Confessions of a Public Speaker

public speaking

confessions of a public speaker

Sooner or later, unless you’re going to hide in a monastery or settle for entry-level jobs for the rest of your life, you will have to speak in front of a crowd of people. It may happen in front of a small circle of peers, a boardroom meeting, online or in front of an auditorium with thousands of people.

Whether you’re like me — I enjoy public speaking; it’s one way I get my jollies — or whether the thought of standing in front of a crowd to deliver a presentation turns your blood to ice, I think you’ll find Scott Berkun’s book, Confessions of a Public Speaker, both helpful and entertaining. I’ve been reading this book for a handful of reasons:

  • As a way to get myself fired up to take on three weeks of being a track lead at TechDays conferences in cities away from home: next week it’s Montreal, the week after that I’m in Ottawa, and finally, the week after that, Winnipeg.
  • To help crystallize my own thoughts on public speaking in order to give advice to my fellow programmers about speaking in front of crowds.
  • Because Scott Berkun’s a great writer and has some interesting (and often amusing) stories to tell.

At 240 small pages with decent-sized type and with Berkun’s storytelling style, Confessions of a Public Speaker is a pretty quick read. He provides insights, advice, tips and probably most important of all, true “road warrior” stories that come from his own 15 years of public speaking plus stories of disasters faced by other well-known public speakers. Topics covered in the book include:

  • It’s okay to get “the butterflies” before public speaking; the trick is getting them to fly in formation!
  • “Umm”, “Ahh” and other verbal placeholders that people use, and how to stop using them (I’m guilty of this one myself).
  • How to work a tough room, and why a “tough room” is often actually the fault of the room, not the audience.
  • A very important chapter titled The Science of Not Boring People
  • Why most speaker evaluations are useless (I may have to show this one to the folks at Microsoft; we use speaker evaluations all the time).
  • The little things pros do (Luckily, we do every one on the list at Microsoft!).
  • What to do if your talk sucks, what to do if things go wrong, and which of these your audience will notice.

Confessions of a Public Speaker is one of those rare books that’s both entertaining and immediately useful. I’m going to recommend it to my fellow evangelists, and I certainly recommend it to you as well! It’s available directly from O’Reilly in both paper and ebook formats (I went with the ebook, which is US$19.99 / CA$21.45 as of this writing) as well as from the usual suspects: Chapters/Indigo, and Amazon.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Sacha Chua’s “The Shy Connector”

My friend Sacha Chua is not someone who you’d think of as an introvert, but she is. Hang out in Toronto’s tech scene and sooner or later, you’ll catch one of her presentations, which she does with all with the energetic bounce that is her stock in trade. She considers technology evangelism and outreach not just part of her job, but part of her life. She has hundreds of blog subscribers, Facebook followers and LinkedIn contacts, and her Twitter followers number in the thousands. Despite all her public appearances, blog entries, and vast social network, she’s still an introvert.

There’s a reason the saying “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know” has endured: it’s true (so true, in fact, that Malcolm Gladwell has done quite well for himself telling stories based on this particular nugget of wisdom). Wonderful things arise from opportunities, opportunities often come from connections and the some of the best connections are “weak ties”: those casual acquaintances who exist slightly outside our regular circles and who thus have information that we might otherwise never acquire. For a madly-grinning accordion-playing extrovert like Yours Truly, gathering weak ties is quite easy, and I’ve parleyed many a weak tie into an opportunity.

But what if you’re not an extrovert? Can introverts make the connections that can make the difference between getting by and getting ahead? The answer is yes, by playing to introversion’s strengths, taking advantage of some tools and following the steps in Sacha’s presentation, The Shy Connector, which I’ve included below:


This article also appears in The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century.


Silverlight Salmagundi

A salmagundi made of hard-boiled eggs, lettuce, cheese, red peppers, meat and pickles.

Here’s a salmagundi of information and links covering the just-released Beta of the up-and-coming Silverlight 4.

(In case you were wondering, I’m using the term salmagundi to refer to a mishmash of little things. A salmagundi is an salad dish dating back to England in the 1600s made of meat, seafood, vegetables, fruit, leaves, nuts and flowers.)

What’s New in Silverlight 4 Beta?

silverlight logo

The short answer is: a lot. The long answer is provided by Tim Heuer (one of the program managers for Silverlight), who’s written a blog article titled Silverlight 4 Beta – A Guide to the New Features, which are:

The Tools You Need

 A set of wrenches in various sizes.

Here’s a quick list of what you need to get started with developing with Silverlight 4 Beta.



