Return To Where It All Started

They say you can’t go back home again. That is true, but this week I will be traveling back to where it all started. I am headed back to speak SQL Sat Nashville! Last year at this time (January 2018) I nervously arrived at SQLSatNash to present for the very first time.

With a ton of support from my friends and family, I created a session over Soft Skills and I was ready to present! I had prepared. I had obsessively gone over each and every word on the slides. I had practiced and practiced and had actually given a test run to my husband’s company. I was ready. I WAS READY!

Is it time to panic?

No sleep was to be had the night before my session. I was excited and nervous.. and very scared. The day was here and I could not be any more prepared. I walked in to set up laptop and the room was freezing. I swear I could see my breath when I talked! You see, the university had been closed the day before due to ice and snow, and the rooms had not yet warmed up. This gave me a new panic. How was I going to keep people’s attention in such a cold room? Would they even stay?

My knees were knocking, and it wasn’t just because the room was a balmy 40 degrees (F)! I was nervous and was constantly questioning my decision to step into the public speaking realm.

I loved seeing it snow at #SQLSatNash 2018

Calm down, you are amongst friends!

In order to calm my nerves, I started playing Can’t Stop the Feeling. This is one of my go-to feel great songs. People started filing in, and I kept it playing. I started dancing (to keep warm and also because I had no idea what to do with all that nervous energy!) and I was surprised to see others started joining me!!!  Much to my amazement and pure enjoyment, Aunt Kathi was on the front row to see ME and she started dancing as well! Actually I think she lead the dancing! ha ha (Seeing Aunt Kathi there in my session made me feel like a super star. Having her join me in dancing made me feel even more special. Thank you Aunt Kathi!)

I look out over my audience and see some amazing people. John Morehouse, Duke (#JohnsDad), Rie Irish, Allen Kinsel, Lance Tidwell, Jim Donahoe, my son Robert, Chris Hyde, and many others were there to support me! What an amazing group of #SQLFamily! The time was now, and I did not want to disappoint them! So here we go, the song was over and it was time to start!

I am thankful for my #SQLFamily

If you have not attended my sessions, they are… less than boring. I feel that my job as a speaker is to not only education, but to entertain. So, sort of edutainment I suppose. I was so full of excitement and energy, I felt like I was buzzing all over the place! I had a lot of great audience interaction and participation and before I knew it, the presentation was complete. WOW! That time sure flew by! I was shaking, I was excited, I was on a new-found high that I had never experienced before! I was totally bit by the Speaker Bug!

SQL Saturday?

I went on to speak at several SQL Saturdays in 2018 and had a wonderful time at every event. If you are wondering where the next or nearest SQL Saturday is to you, you can visit the SQLSaturday website and find out! Remember that just as important as the training you receive, the networking at SQL Saturdays can be greatly beneficial to you and your career. Don’t be afraid to approach a speaker and ask questions. We are there to share knowledge and to network as well.

I am super excited to be chosen to speak in Nashville again. It is such a great event put on by great people. This year I will be discussing something near and dear to my heart, Ethics in Data. I would love to see you at SQL Saturday Nashville 2019! You can find out more and register here!

And hey, if you want to start presenting but don’t know where to start, check out this blog (Just Start at the Beginning) and send me a message! I would love to help grow new speakers! You can do this.

Just Start at the Beginning

Do you have one of those friends who tell it to you straight?  No?  Get one ASAP.  Those are the real friends.  I have SEVERAL of those friends and I am so grateful for each one of them.  I am gonna call out one of those friends today.  My great friend Rie (T/B) is an amazing, wonderful, funny, kick-ass lady who gives me the right amount of hugs and punches.  She keeps me going at times when my fear monster seems the strongest.  (Everyone has fear monsters, right?)

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When contemplating stepping into the “speaking circle” I had the kind of nerves and fears that are not new, but are still very prickly.  I wanted to speak, I wanted to contribute to the great SQL Community and SQL Family….but where would I start?  What would I talk about for an HOUR?  Would anyone want to listen to what I have to share?  What if I fail?  What if I am WRONG?  WHAT IF I AM BORING?!?!?!  (I think that one may scare me more than anything these days.)  What do I have to contribute?

So many questions, so many fears, so many reasons to not even try!

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Let’s stop right here and address something.  Everyone has a story to tell.  Everyone has a point of view that is unique and different. Think about Shakespeare for a moment.  How many ways has Hamlet or Romeo & Juliet been told, retold, reworked, renewed, etc.?  Hundreds of thousands of times!  And you too have a unique story to tell. It is yours, only yours, and we deserve to hear it!  I have to give a shout out to Mindy Curnutt (T/B) here.  I watched her presentation on Imposter Syndrome and it was very eye opening. You can watch it here.

