Reading Tammy Powlas’ post on the call for session proposals at SAP TechEd, I decided to chime in and encourage people (you!) to stand up and volunteer as TechEd speakers. Why? Because in my humble opinion, it’s one of the greatest and most rewarding experiences an SAP professional can make.
My premiere as an SAP TechEd speaker
The first time I spoke at an SAP TechEd was in Berlin 2008. I was neither an SAP employee nor an SAP Mentor than (the latter has been fixed by now ;)), and SAP was less open then but in the process of becoming more open with respect to the wider SAP community. For the first or second time, there had been an open call for session proposals in SCN, and I had thrown my hat into the ring and felt immensely honored to be invited to speak at TechEd.
I wanted to speak about an interesting topic, so naturally, I chose one that was way out of my comfort zone and that forced me to learn a lot in the process of creating the session and preparing to deliver it. I always do that, because it’s a great way to expand my horizon and challenge myself to learn new things. That sort of commitment is a good way of creating a lot of pressure on myself to get down and dirty and learn enough about a subject to stand before an audience of two hundred people, some of whom are much more knowledgeable about the subject than I am, and some of whom might turn out to be hecklers, and still deliver a good and honest session.
Stage fright and adrenaline
There’s always an element of stage fright, but that’s natural and actually improves the quality of the preparation, the focus, and the intensity of the session. That’s good, even though it might involve nightmares of being booed and shooed off the stage.
My own experience is that once the session begins, the stage fright goes away and what remains is an intense, almost dream-like state where my focus on the session content and the audience is almost total. If you haven’t tried public speaking, then you wouldn’t believe how much information an audience sends to a speaker. Delivering a session, if you pay attention to your audience, is actually a very intense and information-rich dialogue, and I daresay that more information flows from the audience to the speaker than vice versa. Imagine processing an information stream from two hundred people, all signaling at once with their eyes, facial expression, body posture, etc. how interesting (or not), comprehensible (or not), relevant (or not), funny (or not), and so on the content you’re delivering this very second is to them. Working with that constant feedback allows me to adapt the session to the audience’s needs and make it more interesting to them by modifying the emphasis on certain areas, level of detail, or aspects of my speech such as speed, tone, volume, modulation, and so on. The adrenaline helps with that.
What is it good for?
There’s a long list, and I don’t think I can capture It all, but here are some reasons to do it:
- Connecting with the audience is an awesome experience.
- You learn a lot about the subject.
- You learn a lot about public speaking.
- It boosts your self-confidence.
- It boosts your professional reputation.
- You get a free conference pass.
- It might open doors – sitting in your audience might be your next employer or big client.
- You become (if you aren’t already) a member of the community of expert contributors to the SAP community.
- You get to meet people who want to talk to the speaker – I’ve made wonderful connections this way.
- If you become an ASUG speaker, you might get to meet Tammy Powlas, who is one of the good souls of the SAP community and a great mentor. Tammy always encourages people to go one step further and offers them opportunities to learn and grow.
Take action now
To quote the title of Tammy’s blog: Don’t Glance at this Last Chance to Submit your ASUG Abstract to SAP TechEd.
- Think of two or three real-world stories that would be worth people’s time.
- Describe them briefly.
- Don’t worry about not knowing everything. The things you know will easily fill one or two hours, nobody knows everything, when somebody asks you a question you can’t answer, it’s perfectly okay to say: “I don’t know that.” I do it all the time.
Do it now – you have ten minutes of work to lose, and a fantastic experience, and possibly a career as an expert community member, to gain.