever day that the talk gets closer the more nervous I get. There is also a level of excitement to see if this could be something I enjoy. It would be fun to have a new way to share my enjoyment and lessons learned outside of this blog.

I will post an update here or a full new post after the talk with how I felt it went. I will also hopefully have the feedback of a few others as well.

Communication Issues

My wife recently had an interesting experience with her cell phone company and this experience reiterated to me the importance of communication. This post is going to cover some high-level issues I encounter regularly.

For a bit of background here is a description of out experience with the cell phone company. First level support was awesome. They were responsive, kind, and mostly knew what they were talking about. Our case ended up getting passes to second level support and this is where things went bad.

Under communication

This company’s second level support was a perfect example of under communication. It was impossible for us to communicate with a second level support person we had to just sit around and wait for them to email us. In fact, even a first level support person could actually talk to a second level support.

The response took days of sitting around and hoping that our issues haven’t fallen through the cracks. The lack of communication ended with use changing cell providers based on the level of under communication. Had we been able to get a status or be told where the issue stood things would have turned out different.

It doesn’t matter if you are dealing with your family, customers or coworkers make sure to communicate what you are doing, what your expectations, what issues you are facing, etc. by providing this information everyone will be on the same page and have good expectations of each other.

Noisy communication

This issue comes up when you are communicating, but the idea being communicated is lost due to an unfocused message. Make sure that each of your points is concise and to the point.

To extend the cell phone example above a noisy version of describing the problem would be describing to the support person how angry the issues is making you, why the weather make you angry, the problem with the cell service, the cool new trick your dog did yesterday.

In the above, the really important bit is the problem with your cell service and the rest of it distracts and obscures what the actual point of the communication.

Dishonest communication

Intentionally providing wrong information for me is the worst communication offense. Missing leading someone either through omission of facts or a full blown lie is a sure way for any process to break down. I feel people try and make the best choices they can, but when making choices based on false or missing information the results aren’t good.

Another big issue with dishonest communication is when someone finds out that you have been dishonest with them if changes all future interactions in a very negative way.

Wrapping up

I have only listed three communication issues here that I seem to deal with for the most, but there are tons of more issues. Take time to evaluate your day to day communication and make sure your communication isn’t unclear for some reason. Don’t let some of this issues cost you customer, employees or friends.

Motivation

The Problem

I am sure I am not the only one to have struggles with motivation. One of my goals is to write at least one blog post a week, but some weeks getting enough motivation to do the required prep work and then write the post is hard. Some weeks personal things come up, other weeks medical, some weeks work is more challenging than normal. The list could go on and on as you all well know.

The Present

Take this week for example I had an idea in mind for a post and worked on a project to test the idea out for most of the week without any success. As the week passed and I was no closer to finishing the project my motivation levels dropped rapidly. I found myself more interested in reading How To Win Friends and Influence People for the second time than working on the post for this week.

Life will always throw us curve balls and plans will need to be adjusted. It feels like life has been nothing but curve balls over the last few months which has drained my inventory of posts. The last few weeks every weekend I am in a mad rush to get a sample done and get the associated write up finished before publish time. The stress of this rush every week has added to my decline in motivation.

Some Help

The question is how to prevent and/or get past a lack of motivation. I was catching up on some of John Sonmez’s YouTube videos when I came across The Secret Sauce For Continuous Motivation in which John addresses the issue keeping motivation levels up. The gist of the video is to always have a something that you are making progress on. I think John is on to something with this line of thinking. Without making progress on some front it is much easyer for negative emotions to pile up and make it feel like progress is impossible. If I had another project I could switch to that I know I can make progress on it would have provided some relief after hitting a wall.

The Future

In order to address this I am going to come up with a better plan with time boxes on how long I can spend on a particular project. This will allow me to switch to more productive projects if I hit a wall. I am hoping the time boxes will also remove some of the negative emotions associated with having to drop a project. Dropping a project will move from being a failure to being part of the plan while leaving the option to come back to the project at a later date.

In order jump start my progress I am going to go back and revisit some of the basic introductory topics I have covered in the past. Those have been some of my most popular posts and now that ASP.NET Core has released and Aurelia and Angular 2 are at the RC stages I feel there is value in revisiting those basic topics.

Some Encouragement

I am going to leave you with this video from John Sonmez that I found encouraging. You may find it corny or something, but John has personally replied to some emails  and I know he does that for thousands of people. Without his book and blogging course I would have never started this blog. It is nice to know that there are people out there who are willing to spend their time to help and support others. Where do you go when you are needing some support?

Books, Podcasts and Other Resources

It is time for another experiment. This week I am going provide a list of some of the resources I use to keep myself up to date in the development world. Please leave feedback on if you feel like this is helpful or with some of your own resources. I am intentionally keeping the list short to give a good starting point without being overwhelming.

Books

Soft Skills: The software developer’s life manual by John Sonmez – This is the book that finally got me motivated to create this blog.
Clean Code Collection by Rober C. Martin
The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master by Andrew Hunt and David Thomas

Podcast

.NET Rocks hosted by Carl Franklin and Richard Cambell – .NET plus other topics
Hanselminutes hosted by Scott Hanselman – Great mix of people and technology
nashdev check out the website for a host list – Programming related topics by local Nashville developers

YouTube Channels

Simple Programmer by John Sonmez – Soft Skills & general life advice for programmers
ProCoder by Jerrie Pelser – Web tech and tools
ASP.NET Community Standup by Scott Hanselman, Damian Edwards and Jon Galloway – Latest information straight from the team doing the work

Twitter

Scott Hanselman
Damian Edwards
Jon Galloway
Steve Smith
Rick Anderson
David Fowler
Jerrie Pelser
Scott Allen
Seth Juarez

Twitter tends to be the place I find interesting articles to read, but I often don’t have time to read them at the time I find them. It combat this problem I used pocket along with IFTTT so that anytime I like a tweet with a link in it the link get saved to pocket. Then when I have time I can go through pocket and read the articles saved from Twitter. This is the IFTTT recipe I am using for this functionality.