Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Rock Star Among Rock Stars

Certain conferences will always hold a special place in my heart. TechEd, because that was the first place where I discovered the MCT community. PDC (now BUILD), because it’s developer focused. And the MCT Summit, because it’s all about MCTs.

The MCT Summit in particular is special for me because of the opportunity I had and the lessons I learned 3 years ago.

The beginning of 2008 was rather rough for me business wise. My bookings had slowed down, and I was struggling to find a class to teach. I needed a “break” – I needed a big win. That was when I offered to deliver three sessions at the MCT Summit. I was going to do one on Visual Studio 2008, and then two on LINQ, one of my favorite .NET features. And I have to admit, as I flew up to Seattle, I was extremely nervous. I needed this to go well for my career. And then there was this matter of presenting in front of a room full of MCTs.

Trainers are a different breed. We’re outgoing. We’re boisterous. We enjoy public speaking, which is the biggest fear of most people, even greater than the fear of death.[1] And we’re professional speakers. We know what to expect, we know when someone is doing a great job, and we know when someone is tanking.

That’s a bit unsettling.

And exhilarating. I mean – what better way to test your skills than in front of a room of people who make their living utilizing that skill?

This is the part of the story where I’m supposed to say I rocked all three sessions, and people were building idols to me in the back of the room. I could say that, but, well, I’d be lying.

My first session on day one bombed. Tanked. Went up in flames. And I knew it about 5 minutes into the presentation that this was not going to go well. It turned out to be the lowest presentation score wise that week.

But it’s those setbacks that help teach us the lessons we need to learn. And I learned many, many lessons:

  1. Practice your demos. You need to be able to do them rote, and be able to quickly recover from any failure.
  2. Know the slides in and out. Know what the next slide is before it’s on the screen.
  3. Present your own material whenever possible – this was probably my biggest mistake. The VS 2008 presentation was someone else’s, who had a very different style from me. I could never find my rhythm.

On the heels of that, I went back to my room and decided I was not going to let that be my MCT Summit story. I grabbed my slide decks for my LINQ presentations, and I tightened them up. I grabbed all of my demos and I practiced them until I had them down pat. I added punch to both the slides and the demos, looking for better ways to both impress the audience and better convey the cool features of LINQ and LINQ to SQL.

The next day I took the stage feeling confident – I had this in the bag. And let me tell you – I did. The next two sessions were amazing. I brought the house down. Those sessions were ranked first and third overall for the Summit.

And the aftermath? Well, I landed my biggest client after those sessions. I earned the respect of many MCTs for those sessions.

In short, the best career move I ever made since becoming an MCT was presenting at an MCT Summit.

If you’re an MCT and you’re looking to “take it to the next level”, consider presenting at the upcoming North America MCT Summit in San Francisco. There’s still time to apply to be a speaker. Come experience the rush that is speaking in front of a room full of MCTs.

Check out www.mctsummit.org for full information on how to apply.

Hope to see you in San Francisco as one of the attendees of your session!

[1] As Jerry Seinfeld once said – that means one would rather be in the casket than delivering the eulogy.

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