  • Windows and Mac Developer Runtimes. If you installed the Silverlight 4 Beta Tools for Visual Studio 2010 above, you’ll have the Windows runtime. These runtimes are for test machines. Please note that these are developer runtimes – there aren’t any ready-for-average-user-consumption Silverlight 4 runtimes yet!
  • Microsoft Expression Blend for .NET 4 Preview. If you’re serious about building user interfaces with Silverlight 4 (and WPF 4, if you’re using the full-on Visual Studio 2010 Beta or Visual C# Express 2010), you’ll want to use Blend in conjunction with Visual Studio 2010/Visual Web Developer Express.
  • Silverlight Toolkit. This provides additional open source controls for Silverlight applications.
  • WCF RIA Services. These simplify building n-tier apps by pairing ASP.NET on the server side with client-side Silverlight. They provide a pattern in which you write application logic running on the mid-tier, control access to data, and end-to-end support for common tasks like data validation, authentication and roles using ASPNET’s services.


Getting Started with Silverlight Development

Mustang starter button labelled

If you’re new to Silverlight development, Tim Heuer’s got a great series of articles on his blog that will get you up and running quickly! You can see the index in his entry titled Getting Started with Silverlight Development or you can hit one of the individual links below:

Silverlight 4 Videos

If you’re an experienced Silverlight developer, you’ll probably want to check out these videos, which show you how to use the new features in Silverlight 4:

Silverlight’s Commitment to the Mac

A MacBook Pro standing in front of a Cinea Display monitor, showing both Windows 7 and Mac OS X.Jesse Liberty’s MacBook Pro and Cinema Display, running both Win7 and Snow Leopard.

The org chart at The Empire describes Jesse Liberty as the Senior Program Manager of the Silverlight Development Team, but both his business card and he himself will tell you that his title is “Silverlight Geek”. No matter which title you choose, it’s clear that he is the keeper of the Silverlight flame.

In a recent entry on his blog, he wrote:

When I joined Microsoft and started talking about Silverlight, many in the Mac community expressed skepticism about Microsoft’s long-term commitment to the Mac platform. In its most rabid form, the concern was that we were supporting the Mac only preemptively and would drop our support for the Mac as soon as enough Mac developers embraced it (!)

So, 2.5 years later, with the worst not having happened, I have renewed my personal pledge to make sure, to the best of my ability, that Silverlight not only continues to work on the Mac but looks and feels like a Mac app.

And what’s his machine? It’s a MacBook Pro, running both Windows 7 and Snow Leopard, hooked to a 24” Cinema Display. He writes:

I absolutely understand company loyalty (and loving the Mac is not disloyal to Microsoft) but I tend to believe that we do best in recognizing the strengths of our allies and our competition.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.


Career Demo Camp Montreal: Wednesday, December 2nd

career demo camp montrealIf you’re a techie in Montreal, you want to attend Career Demo Camp on Wednesday, December 2nd at 6:30 p.m. in the Mont-Royal Centre! It’s part tech career guidance conference, part DemoCamp-style event, and an opportunity for developers and start-ups to get together and learn about the job market, see projects that Montreal-area techies are working on and get to know and network with your local nerds. It’s presented by the Confoo conference (taking place in March 2010) and PHUG and will be hosted by Yours Truly and Jean-Luc SansCartier.

Here’s the schedule:

  • 6:30 p.m.: Intro to Career Demo Camp
  • 7:00 p.m.: Alex Kovalenko – IT Headhunting and Recruiting
  • 7:30 p.m.: Joey deVilla; Better Living Through Blogging
  • 8:00 p.m.: DemoCamp Introduction
  • 8:15 p.m.: DemoCamp Presentations
  • 10:00 p.m.: Networking Session

oh yes its free

The event is free of charge! All you have to do to attend is sign up at Career Demo Camp’s Registration page.

Microsoft Canada’s providing the space – we booked the Mont-Royal Centre for TechDays Montreal for two days (December 2nd and 3rd) and we weren’t doing anything with the space on the evening of Day 1. We decided to offer the space for some kind of community event, and Confoo and PHUG put together Career Demo Camp. I love doing developer community events and was only too happy to co-host.

The DemoCamp portion of the evening needs people to do DemoCamp-style demos: 5 minutes of “Show and Tell” where you show your software, web application or project in action. It’s the only thing you’re allowed to show on the big screen — no slides allowed! The idea is for you to show off your technology in action and inspire us, not to do a sales pitch. Think you’ve got a demo in you? Contact Jean-Luc Sans Cartier or Yann Larrivee and let them know you want to demo at Career Demo Camp!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection and The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century.


Scenes from TechDays Calgary

I – along with a good chunk of Microsoft Canada’s Developer and Platform Evangelism team – am in Calgary for the fourth leg of the TechDays Canada seven-city tour. TechDays Calgary is taking place in the BMO Centre on the Calgary Stampede grounds. Wanting to be a good guest, I decided to observe a local custom:

joey devilla

I haven’t worn my flaming cowboy hat in ages!

