Culture / Events

Off-The-Shelf Hacker: Hack the Conference Presentation

10 Jun 2017 3:00am, by

Have you ever wanted to tell the world about your cool gadget or Off-The-Shelf Hacker project? Maybe you’re a programmer, developer or hacker and need a little visibility in your community.

Is it possible, as a traditional engineer with one hand on a soldering iron and the other typing out Python code, that you may not even realize you’re a closet entertainer and subconsciously yearn for the roar of crowd and fame of the white-hot spotlight? Something to think about.

The Spring 2018 tech speaking circuits are already heating up. Conferences and events tend to look for speakers between 6 and 12 months out. If you think you might want to give a tech talk in January or February of 2018, the time to get started is now.

Not quite ready to keynote at OSCON or TED? I know, the thought of doing a tech talk can be overwhelming. Before you jump to another tech site, consider the wonders of the tech show business.

Why Present?

There are any number of situations where you’d get up in front of a crowd and talk about a topic.

External motivations are common. For example, if you’re in tech sales and your job is to sell the company, product, project, service and so on to customers, you’ll need to present. Maybe your company trains colleagues in the industry on the finer points of the EI-EIO programming language and you been using it for the last three years. It could be that you’re the pack leader and instinctively realize that the cause, whatever that might be, needs a champion.

Suppose you’re the new point man on the XYZ project and have been invited to demonstrate how the ground-breaking technology works. Surprise, surprise, don’t fear the Reaper.

Internal motives are common, too.

Lots of techies are enthusiastic about…well…tech. They just can’t hold in all those “this is the greatest technology since the screwdriver” or “this technique will save you 1,000 hours of work on your next project” thoughts. There’s this great gadget, skill set, idea or new technology out there and they simply have to let people know about it.

Strongly personal reasons can get you up on stage.

Speaking has helped me grow professionally and exposed me to opportunities I otherwise would have never seen. I’ve made a lot of long-time friends as a result of giving talks, so it’s good to see them at events. Also, audiences provide real-time feedback that helps me refine my views my topics and deliver a better show next time.

Doc, what do you mean by a better show next time?

It’s All Show Business

Years ago, I was a manufacturing engineer for Martin Marietta, managing ComputerVision and Sun Microsystems graphics workstations and shop-floor control systems. My boss was a real political animal and one of the youngest managers in the company. One thing he did was work his way into giving presentations to the higher-up suits. Clearly, it seemed to help his career.

Fast forward to the mid/late 90’s and I found myself consulting at AT&T, working on little Unix integration projects for the billing group. My friends Ray, Ed, Dino and Doug had big personalities and encouraged me to get out of my engineering shell. Ray had been a manager at Bell Labs, Holmdel and had successfully herded extreme techies for a number of years. Ray and the guys were great mentors and were instrumental in helping me build my confidence and become much more social.

As a result of the new outgoing me, I joined a Toastmasters club and after a while worked up the courage to give a presentation for the billing group. I practiced, revised and slaved over that talk for days. After the performance, people patted me on the back and said “good job.” My boss was impressed.

From there, I was hooked. I liked the white-hot spotlight, the fame, the recognition … the roar of the crowd (I’m still working on the fortune part).

And, you know what? If you’re deeply passionate about your topic, deliver your talk with confidence, and provide the best experience for your audience, it truly is show business.

What’s Next?

I like the show business of tech show. You get to meet interesting, knowledgeable experts in their fields. You get exposure to the latest tech and can see some very cool things. You get to go places. In January, I was at a conference in Portland. In April, I traveled with the TNS team as the “Senior Pancake Robotic Engineer,” to Berlin. Next week we’ll bring Stackie, the pancake robot, to Santa Clara for the Cloud Foundry Summit event.

It also helps you grow.

Speaking is one of the biggest fears that people have, but it doesn’t have to be that way for Off-The-Shelf Hackers. With some focus and work, you might actually find it fun. I do and I’m certainly a hardcore nerd/geek/techie/engineer/hacker/Linux enthusiast/hotrodder/steampunk guy.

Let us know if you want to know more about getting into the “tech show business” and we’ll expand on the topic, with future columns.

Feature image via Pixabay.


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