Thursday 23 December 2021

Look Back at Covid Years as a Presenter

I haven't blogged much the last two years - I do write more on Linkedin but I enjoy blogging - normally. I guess my blog has been very tied to my presenting and Covid has put paid to that.

I haven't stopped presenting, just most of it has been remote. 2 dimensional, just me and the screen.

In fact before you read the rest of my blog, which is wordy, watch this video from Connor MacDonald , he says it so much better than me.

When I am asked what an ACE Director is, I explain it is about sharing information, educating. If I think about how I used to decide what to talk about I would attend Oracle Open World, look at what they were launching in my world of Oracle Applications, and think about what interested me. Then I would submit for Collaborate, the biggest Applications event, normally in April in Las Vegas. That way I had about 5 months to investigate, learn more and think about the difference it could be make.

Like chatbots, at first I was sceptical but I did a couple of Proof Of Concepts with Oracle Product Management and then gave several different presentations and followed up with blog posts.

In a similar way the development of VBCS and how we can use that to extend SaaS. This has taken longer than I expected but I see more and more use cases everyday and now you can use it within SaaS to change screens and to extend Journeys. We haven't heard the last of this.

My learning doesn't stop at Oracle Open World, or even the POCs. My first presentation will throw up questions. Most I will know the answer to and it simply means adjusting the presentation, but the best questions are the ones I don't know the answer to that I will investigate and learn more.

As the year goes on, I get the opportunity to give the sessions again, and as time goes by, discus with customers and other end users and they develop further.

Covid has stopped that. I get even more opportunity to present, but virtually. I know that without technology we would not have survived, work has continued in our industry and made such a difference in so many ways. Some of my colleagues love virtual presenting, and it has given more opportunities to new speakers, but I don't enjoy it as much.

I want to present, I want to support the communities that welcomed me in person. They need to feed their membership and I want to be part of that, but it isn't the same. I find that I rarely get questions and little feedback and so my presentation doesn't progress. I don't know if it has any value.

Last year I did formal Solution Architecture training at work (virtually, hated it), and we explored the balance between the ideal solution and what was commercially viable. I had seen this quandary mainly with Oracle Integration Cloud and decided to put together a presentation on that. I gave it internally so did get some feedback but since then with only one exception (more about that later), I have had no questions, no feedback from 5 outings.

A few weeks ago, between Covid restrictions UKOUG had an in person event, UKOUG Together and I was so excited. To be really honest, to be with people rather than any content I would be delivering. A few other conferences had hybrid events but for me they were not viable in person. I live in N Ireland and our restrictions have been more severe than even England.

At the start of Covid, someone said they thought as an extrovert I would struggle with lockdown, Working from Home. I said that actually I wasn't as much of an extrovert as they thought. I will happily stand on a stage and speak in front of hundreds, rather than work a room of people. They said I had the wrong definition, an extrovert gets their energy from people and that absolutely is me. So the thought of an in person event was so exciting to me.

I had a presentation with a colleague on creating PaaS extensions at an industrial scale. This is based on work Inoapps, my new employer has done using APEX and it created a lot of interest. Oracle themselves wanted to see if I was promoting this over VBCS and I'm not, but I am admitting APEX can do amazing things at scale. It was a debate, questions, thinking and answers, follow up learning and I loved it!

I also got to stand in for a colleague for our sponsored slot kicking off the keynote on sustainability. I loved that, I had to learn what we have done and how along with what Oracle does with cloud, how it affects our customers. Again lots of followup conversations and I felt so invigorated.

Lots of my ACE peers were also speakers and it was great seeing them and catching up. Well to be honest, hugging them. UKOUG had a range of COVID measures and whilst I felt some could have been stricter they had a great system whereby you expressed your thoughts on social distancing via a button badge. Red for 'keep your distance', Amber for 'I'm OK but be careful' and Green for happy to shake hands, hug etc. I went for Green and wrote on it 'I NEED HUGS'. 

A few days later I did my last virtual session of the year for AIOUG at their Sangam event. After the high of UKOUG I expected this to be the same as all the other virtual events, but I was wrong. I should have known. Sai, who was at UKOUG in person (he lives in UK), who leads AIOUG really understands how user groups work. To encourage his vast community to get the most out of sessions, they asked speakers to identify the best questions for spot prizes, and once the questions started, they flowed. I got several questions I could answer and one I couldn't - what a result. I was very happy.

Covid hasn't finished, and as I write this I am expecting even more restrictions. I will keep presenting virtually, supporting user groups which I really believe in, but hope that in person will be the norm again soon. I am not silly enough to believe events will go back to how they were, things will have to find a new normal, but I am hopeful. I start 2022 on the board of ODTUG, a new and exciting opportunity and a stream lead for Kscope22, which I pray will be in person and a great success.