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.

Paint Your Success

I like to listen to people.  Really listen.  Listen to what they are saying and what they are NOT saying.  Sometimes the answers are clear and other times the answers are hidden.  One conversation in particular struck me.  It was a conversation between two people and one was complaining that he was not being heard by his team.

This made my mind start thinking about ways in which we are either not heard, or are dismissed.  Perhaps this person was having that issue because he lacked clear communication of his ideas, or was not seen as a strong member of the team.  Verbal, written, and non-verbal communication are key to gaining ground in the areas you desire.

Communication Styles

Non-verbal communication is the ice breaker.  Think about the way you appear walking into a meeting.  Is your head held high?  Do you smile? Do you look people in the eyes when you speak to them?  The very first instance someone sees you is your first opportunity to make the impression you desire.  This first impression will set the tone for the discussion. Walk in confident and friendly.  Your audience will take note that you are there to do business and are invested in communicating with them.  They will feel welcomed and at ease.

Verbal communication skills truly are an art form.  Being able to craft sounds and thoughts into words and paragraphs comes easy to some. For others, this is a craft that seems daunting and elusive.  Being an extrovert helps me excel in my communication skills.  I am largely unafraid to speak with new people.  I thrive in meeting new people and sharing ideas.  However, for those who are more introverted, verbal communication is very uncomfortable and often crippling.  If you are one who has trouble with verbal communication, consider honing your written communication skills while you work on gaining comfortable levels with your verbal communication skills.

Written communication can emphasize your point, make an idea memorable, or totally destroy a project.  Of course we want to give our projects as much growth potential as possible, so being able to formulate a well written idea is just as important as verbal communication.  Written communication is tricky because the reader is not afforded the opportunity to see the facial expressions of the writer.  So often times, jokes come off as harsh criticisms.  The tone of a person’s writing is just as important as the words the writer uses to convey a message.

Painting

Bring Forth Your Inner Picasso

Think of creating a painting.  Before creating your masterpiece, you must start with a properly prepared canvas.  Stretching muslin onto a wooden frame is the first step to creating a painting.  The second step is to temper the muslin with a wash of water-thinned paint.  This will allow the muslin to harden and provide a strong base for the paint to stick.  The next step is to allow your creativity to flow through colors, shapes and movement.  Before you know it, you have created a lovely piece of artwork that is truly showing of who you are.

Being Picasso

That confused look on your face is one that I see often.  It is okay, I speak in odd metaphors at times.  I paint life with an interesting brush.  Let’s explore how you can become Picasso of the Morning Stand-up and get your ideas heard!

  • First, start with the way you enter the room for the meeting.   This is your non-verbal communication that sets the stage for the meeting or conference.  Head up, smile, look people in the eyes.  Assert your position in the room and welcome others into your space. (Stretch your muslin onto the frame and temper the canvas.)
  • Second, allow your ideas to flow through well-crafted words and examples.  Show data to back up your claims.  Explain what reports mean, show the ups and downs.  Give your audience the desired information in the most direct and informative way. (Paint that beautiful masterpiece!)
  • Third, a nice written follow up will concrete your ideas and give your audience a physical takeaway.  Concentrate on the content and intent of your proposal.  Pay attention to your tone and remember that there may be someone reading the report who was not in the meeting to see experience your passion.  (Hang that masterpiece in a gallery!)

Communication is just one of the many soft skills that can help propel your career.  I have a session called Become the Most Valuable Player: Soft Skills for the Hard Market.  This year I have been focused on presenting this session at various SQL Saturdays around the country.

The Words We Say

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The sharing of insights and ideas has always been very important to me.  I firmly believe that when people come together to share ideas greatness is born.  When you light a small fire, it can grow exponentially, given the right circumstances and atmosphere.  This, my friends, is why I have made it my mission to embark on public speaking and blogging.

My first SQL Saturday presentation was in Nashville, January 2018.  So as of this writing, I am only a few months into my speaking career.  However, I have been supporting and encouraging people to share their ideas and present sessions for years.

Are you listening?

The thing about the words way say is, we don’t really know the reach they have until some time later.  I have been singing the same words all of my life: “You can do this!” “Everyone has a story to share!”  “Your experiences are worth sharing” and so on and so forth.  Not really sure if my audience was listening, but truly hoping they were gaining comfort in the fact that I whole-heartedly believe in each and every one of them.

Recently I found out who WAS listening, who was being inspired, who was reaping the benefit of my unwavering support.  I was floored, and proud.

