Posts tagged ‘Conferences’

Speaking at a Conference

I can’t make any claim to the title of veteran conference speaker. Not yet, at least. However, I have done it once before at ZendCon in 2008 and I’ll be doing it again at php|tek this year. I thought I’d take a blog post to give out a few tips to any prospective first-time speakers based on my first speaking experience. I’m assuming there that you’ve already decided on a particular conference that you want to attend, you’ve submitted a session proposal, and you’ve been accepted.

First, in addition to the other things you should do before attending, be ready to give your presentation before you get on the plane. You should start on your slides as far in advance as possible. Don’t put it off or wait until the last minute, because it will likely be more work than you anticipate. This includes making sure that any live demos you intend to give will run as expected. Syntax errors and crashing web servers look very bad to the audience.

One of the reasons for this is that you’ll want to practice your talk out loud. It’s one thing to put the material onto slides, but it may sound different when it’s actually coming out of your mouth and going into the crowd. You may find stumbling points, places where you stutter or get caught off-guard when transitioning from one topic to another. Try to organize the presentation such that it matches your natural flow when talking about the topic without any slides at all.

Which reminds me, learn from the masters. People like Marco Tabini have spoken before and have a wealth of knowledge that they’ll share fairly freely most of the time, especially if alcohol (or, in Marco’s case, an espresso) is involved. Look at books like Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds. Take the time to hone your presentation skills before you have to make your delivery.

If you’ve been to a conference before, you’ve probably already learned about my next point the hard way. Don’t depend on wifi internet access availability. Why not? Because the vast majority of the time, it will suck. There won’t be enough IP addresses, someone will do something to hog bandwidth and make latency skyrocket, it will find some way to refuse to work. Save local copies of files, write a minimal daemon to simulate a remote server, do whatever you need to do to avoid it.

That point goes hand in hand with this one: test your equipment early and have a Plan B. In particular, hook your laptop up to the projector in the room in which you’ll be speaking (or to a test projector, if the conference hosts provide one and prefer you use that) to make sure it can display your slides. Ben Ramsey was gracious enough to loan me his Macbook at ZendCon because my Sony Vaio refused to work with the projector and the time-sensitive situation did nothing but add to my speaking nerves. Make sure you don’t end up in the same spot.

Lastly, don’t let critical reception deter you from speaking again. I got pretty negative feedback the first time around, but I took it in stride. While I know I have plenty of room for improvement, I’m still going to give it another shot. Do your very best, then strive to be better.

Hope you enjoyed this blog post and gleaned something useful from it. If you’ve got any of your own speaking tips, please feel free to add a comment on this post. If you’ll be attending php|tek, I look forward to seeing you there!

Speaking at tek-X

As the recently released schedule shows, I will be speaking at the php|tek 2010 conference. The session I’ll be presenting is entitled “New SPL Features in PHP 5.3” and it will be an extended version of the webcast I presented as part of the CodeWorks webcast series.

While there, I also plan on participating in the Hack Track and may try to recruit a few new contributors (like you!) for the Phergie project. I am very much looking forward to the event and hope to see you there!

New SPL Features in PHP 5.3 Webcast Slides

Hope you were able to make it to the CodeWorks 2009 webcast at which I presented on New SPL Features in PHP 5.3! I’ve posted the slides and source code. I hope you enjoyed the webcast and that you’ll register for the excellent selection of upcoming webcasts leading up to CodeWorks 2009.

php|tek 2009 Slides

If you made it out to php|tek and saw my uncon session on web scraping, the slides have been posted. If you’d like to discuss the topic further, feel free to contact me. I love chatting about the subject with others.

php|tek 2009 Webcast Series

Probably should have lumped this in with my last post, but it’s a rare convenience that related thoughts like these all occur to me at the same time. Another event related to the php|tek 2009 conference coming up in May is a free webcast series for which I have been invited to present.

Webcasts will be held roughly every two weeks leading up to the beginning of the conference. I’m scheduled for Friday February 27 at 1 PM EST and my topic will be "When RSS Fails: Web Scraping with HTTP." Participation is free, but the number of participants is limited, so register early. Note that participation requires a machine running either Windows XP or higher or MacOS X 10.4 or higher. Look forward to seeing you there!

php|tek 2009 Hackathon

Planning on attending php|tek 2009? Think you might like for a Hackathon to be included in the Unconference? (Or want to know more about what such an event would entail?) Please visit the tek09 Google Group Hackathon thread and post your comments and suggestions. Also, please use the address http://tinyurl.com/tek09hackathon to help spread the word! Look forward to receiving your feeback.

