Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Did Some Speaking Today. I Could Get Used To It

My director was scheduled to give a talk at a symposium today. Due to a scheduling conflict, they decided to send me and another member of my team.

It was in Baltimore. Traffic sucks. It took me 3 1/2 hours to get to Baltimore; about a 100 mile drive from Fredericksburg VA where I live. I left just before 6. With a stop at McDonald's for breakfast and coffee, I picked up another member of the panel 13 miles up the highway. Originally, I thought I'd be able to drive up in solitude and catch up on my backlog of podcasts. But I also consider networking and relationship building priorities in my life, so I agreed to give a ride to somebody else.

My rider also works in my industry, and is quite a bit above me in my food chain. I've worked with this person before and have a lot of respect for them. We also have the shared experience of service in the Navy.

3 1/2 hours up and 2 hours back, we did some good talking and I got mentored a little. I appreciated that. The world needs more mentors.

Being a speaker rocks. I recently joined the organization that put on the symposium, and I would have had free admission to the general sessions. But, I got guaranteed parking and access to a "speaker's room", where several of us gathered prior to the session. I met my coworker there. The speaker's room had coffee and some bread type pastries. I also had a ticket to the keynote lunch, but my rider and I decided to foresake that in favor of getting back down I-95 before traffic got really bad.

While we were in the speaker's room, a Vice President of the organization putting on the symposium came by to talk to us.

I walked around the symposium room and talked to some of the exhibitors. One problem with this is, they all want to speak to somebody who can make purchasing decisions for your organization. I can't. I'm not sure I'd want to. But being an IT guy, I'm really interested in what some of them have to offer, even if I can't buy it for my organization. I had a good talk with somebody at the BMC table. I didn't get a chance to tell him about how powerfully I was able to use Remedy in my last job. I even used it as a rudimentary project management tool at one point in a prior job. Mostly he wanted to talk about how he spent several hours with my director at an airport layover.

There was a table for Infoblox, which I am working on helping my organization purchase, but it was unmanned. They didn't have any good swag anyway.

I didn't get much swag. Didn't seem like a lot was available. Must be austerity.

The panel went well. There were four of us. One from the higher department level CIO, and three of us from the two organizations involved. One guy gave his presentation. My coworker and I split our presentation into the halves we're each working on.

Then there were questions. Most were easy. A few people from industry asked for contacts they could speak to about partnering together. I can't blame them. I don't have that authority though. I answered as best I could, then deferred to the department CIO representative. I'm glad that person was there.

I saw some faces in the crowd I thought I recognized. One guy in particular; I was wracking my brain as to where I knew him from.

After the presentations and Q&A were over, people came up to the table to talk to us. Perhaps in an episode of what John T. Reed calls "Little Old Me-ism", I started to wonder what people want want to talk to me about. There were four of us there, and people actually came up to me at the table, in addition to the other three speakers. But this is a subject I'm an authority on; it's what I do to earn my paycheck (at least, what's left of it after the government and my ex-wife get their cuts). I answered their questions and talked to them as best I could. One gentleman worked for Lockheed Martin, which was my employer from 1999-2004, so I mentioned that.

By the time that was over, the guy in the back of the room I swear I know was gone. I think I knew him from my last job.

After that, the Vice President of the organization tried to goad us into the free lunch. My coworker, who lives close to Baltimore, stayed. My rider and I decided to flee. Too bad. We would have been sitting at a table close to the keynote speaker. But, it was the difference between getting home at 3 PM and getting home at 7 PM. Yes, Northern Virginia traffic is THAT BAD. One hour can add three to a drive home in the afternoon.

All told, it was a great day. I could get used to being a speaker. If my director has another schedule conflict, I'll be happy to fill in again.

I don't actually fear speaking. I've done a bit of it. When I was 10, I was MC of a talent show. I've found that in most instances, the people in the audience want you to succeed. They want a good presentation. They don't want you to be nervous. When I have to speak publicly, I draw on that.
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