As far as I can tell, I’m the only attendee who brought a cowboy hat. The only other similarly-haberdashed people on the premises are the Calgary Stampede staff and the washroom signs:

washroom signs

There are a number of Christmas-related events taking place at the BMO Centre before and after TechDays, so the place is all decked out for Christmas:

nutcracker and tree

The isn’t a Santa Claus on site, but we do have IT Pro Evangelist Rick Claus delivering goodies:

rick claus

…and Rick’s session has drawn quite a crowd:

ricks room

ricks room 2

Another well-attended session was Introducing ASP.NET MVC, which was delivered by Tom Opgenorth:

tom opgenorth

Here’s the ASP.NET MVC room, already filling up a full 15 minutes before the start of the day:

asp net mvc room from stage

Tom ended up speaking to a room packed to maximum capacity:


The people who couldn’t fit into the ASP.NET MVC sessions were still able to catch the proceedings on a monitor outside the room:

asp net mvc overflow

Meanwhile, next door, Developer Evangelist John Bristowe delivered the Practical Web Testing presentation:

john bristowe

And one door over, Adam “Adam Bomb” Carter (the first guy to suggest to me that I get a job at Microsoft) spoke at the Inside the Application Compatibility Toolkit 5.5 session:

adam carter

Here’s a scene from the speaker prep room that reminded me of the Sesame Street song One of These Things is Not Like the Other:

speaker room

“Look! I’m at a conference, watching the proceedings of another conference!”

john bristowe watches PDC stream

And just outside the speaker prep room, Rob Burke and D’Arcy Lussier chat:

rob burke darcy lussier

Things seem to be going well, if IT Pro Evangelist and TechDays man-in-charge Damir Bersinic’s thumbs-up is any indication:


And down the hall, the Ford Flex featuring Microsoft’ Ford Sync technology awaits some passengers:

ford sync

Someday, arranging for conference wireless will not be an arduous, expensive affair, but in the meantime, we set up these hard-wired internet access stations. Note the anti-bacterial lotion beside the laptop – a sign of these H1N1 times. If I’d had any foresight, I’d have bought a lot of Purell stock:

internet station

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection and The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century.


Developer Night in Canada: Joel Semeniuk on Visual Studio and Team Foundation Server

Developer Night in Canada logo

It’s Back!

Developer Night in Canada is back! It’s a podcast featuring interviews with Canadians who make software, from all parts of the industry (yup, not just the Microsoft world), working all over the world, talking all about what they do and the projects they’re working on. It’s hosted by Yours Truly and my co-worker and fellow Developer Evangelist at Microsoft Canada, John Bristowe.

Developer Night in Canada is a bare-bones podcast. It’s just me and John talking with whomever we’re interviewing, just having an unscripted conversation with as little editing as possible.

Interview with Joel Semeniuk

Photo of Joel Semeniuk standing outside with his laptop on a very cold winter day In this episode, John and I talk with Joel Semeniuk, founder and Chief Envisioning Officer of Imaginet Resources, a Microsoft Gold Partner based in Canada. We talk about all sorts of things, including his work in healthcare technology, kanban, Visual Studio, Team Foundation Server, SharePoint, Telerik and travelling.

Joel is a Microsoft Regional Director. RDs (as they;re often called) aren’t Microsoft employees, but independent developers, architects, trainers, and other professionals who provide a vital link between Microsoft and the developer community. You see RDs doing things like helping companies and individuals get the most out of Microsoft developer tools, writing books, articles and websites on developing on Microsoft’s platforms and making presentations, teaching courses and meeting up with developers face-to face. Without the help of RDs like Joel, my job is considerably more difficult – I’m glad that people like him are out there.

Some quick facts about Joel:

  • Has a degree in Computer Science from the University of Manitoba
  • Spent the last twelve years providing educational, development, and infrastructure consulting services to customers throughout North America
  • Specializes in helping organizations improve their software development and information technology practices
  • Has probably forgotten more about Team Foundation Server (and its predecessor Team System) than I will ever learn

Click here to listen to Developer Night in Canada

Here’s the MP3 – it’s just under 25MB and runs 53 minutes, 58 seconds (you can left click to listen now, or right click to “Save as”).


Windows Azure Training Videos

Windows Azure logoWindows Azure is Microsoft’s cloud computing platform, and it’ll be going live very soon – expect to hear a number of announcements about it from next week’s Professional Developer Conference (PDC).

I’ll be posting articles showing you how to get into developing on Azure, but if you want to get a head start in the meantime, a good place to go is MSDev, Microsoft’s site that’s packed to the rafters with video training on all sorts of Microsoft platform development topics. There’s a series of training videos covering Azure development, including:

…and more videos are on the way.

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.