AWDG November 2008 Meetup Slides are up

While I was in Atlanta this past week for php|works / PyWorks Conference, I volunteered to speak at the November meetup for the Atlanta Web Designers Group. Slides and demo code from my presentation can now be found in the Publications area of this web site. Thanks to the group for their invitation and hospitality and to Ben Ramsey for introducing us.

Why I Will Never Fly Continental Again

I don’t normally blog about this sort of thing, but it’s been such a source of frustration for me in the past few weeks that I feel it necessary to communicate to others if only to prevent similar frustrations for them in the future.

When I discovered that I would be speaking at ZendCon 2008, I made my flight reservation with Continental Airlines on June 26, a full 10 weeks before the conference was scheduled to begin. I was to depart from Baton Rouge, connect in Houston, and arrive in San Jose.

On the week before I was due to depart, Hurricane Ike began making its way through the Gulf of Mexico. The airport was preemptively closed from Friday afternoon through Saturday before the storm was scheduled to make landfall. Through this period, I kept a close eye on the Important Notices page on the Continental Airlines web site in order to stay informed on the status of my connection in Houston.

At 5 PM on Saturday 9/13, the page was updated to indicate that the Houston airport would be closed through 2 PM Sunday 9/14. My flight was not scheduled to land until close to 5 PM, so I waited. Later that evening at 7:30, the page was updated again to reflect that the Houston airport would be closed through the entirety of Sunday.

In speaking with customer representatives during this time, I discovered that the only hub for Continental in the southern half of the USA is in Houston. All flights go through the hub, even those from the nearby city of Dallas. Further digging on the Continental web site after the announcement of the closure of the Houston airport revealed that my departing flight from Baton Rouge had indeed canceled by Continental. I obviously couldn’t depart from Houston since the airport was closed, nor could I connect in another city because Continental did not have another hub in the southern half of the country. In short, all my travel arrangements were ruined.

I received no notifications of any type, e-mail or otherwise, from Continental during this time. Had I not been so attentive in monitoring their web site, I could have made it as far as Baton Rouge before knowing that my flight was canceled. I also received no offer of service from Continental to help me fix my situation by rebooking with another airline or flying through another hub in the northern half of the country. They did absolutely nothing for me.

At that point, I scrambled to file a refund request with Continental, then rebook my flight on American Airlines to go through Dallas, which was luckily far enough inland and sustained little enough damage from the storm that it was still operational. I was able to make it to and from ZendCon with no incident after that, aside from substantial additional expense gleaned from having to rebook last-minute.

Upon my return, I received an e-mail from Continental stating that I would not receive a refund because my ticket was non-refundable. As I understood it, the purpose of a non-refundable ticket was to discourage alteration or cancellation of reservations once they were made. According to Continental’s own Important Notices page, because my flight was canceled, I was within my rights to request a refund. Apparently that doesn’t mean I was within my rights to actually receive one despite the fact that I paid Continental to provide a service that, in the end, I didn’t get.

I responded to the e-mail with an explanation of the situation. That was eight days ago and I’ve received no subsequent communication from Continental since then. I will be pursuing the matter further, but the sheer amount of grief that this company has caused me is something I would not wish on my worst enemy. If you want to do me a favor, don’t fly Continental. If this is any indication of how they do business, they don’t deserve yours.

ZendCon 2008 Slides Up

The slides from my talks at ZendCon 2008 are now up for your viewing pleasure. I’ll try to have the traditional conference wrap-up post up a little later on this weekend.

Creating Web Services with Zend Framework

Web Scraping

Speaking at ZendCon

It appears the schedule for ZendCon is at least partly up. I’d been reserving this announcement mostly out of a personal sense of superstitution, but since it seems to be official now, so I’ll go ahead and pipe up: I’m speaking at ZendCon.

Out of four proposals, one managed to make it onto the conference schedule, and that was Pick Your Protocol: Creating Web Services with Zend Framework. It won’t be my first time at ZendCon, but it will be my first time there as a speaker. I’m looking forward to being among their ranks as well as meeting friends new and old.

See you all in September!