Unexpected outcomes.

On the drive back from SQL Saturday Dallas, May 2018, our 8 year old son suddenly piped up from the backseat and remarked “I think I want to become a speaker and speak at a SQL Saturday like you and Daddy.”  My mouth fell open and my heart soared.  He had been listening, and he had been inspired by my words, and our actions.

The next several minutes he described what topic he would like to discuss, gave an insightful play by play of exactly how he would discuss the issue, and discussed the benefits of doing such a presentation for adults.  My husband and I were sold.  I told him I would help him set up his speaker profile, we could write the abstract together, and my husband and I would help him build his presentation if it were chosen.  As soon as we returned home, I kept my promise and we submitted his session.  The next day we were notified that he was chosen to speak at SQL Saturday Houston 2018!

He broke out his laptop and I introduced him to PowerPoint, which he mastered at alarming speed.  He was off and running.  A few hours later he gave us a preview, and it was amazing to see that our second grader had built a presentation that rivals those of  some of our peers!

The takeaway.

This brings me to my point.  The words you say are powerful.  Choose your words wisely, you never know who’s life you are impacting.  Many times we only pay attention to the targeted audience, all the while forgetting that other ears are hearing.  Often small ears, attached to big dreams, are listening and taking note, being shaped by all you say and do.

My 8 year old son, Robert (many know him as “Reggie”) will be presenting The Benefits of Gaming on Saturday, June 23, 2018.  I am beyond proud; I am touched, I am honored, I am filled with the kind of feelings I had when I met him for the first time.

Never underestimate the power of your words.  Never underestimate the mind of a child.

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Speaking at SQLSat Dallas 2018

Here I am, the Monday morning after my second SQL Saturday speaking engagement.  I like to sit with a cup of coffee early in the morning and unpack all my thoughts and experiences from the weekend.  As I go over the events and feelings of the weekend, the thing that sticks out the most is just how much I enjoy these events!

Mindy Curnutt (t/b), Amy Herold (t/b), and all the SQLSatDallas organizers and volunteers did an amazing job!  The event venue was held at UT Dallas and it was a wonderful venue.

The nerves kicked in!

This was my second SQL Saturday at which to speak, and boy oh boy was it a big one!  There were over a thousand people registered to attend!  WOW OH WOW!  As I walked through the sea of attendees, I saw nervous faces, excited faces, scared faces, and happy faces.  There was an electricity in the air, people were there ready to learn and share.  I love that feeling!

I must admit, I was terrified.  I spent most of my time in the speaker room trying to calm my nerves and going over my presentation slides over and over (and fighting the ridiculous urge to change things at the last minute!).  At one point I said to Lance Tidwell (t/b) “I have got to calm my nerves, I need to go walk around and see people!”  At that moment, it was cemented that I TRULY am an extrovert.  Who in their right mind calms themselves by being around a lot of people?  Well…me.

How did I calm my nerves?

People calm the jitters in many ways.  I tried talking to other speakers.  I drank water.  I listened to P!nk (my favorite artist).  I even walked outside and sang several songs.  The time was drawing near, so I went with my best stand-by… dancing to Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop The Feeling”  I put my earbuds in and danced through it twice….in the speaker room….in my seat.  True story, Tim Mitchell (t/b) took video. aaaaahhhh #SQLFamily!

It was time.

The time was upon us…..and here we go.  My fingers were tingly, my mind and heart were racing….and I was walking into a huge room that would soon be filled with people…looking at me, waiting for me to impart some wisdom.  (I might think too much)  I went in and set up and people started filing in.  Funny, the jitters started calming and I started really enjoying the moment.

Actually speaking in front of people.

I had an absolute blast.  My audience was full of people ready to listen and discuss. My session is very interactive, so that terrifies some people but also seems to bring them in by the end.  I try to be entertaining and enlightening.  My biggest thrill is to make people laugh.  As a very animated person, I never stand still.  About half way through my session I hit my step goal for the day.  It was so exciting, I just had to share!  Everyone laughed and some even applauded.  Inviting the audience in to my bubble is a way I hope to make them feel that they are truly important to me.  After all, strangers are just friends you have you yet to meet!

My take away.

Speaking at SQL Saturdays has given me a chance to share my thoughts and ideas with others.  If I can help even one person see things in a different way, or if they can gain some insight into their lives, I have given back and helped someone.  There have been many people in my past who have inspired me.  My hope is that I can inspire others to find a passion, find an answer, or find a way to give back and pay forward.

Thank you so much for reading!

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