I spent some time on the speaking circuit in 2009-2010--mostly centered around travel and education. In fact, I got started in public speaking because the president of Performance Media (now TravAlliance), Mark Murphy, was going crazy producing high quality travel videos on location. He was producing so much content, that there was stuff he couldn't get to. Since I was in charge of one of his major projects at the time, and didn't really have a fear of going off-the-cuff, he asked me to fill in on a few marketing videos for him. After that, he had a couple of presentations at a conference that he off-loaded onto me as well. This got me into the scene, but it took a backseat when I moved to Virginia.
In 2016, I started to get back into speaking again thanks to a local conference called edUi. In late 2017, I became a Microsoft MVP, and that made me (slightly) overextend myself by submitting to a bunch of conference. One of those conference was SyntaxCon, which Richard Taylor had tweeted about. Since SyntaxCon was in South Carolina, I figured if I was accepted, I could always turn it into a family vacation, and take my wife and kids to go visit her father.
As luck would have it, the team over at SyntaxCon liked my proposal, so I was all set to talk about building chatbots with the Microsoft Bot Framework.
One thing that I noticed right away, was how diligent Karl Hudson Phillips utilized social media, blogging, and his different events to cross-promote each and every speaker. It speaks volumes to his organizational skills and commitment. When I showed up at the Marriott in North Charleston, however, I was blown away. The venue was beautiful.
The Marriott, unfortunately, booked two conferences directly across the hall from one another, which made registration a bit awkward, as people were in wrong lines, and there was some lunch confusion. None of that had anything to do with SyntaxCon itself.
Now I've spoken at several conferences and code camps over the last few years, and I have to say that SyntaxCon's setup from a speaker perspective was phenomenal. Each room had a stage with a podium at the center and a pop-up projector to one side of the stage. All the video converters you might need were at the ready, and in the back of the room was a giant digital clock counting down your 45 minutes. The sound equipment was high quality, and the Mevo streamer near the front-center of the audience blended in with the crowd rather than sticking out as a recording device. The setup was probably a speaker's dream--although as someone who tends to walk towards the projector screen to point out things, my walking space was a little limited.
Although I was attending as a speaker, I had no intention of showing up, speaking, and then running. I didn't get to stay for the full conference, but I did stay for the full day that I was speaking. Matt Williams did a nice video recap of the day that I attended (including some nice words about my talk), but I thought I'd do my own recap as well.
Ethan Brooks kicked things off with a discussion of D.A.M.N. as an alternative to S.M.A.R.T. goals, and although his talk was short, he got the audience thinking about how they deliver value, and how that value should be measured.
Next up was Josh Weaver who talked about getting started with Serverless as a platform for building microservices that scale. I've been experimenting with Serverless recently (mostly on the Azure side), so this was a good architectural overall.
You know I love TypeScript, so when I heard that fellow Microsoft MVP David Pine was going to be talking about it, I definitely had to attend. It was great to see the audience start to catch on to the power of TypeScript, and David led in with what I usually lead with when showing someone TypeScript: Simply rename a
*.js file to a
*.ts file and watch the errors show up. That very simple action often makes the audience light up and take notice, and David executed it perfectly. From there, he was able to expand his talk to some of the more powerful features of TypeScript.
The next talk I attended was by Nathan Hall, and it was about Docker and Docker Compose for local development. Bill is already doing a lot of this in his current job, and we intend to record a podcast episode about it, so this was a good primer for me as I research the subject. Nathan did a good job slowly working us through adding components to a Docker file to increase the scripting power of our development process before he moved on to Docker Compose's YAML file in order to show even greater configuration.
I mentioned Matt Williams earlier. He had a talk as well, and it was highly entertaining. Matt actually spoke at AWS Re:Invent recently, and his talk at SyntaxCon was just as much a personal story as it was an informative talk, as he walked us through some of his work with Serverless, AWS Lambdas, and Step Functions.
The last talk I attended was by Adrian Hall, AWS Developer Advocate, who evangelized GraphQL as an eventual replacement for REST when it comes to transactional data. I'm not completely sold on this, but GraphQL is new to me, and is something I intend to look into more. Adrian did a great job introducing the query language that it uses, and advocating for its virtues, including it's ability to help with offline mode in mobile applications.
My talk was next, and with the recent cancellation of PhillyTech365, this was actually my last Bot Framework talk from my master slide deck. I'm retiring the slide deck, but will have new material in 2019. The audience had a good reaction to the talk, and two of the attendees were incredibly enthusiastic, approaching me after the session to discuss more.
My overall experience at SyntaxCon, as both an attendee and a speaker, was a great one. Karl is a great organizer, and I definitely intend to come to future events--even if it's just as an attendee. This is one of those conference, where even if you aren't a local, it would be worth your time and money to fly in, attend, and fly out. You won't regret it.