Apart from internal corporate presentations, all of my speaking has been done at local user groups. My first developer conference gig was the recent WinDev conference in Boston, where I did two presentations at the kind invitation of the Windows Forms track chairman Ian Griffiths.
This proved to be an interesting experience. I arrived from London on the Wednesday evening, and my first presentation was early on Thursday morning. Unfortunately, I blew the first code demo and had to leave out two other code demos due to lack of time, but otherwise I managed to stand upright and talk simultaneously without bumping into the furniture for 90 minutes. The microphone helped a lot, because I still have a problem with voice projection. Most of the feedback was very positive, although I was confused by one guy saying the pace was too slow whilst another guy said it was too fast!
My second presentation was on Thursday afternoon, and that went much smoother - all of the code demos worked well, my talking was more focused, and I finished exactly on time. It's a great feeling when everything just clicks, which compensates for those times when everything goes mushroom cloud-shaped.
Before the presentations started, I talked techie stuff with some other WinDev speakers, namely Tim Ewald, Mike Woodring, Ian Griffiths, and Fritz Onion. I only know these guys through their blogs, so it was very interesting to meet them in 3D. The amount of knowledge and brainpower on tap was fairly scary, and I was kept busy tuning my bandwidth to absorb some new concepts.
Before dinner, I met Ian Griffiths again together with Matthew Adams, both based like me in the UK. These two are a real riot, especially when put together. Now we just need to get to a trackday together to indulge in our joint love of fast cars,
Dinner in the hotel bar that evening was very entertaining. Peter Provost and Robert Hurlbut were both speaking at the conference, and we had a wide-ranging discussion fuelled by both beer and cider. Peter is quite hyperactive mentally, and switches his laser focus from one subject to another very quickly. He recently joined MS on their Patterns and Guidance team - seems like the mothership is still swallowing as many tasty developers as it can find. Robert is quieter and more considered, but is seriously tanked-up techwise. Together we solved the world's IT problems, covering subjects ranging from the merits of dynamic languages such as Haskell, Python, and Brainfuck, through to neat tools such as NUnit, and on to processes such as XP and TDD. I must admit that I'm still not a XP fan, but I really do need to look closer at dynamic languages.
On Friday, Robert and I attended Keith Brown's talk on using and extending NUnit. Keith is a deceptively laid-back speaker, but he certainly knows his stuff in depth, and was quite happy to write ad-hoc code during his presentation. That's a skill I have yet to get to grips with, and for me marks a significant transition away from the "grasshopper" stage.
So now that I've done my first devcon, I really want to do another one to put into practice what I learned at WinDev. If anybody out there wants a .NET or SQL Server speaker soon, please drop me a line.