TechEd North America 2014, Thank You Houston!

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.

I went on stage with 15 minutes to go until my session was scheduled to start, and relied on an old friend of mine to help break the ice.  My childhood friend Rusty Ward has been producing this YouTube series called ‘Science Friction‘ for a year or so now, and I’ve started showing an episode or two before my sessions start.  The audience enjoys it, and it gets things going the way I want – smiles and engaged.

I set forth after showing a second episode of this series.  Its a great series, and you should check it out if you haven’t click the link already.  Anyways, I started my talk and everything ran very well.  You can watch a recording of the screens and my audio here:

Afterward, I had a number of questions and lots of great feedback come in.  Someone called it “the best session of the entire conference” another person said:

“I was hungover all day, and this was such an awesome session that it got my full attention”.  

There were many more comments, and I am humbled by the attendees feedback.  Thank you for watching, and thank you for that hour of your time.

Resources from my session

What does this mean for me now?  Honestly, I don’t know.  This has been a career goal of mine since 2008.  I’ve accomplished it, I have the shirts to prove it and now I must move on.  To what?  I’m not sure yet, but there is another Philly Code Camp coming up next month, and more conferences in the Fall.  I hope to see you at more cool events like TechEd in the near future!