Tuesday, May 14, 2013

#SpeakerU - First Step: Picking a Topic

OK, so you've decided to take the plunge and become a technical speaker/presenter.  Excellent!  Well, the obvious question must be this: on what subject(s) will you speak?

This question is not as simple as it might seem at first glance.  Most of have a mental library that looks something like this:
We all have some old volumes (ask me about provisioning cylinders on a 3380 DASD sometime...), some nifty books that are rarely used, stuff we thumb through regularly, and new stuff that we haven't really read through just yet.  Now, your first urge will be to find something new/hot/shiny to talk about and/or something with which you are familiar in great detail, but there are three things you MUST consider:
  1. Know your audience.  Are you speaking to a highly technical audience, a management-heavy audience, a room full of "just want it to work" end users, or a combination of the three?   Some events (notably larger regional/national conferences) may have separate "technical tracks" and "executive sessions," but that won't always be the case.  You may need to pick a topic on which you can (potentially) engage a broad range of listeners.
  2. Know your limits.  I'm not referring to your skills in public speaking or slide layouts, or even your knowledge of the subject matter; rather, I'm talking about the simple mechanics of the venue.  Will you have a projector available?  How much time will be alloted to your presentation?  Will there be a mandatory Q&A period that cuts into your speaking time?  Will you have network connectivity for use in live demonstrations?
  3. Know what fits.  You may be the world's leading expert on foobiebletches, but you won't be invited back if you run out of time, lose half of your audience halfway through, or rush through a massive deck of slides in an attempt to "cram it all" into the alloted time.  As an experienced speaker, I can tell you that there are few things more painful than watching a speaker who has bitten off more than can be chewed...
So, this boils down to a single statement - "Pick a topic with which you are familiar, but also which can be discussed in some detail in the time alloted, in terms that most of the audience can follow."

A few suggestions:
  • New speakers are often comfortable with a "tips and tricks" presentation; most of us have favorite configurations/tweaks for various applications and/or devices.  If you stop to think about it, "12 Neat Things You Can Do with Your iPhone" or "What You Don't Know About Hotmail" would be great presentations for the local Toastmasters, school groups and the like; something like that would be a good "hip pocket" presentation to keep around for short-notice speaking opportunities (especially since they can often be "trimmed to fit" different time limits!).
  • Brainstorm with friends and colleagues.  Ask them, "what would YOU give up an hour to hear?"
  • Draw upon your own experience, for better or worse.  I've seen some EXCELLENT presentations on topics such as, "10 Things I Learned While [fill in the blank]"...if you happen to write a blog, go back and review your old articles; you may find raw material there that can be refined into a great presentation.
  • Take a look at sites like Slideshare, where thousands of presenters have posted copies of their slides.  Take a look at their topics, and think about whether you could take a slice of that pie and run with it.  (NO, DO NOT JUST COPY THEM WHOLESALE - you will be found out...)
  • Search for meetings/conferences in your field, and check out the presentations being made at those events.  You don't have to start at that level of difficulty, but it will give you a good idea of topics that made it through the selection gauntlet.
Well, that's simple enough - so go do it!

Next up: the art of writing abstracts...

Monday, May 13, 2013

Time For You to Get on Stage - #SpeakerU

Having just returned from IamLUG, I've realized that it isn't too early to start thinking about next year's IBM Connect.  At both Connect 2013 and IamLUG, there was a great deal of discussion around the question, "How can we get more people up on stage presenting?"

Well, I've been doing this for a while (as a speaker, coach, and content selector), so I've put together a few thoughts, a few experiences, and--yes--a few war stories, in the hopes that some of you will be encouraged to make that jump from "attendee" to "speaker/presenter."  For lack of a better title, I'm calling it Speaker University, or #SpeakerU for short.

Now, let me be clear; there is no One True Path to success as a technical speaker.  Each of us has both strengths to which we can play and weaknesses to be avoided.  My tips may not work for everyone, and I ABSOLUTELY encourage everyone to chime in - not just here, but on their own blogs as well.  (I would like to see the #SpeakerU hashtag, just so that folks can more easily find a range of voices on the topic...)

Having said that, here's what I'm going to write about over the next few months:

  • Picking a topic
  • Writing an abstract
  • Outlining a presentation
  • Creating slides
  • Timing
  • What to do (and not to do) while speaking
  • How to catch that person in the last row AND hold their attention
  • ...and more.
Down the road, I'm planning to move this into small-group and (perhaps) one-on-one coaching sessions, using Skype, Sametime, Google hangouts, or whatever works best.  Think of it as an online Toastmasters meeting, and you won't be far off the mark.

Here's what I ask of you:

  1. If you're thinking about jumping into the pool - GREAT!  It's an incredible experience, whether you're presenting at a small local meeting, a user group conference, or a major industry event.   You won't regret it.
  2. If you're already an established speaker/presenter, I'd LOVE for you to post your own tips/tricks/techniques - write a blog entry, a series of tweets, I don't care...but it's time to start priming the next generation of speakers.  Use the #SpeakerU hashtag when possible, so that folks can catch all of us in as few searches as possible.
That's it for now...coming up: Picking the Right Topic.  See you then!

Thursday, May 09, 2013

IBM Notes 9 Social Edition on Ubuntu 13.04 (Raring Ringtail) - Some Tweaking Required

OK, so you've downloaded the Notes 9 Social Edition for Linux, and you want to give it a spin on the latest rev of Ubuntu Linux.


As it turns out, Ubuntu has moved to a newer release of CUPS, the Linux printing subsystem; as a result, Ubuntu 13.04 installs libcups2 instead of the libcupsy2 package Notes expects to find.  So, the install falls flat on its face with a failed dependency.

If you don't mind a bit of debfile editing, you can fix this one yourself.  Basically, we're going to go into the control file for the Notes .deb install file and fix that pesky little dependency.  Here's what you need to do:
  • Move the ibm-notes-9.0.i586.deb file into a temporary directory; I used ~/tmp/notes9
  • Do a "raw" unpack of the debfile into a subdirectory, like so:
    • dpkg-deb -R ibm-notes-9.0.i586.deb ./working
  • Move into that subdirectory (~/tmp/notes9/working), then into the DEBIAN subdirectory
  • Edit the file named 'control', change the one instance of 'libcupsy2' to 'libcups2', and save your changes.
  • Move back up to the unpack directory (~/tmp/notes9/working) and issue this command:
    • dpkg-deb -b ../ibm-notes-9.0-FIXED.i586.deb
  • Now, move back up to the temporary directory (~/tmp/notes9), and you should see both .deb files.
You may now install Notes 9 and its various addins with the dpkg command, like so:
  • sudo dpkg -i ibm-notes-9.0-FIXED.i586.deb
  • sudo dpkg -i ibm-sametime-9.0.i586.deb
  • sudo dpkg -i ibm-feedreader-9.0.i586.deb
  • sudo dpkg -i ibm-opensocial-9.0.i586.deb
  • sudo dpkg -i ibm-cae-9.0.i586.deb
  • sudo dpkg -i ibm-activities-9.0.i586.deb
So, there you have it - a fully functional Notes 9 Social Edition client for Ubuntu 13.04.  If you haven't taken a look at Notes 9 yet, you should grab the free trial!

UPDATE: I neglected to mention that I specifically tested print capabilities; I didn't notice any problems pointing Notes to libcups2 instead of libcupsy2...