by Andrew Wood, CTP, UK CUGC Leader
You know some of the best ways you can take part in your local CUG? Likely your inside voice has said things like “Turn up,” “attend,” “ask questions,” “engage.” If that’s your answer? Well done, you. You know what I’m going to say next right?
What’s the BEST way to engage with a Citrix User Group?
And you know that the answer is “speak at your CUG” – because you read the title. It’s hardly “where’s Wally/Waldo” is it?
But, speaking at a Citrix User Group helps the user group, and helps develop your own skills.
It’s a common misconception that speaking is an ask beyond. You can do it. You can because I’ve seen lots of people who said they can’t, and were awesome. I’ve seen many who said they can’t, and were very decent. I’ve even seen some who said they can’t, and while it wasn’t great, they came away having learned something useful: and it was better next time.
One of the personal bests we wanted to achieve when setting up the UK Citrix User Group was to encourage actual admins/users/architects – like you – to come and speak. Didn’t matter for how long; it could be 15 mins, it could be 20, 22, 23.75. For sure, we’d probably have a chat about story boarding and message flow if you requested 2.5 hours. The key point is, if you’re actively using Citrix products, you are in the best position to guide and inform other admins, users, and Citrix. Ultimately, your engagement makes the product you’re using better. We want to hear about your experience.
We’ve been going for five years now (first meeting March 2011) and we’ve had some excellent user presentations. Such is the power of CUGC, its very inspiring to see so many new CUGs heading off at a sprint. Yet, its a marathon not a sprint: keeping people engaged and keeping that good pace beyond the first few events is about involving a range of people, getting new perspectives.
My honourable CTP colleague and sometimes running partner Bas van Kaam wrote a blog recently that nicely paced his experiences in pushing his comfort zone by Presenting at Synergy. I think its a great blog because it addresses key points when we ask people who have been really engaged at a Citrix User Group event – “would you like to present?”.
a) Many find public speaking daunting; while the impossible is nothing is something I’ve read from motivational slogans, it can appear glib. Speaking before your peers is hard.
b) Bas gained great experience from speaking at his local CUG – the Dutch Citrix User Group. Because your first 5k starts with getting off the sofa.
Common barriers to people shying from speaking :-
a) I don’t like public speaking: It is daunting, can’t get away from that. Mind you, I’ve seen a number of today’s rockstar Citrix presenters in their early presenting days: that polished delivery takes time. While I work on my personal best, I can heartily recommend having a read of Naomi Karten‘s Presentation Skills for Technical Professionals. A key point Naomi makes in her book (on page 2, fact fans) is that presenting isn’t simply for CUGs, being able to present information to an audience (be they a Synergy audience, an audience of your peers at at a CUG, or simply your work colleagues) is an unbeatable career credential. Everyone (including Bas and Naomi) will say you should practice, For your first training run, why not practice by simply asking questions during CUG meetings? The presenting equivalent of getting off of the sofa 🙂
b) Would people be interested? Why would they not? Especially in a CUG, If you’ve stood up, your audience does not want you to fail. Now I’ll grant you, it’s a technical session, with technical people in the audience. We’re rubbish at showing our interest. Some of that audience may be distracted by work [responding to emails: I know you’re at your thing, but its on fire.. help right now]; some of them will be appear to be on their devices [although likely contributing through facebook/twitter (that said, I’ve been heckled via IOT, but it was a great example of the power of IOT)] . So – for a CUG, as you look out at the audience (and you should, best way to engage them), not all faces will re-engage regardless of how much you stick to Part II of Namoi’s book “Developing Engaging Content”. Rest assured, if your presentation gets accepted, it’s a great presentation; but you’ve got to be on the start line to do it.
c) I can’t talk about our project – it went horribly wrong; We admins present on our challenges. For example, Richard Billington, had a project that had more or less gone well but had some pinch points – you can read his deck from here. From that Citrix contacted Richard and provided additional support. This is the power of being involved in the CUG – recognition and help.
d) I don’t think I know enough about it; No one knows what you know. You miight have a cool new fact, or you might simply help validate what everyone else thought was only their problem/situation. That said, I’ve given presentations where someone knows more than me…and been in the audience where I knew more and contributed in a “helpful and positive fashion”: so we all learn together. Mind, Q&A/heckles (even automated ones) can be a part of the “challenge” – again a really useful read is Chapter 15 of Naomi’s book – How to Handle Questions.
e) My boss won’t let me come: CUGs are free to attend. Travel is your own for sure (if you’re not speaking. I know what the UK and Dutch Citrix user groups will consider contributing towards travel if you are). Consider the advantage to your business for a free day of training, level setting with peers, understanding the trends in the industry, gaining new insight and making contacts that can help in the future. For example, at our last meeting, Ben Dowen, a Senior Software Test Engineer at Citrix, had had (in a previous session) a quick slot to highlight an opportunity for customers to visit Citrix engineering in Cambridge to talk about challenges with the developers/testers/PMs. Andrew Leitch spoke about his very positive, experience at taking Ben up on his offer.
At one point I titled this blog “how to present at your local Citrix User Group” – and I realised my mistake. Go see, go interact with others. While Synergy is an awesome event, and attend if you can, also consider visiting nearby CUGs and contributing there. I know in Europe we have a healthy exchange of ideas, presenters and attendees between CUGs, If you’ve VMware experience, or Microsoft knowledge they have similar opportunities there. There is also the likes of BriForum and E2EVC. There are public speaking classes, or groups such as toastmasters.org for example where you can get more experience and different perspectives. Your technical skills and professional expertise are evidence of your ability to accomplish difficult tasks. Improving your presentation skills can help you further advance your career. The ability to talk within a group articulately be it to customers, management, peers and … Synergy enhances your credibility and clout.
You may think you aren’t a presenter. To paraphrase John Bingham – if you present your view or question, you are a presenter. It doesn’t matter how fast or how long you present for. It doesn’t matter if today is your first day or if you’ve been presenting for twenty years. There is no test to pass, no license to earn, no membership card to get. You just present.