Well, I got to tick a big item off my list of goals last week. I successfully delivered a presentation at Cisco Live! in front of a large group of people. It didn't kill me and I didn't trip over anything and embarrass myself so no matter what, I have those two points to feel good about :-)

Me starting my presentation

All joking aside, it actually went a whole lot better than that.

I've recently realized that I really enjoy teaching. Not in the sense that I want to be a trainer full time or have a job in a classroom, more like I feel that's a big part of what drives me to write this blog and is why I feel (relatively) comfortable talking in front of people. As long as the subject is something that I feel I can weave some teaching/learning into, I'm comfortable to deliver it. By contrast, I would feel far less comfortable delivering something like a keynote speech or a toast at a wedding.

So along those lines, that was a big goal I set for myself in delivering my Cisco Live! (CLUS) presentation: empower the audience by sharing targeted, high-value knowledge and giving them something that moves them forward and makes them better at what they do.

To that end, I worked hard to shape the presentation so that it relayed relevant, high-value information and gave the information context that helped the audience conceptualize how they can apply the information in the real world. I also attempted to add my own little bit of flair. Something I always appreciate in presentations that I attend is little bits of deep technical information that explain how the internals of the system work. I think this information is fun, geek-style trivia but can also be highly useful in understanding how the system works at its higher levels if you understand some of the low-level internals.

Finally, I wanted to wrap this all up with an overriding theme so that the presentation was a) not just a bunch of strung together slides saying "do this", "don't do that", "remember this thing over here" (ie... booooring) and b) left the audience with a story that helped them remember why it's important that we "do this, don't do that". I do not take any credit for coming up with the theme for my preso. As the previous presenter of this CLUS session, Steve Moore (@smoore_bits) developed the theme and helped me understand how he saw it flowing. I immediately saw where he was going and knew that was the key to tying it all together.

With all of this in hand, rehearsed, tuned, tweaked, and reviewed, I delivered the presentation to 125 people. Afterwards, Steve and I did a debrief and this turns out to be one of the hardest things for me: allowing myself to feel proud, excited, happy, accomplished. I have never been good at allowing myself those emotions when it comes to my own accomplishments. Perhaps a touch of imposter syndrome?

But then the reviews and scores started coming in from the audience and I knew that-at least for some in attendance-I had accomplished my goals.

Sample of the session feedback

This right here is what it was all about for me and I couldn't have asked for more of a positive outcome.

I know that CLUS is a corporate event. It's planned, organized, and funded by a company that's responsible for running and growing its business. The fact that CLUS exists at all is a business decision because the company knows it encourages attendees to evaluate, use and eventually purchase their products and services. That said, many presenters are there for their own reasons, apart from the corporate ones: they want to improve themselves, push themselves to do something they haven't done before, practice and develop new skills, and maybe to push themselves to see if they've got what it takes to stand up and deliver a presentation and deliver it well. I count myself as a member of this group and am proud to say that I did improve myself, did develop new skills, and do feel empowered that I can do this well.

On behalf of my fellow presenters, thank you to all the attendees that come to hear us speak and for providing your honest feedback in the surveys so we can continue to improve, develop, and push ourselves.

Disclaimer: The opinions and information expressed in this blog article are my own and not necessarily those of Cisco Systems.