After a whirlwind week through the monstrous training event that is Microsoft’ Tech Ed conference, I can finally write this post to recount my experience of that week in Houston.
I arrived at the event half-way through the first day, and walked the six blocks from my hotel to the conference center. After negotiating the maze of closed sidewalks, locked doors, and blocked escalators, I eventually found my way to registration and the conference speakers room. At other events, I am familiar with the speakers room containing several long tables with enough space for 20-30 to power up laptops and review their content.
At TechEd, with more than 500 break out sessions, I did not expect the mammoth room that opened up before me. There was easily room for 100 to work, and every seat was taken on this Monday afternoon. I noticed a number of people in the room whose sessions I had attended in years past, and understood at that point I made it: I was at the big show, and this was going to be my turn to present. The staff took my information and handed me what I had been coveting for years, a pair of speaker shirts – proof positive that I was where I belonged.
In the weeks leading up to arriving in Houston, I had this feeling that I was just pretending that I got the invitation to speak at TechEd. I had been wanting to be a lecturer at this show since 2008, and there was just no WAY that I could finally have the change to do it. This moment when I left that room with two purple speaker shirts over my shoulder was tangible verification – no more denial.
I attended and worked at the Microsoft ASP.NET experts booth on Monday evening and Tuesday afternoon. Including Tuesday evening, where I appeared at an “Ask the Experts” event, I felt like I was really getting into a groove. I was wearing my speaker badge and colors, and representing the content well. … and then Wednesday happened.
I couldn’t sleep Tuesday night. Maybe it was the killer party that my colleagues at Telerik put on, maybe it was nerves, but it certainly was not for lack of rest. I woke at 4am on Wednesday morning and got to reviewing and rewriting my demos for the 5pm presentation. I calculated that I needed to leave the hotel by 2pm to make it in time for my talk. All morning I tuned, pruned, and practices my session. I added a joke or two, moved some code around until I got it just the way I wanted it…. and then I left my hotel at 1:30pm.
After a quick lunch at Chipotle across the street, I walked to the venue. I made my way to the speaker room and sat for a few minutes, re-reading my paper notes and slides one final time and then I left for my room. When I arrived, I found my friend Mads still presenting his session on Performance Tuning ASP.NET. It was a great session, with all of the seats filled and standing room only remaining.
Once that session ended, I wired up my mic and got on stage. After connecting my laptop to the series of displays that I needed for this session, I looked out at a mostly empty room and thought: Holy crow, there’s a lot of seats out there. I’m not usually nervous when I look out at my audience, but there was a lot of build up to this one for me, and I started to feel it. I wandered to the back of the room and took a picture or two, and started to get my mind right. I like to think of a moment in the first episode of Lost, where Jack explains that he’s only going to be afraid for 5 seconds and then block it out. … and that’s what I did.