Rehearsal for Raspberry Pi Talk

Experiences as a First Time Speaker at Umbraco Manchester

I already put a few brief notes on ‘the socials’ (to use that awful hackneyed term) earlier today, but now that I’ve had a bit more time to properly formalise my thoughts I thought I’d put together a slightly longer blog post on this. I’ve actually been going to developer meetups for over a decade, with some of the earliest Umbraco Manchester meetings I’ve attended being way back in 2013 now – yes, I was even there when Niels turned up on a spacehopper! And yet despite attending for such a long time, it may surprise many to know I only finally got round to presenting my first ever public talk for other people this week.

This is something I’ve actually wanted to do for a long time. As there are so many times I’ve heard talks from other people and been inspired to try something new or different which has enriched what I do no end, being able to offer that same thing back to make it a true two way process has always been a goal of mine. But as is so often the case, actually coming up with the time, energy and ideas to do this has held me back. 2023 has been a year where I’ve intentionally freed up more time to devote to doing this, but it still took some months to get properly going.

In the end, the topic for this though largely came about by accident. I’d started experimenting with running Umbraco on a bunch of mini PCs alongside the most well-known of them all the Raspberry Pi for a blog post back in August with the original intention of just putting together a blog post comparing these and looking at the sustainability, cost and performance angles. As I was gathering together all these stats and such though, it quickly became apparent this was a bit wider and could be something that could make for a slightly more interesting talk with the ability to actually demo these machines live. So I decided to pause the blog post, and instead switched focus towards making this into more of a fullscale talk. I haven’t abandoned the blog post mind, and am aiming to get a more detailed written account of all what was covered up on here within the next week, as I know a few were interested in this.

For the talk it took a lot longer than originally expected to gather together slides, research and calculate some interesting stats, write up code to make something demoable, rehearse everything repeatedly (including setting up an entire replica presentation environment in my living room) and then get it onto the rosta of the meetup groups. Indeed it was so long in the making I’ve even had to revise slides several times with the moving nature of tech inbetween (I’m still convinced someone at the Raspberry Pi Foundation must have me bugged). But to finally be able to present it live, and even moreso in my hometown of Manchester in November was a wonderfully exhilarating experience, and a special shoutout should go in particular to Phil, Rachel and Jon from the Umb Manchester team over recent months who’ve given so much support and encouragement on getting me to this point.

I’m a natural worrier so I had rehearsed and planned backups for of all sorts of failures in advance. But of course no matter how much you practice and how many eventualities you cover for there’s always still something can catch you out on the day. In this case a complete inability to output any video from the laptop was ran into right before presentation. But thankfully one of the skills I’ve really become adept at over the years (whether this is a good thing or a bad thing I’m really not sure) is at being able to go into a full on and steely focused resolution mode when things go totally pearshaped. So with that and the rest of the team we had at the meetup, we were able to get everything working with only minor delays to the overall starting time via the use of an additional laptop, some emergency changes to the local demo network, and a remote connection. Even with that added complexity suddenly introduced at such short notice and the lack of my background notes, everything else still went smoothly, leading to a talk I was proud to be able to do, and that seemed to be well received by the audience many of whom I know had travelled over from Leeds for the evening. And hopefully it can help inspire and get some other people thinking about clever and more sustainable ways of tinkering with hosting their smaller internal Umbraco projects inhouse.

With luck this is going to be the start of many more such endeavours too. I’ve already gotten a smaller lightning talk in with the DotNetNorth event next week on a different topic, though one which handily also allows me to repurpose some of the same demo code I’d written up for this Umbraco talk just used in a different way. After that’s done, I’m then going to get the originally planned longer blog post on the results from this session published, then I’ll then do a bit more work on honing this talk further, especially to cover the new versions of .net 8 and Umbraco 13 trickling out over the next month or so, but also to build up confidence more on presenting it. Meaning I can hopefully take v2 of this on to other areas of the country early in the new year, as I know not everyone is able to get around to quite as many far flung places as I seem able to do so. Aside from this there are also a few request for talk submission deadlines for some bigger conferences, both online and physical coming up, which I’d love to be able to put something totally different together for if I can get those ideas flowing. Overall I think its safe to say the bug has bitten me a bit here!

As another wise speaker once said to me, let me finish with some Jazzhands! 🤗

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