Where to start.

So Back to Rie.  I was day-tripping on the worry train and asking all kinds of questions.  One that really stuck out was “Where do I start?”  Her very honest reply was “At the beginning, Angela.  You start at the BEGINNING.”  Think about how often that question (I call them fearstions) stops you in your tracks.  The answer is so simple.  You don’t ever start in the middle.  You ALWAYS start at the beginning!

She shared with me that the best way to start writing a session is to get your ideas on paper, start an outline and then build the content from there.  So very deceptively simple!  So you know what I did?  I started at the beginning!

I grabbed some paper and a pen and I sat my thoughts to paper.  First I started with a list of things that I really know well, things that get my engines revving.  Then I started whittling down that list and decided that I wanted to give my first presentation on a professional development topic.  And there the first idea for my session on Soft Skills was born.

Like magic, it begins to form!

I had my idea, I felt very strongly and very excited about this idea.  I wrote the numbers 1-10 on a sheet of paper and started thinking about soft skills, real life examples of good and bad soft skills, and what the most important soft skills would be.  Those 10 lines became very full.  And just like that…I had my outline!

My next step was to do a lot of research to build out the content of my outline.  Step by step my session begin to take form.  Once I had what I wanted to say, I had a blast trying to find graphics to give those slides a little extra punch.  I am a firm believer that artwork  and humor make everything better.  Throw some verbal glitter around, toss some graphics into your session, it makes life much more interesting!

My secrets, revealed.

So there you have it, my secrets to how I made my very first session.  I started at the beginning: settled on an idea, created an outline, filled in the outline with research and facts, and then decorated it!  The biggest and most important step was simple starting at the beginning!  Thank you Rie!

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Finding my voice

For years I have been so very proud of my husband (T/B) Lance Tidwell, for getting past his fear of public speaking, for putting himself out there, for going all over the US and in Canada giving presentations regarding Microsoft SQL Server issues at SQLSaturdays, User Groups, and even PASS Summit.  I have secretly been somewhat envious of him.  I love to travel, meet new friends, have adventures, and share my thoughts and experiences.   I could do this too, right?  RIGHT?

Let’s back way up.

Many years ago I received my Bachelors in Fine Arts.  I studied theater and was on stage quite a bit!  I acted, sang, directed, designed and built sets and wardrobes, etc.  I was very outgoing and felt that I was living larger than life. After graduating, my life hit a pretty large speed-bump and it threw me for a big loop.   I fought to regain myself; however, somewhere along the way in climbing back up, I lost sight of who I was and what I wanted in life.

Instead of chasing my dreams and doing what I enjoyed most, I settled for a stable career in the legal field; where I grew and changed, and helped others live out their dreams.  I was quite good at what I did, make no mistake.  I give 100% of myself to every task!  But it was never really “my thing” and I longed for something more exciting.

Mid-life crisis at MY AGE?

Call it a mid-life crisis, call it divine intervention, call it pure boredom….but I suddenly decided I needed a change in my life.  I wanted to dream big, I wanted to learn and grow in a field where constant change and growth is…well….constant.  Being fairly adept in the technical realm, my husband urged me to take some classes to learn Data Sciences.  I found some great classes at EDX and set on my way.  I loved those classes!

I began attending SQLSaturdays with him and met the most wonderful, supportive, intelligent, fun, and brilliant people!  They welcomed me with open arms and encouraged me to grow and learn with them.  I was becoming part of the wonderful #SQLFamily! I even received my first SQL job offer at Procure SQL with a great mentor and friend, Microsoft MVP, John Sterrett (T/B).  Fast forward a year or so and I submitted to give a session at my first SQLSaturday! I was accepted as a speaker for SQLSaturdayNashville!  OH MY!

Koalified

I am koala-fied to do this!

Oh my, how exciting!  Oh my, how wonderful!  OH MY, what have I done?

That’s right…I did it. I made a speaker profile, I attached a cute photo, I wrote an abstract and then I hit the all-mighty SUBMIT button.  There was no turning back!  And then bam, “Congratulations, you have been accepted to speak at..” the words made my heart race, my head swim, my inner theater kid jumped for joy!  I did it! I was accepted!

I was accepted….oh my. OH MY!  I need to write a session!  Where do I start?  What do I do?  What have I done?  What would they think of me?  Would my session be any good? Would anyone even show up?  The thoughts, fear, and doubt swirled like snow in the wind.  I just had to stop and take a breath, get my thoughts in order, and put that theater kid to work!

The steps I took to build the session and my confidence, the experience giving the session, and the outcome will all be provided in the next blog.  Stay tuned!  20180116_181710