Dan Schnau

"Getting Started With Blazor" at Michigan DevFest 2023

Not long after I was laid off, I signed up to give a tech talk at Michigan DevFest 2023, a tech conference in downtown Detroit.

Dan Schnau presenting in the "Pizza Pizza" room at Little Caesars headquarters in downtown Detroit

I expected that facing the public-speaking fear would keep my skills sharp, help me land a job, and have some fun along the way. Blazor is a new framework for building web applications from Microsoft, and I've been interested in it for some time, so this was a good opportunity to learn more.

The conference was set to take place in December, and I submitted an abstract in September.

In late October, I accepted an offer and began my new job at Detroit Trading Company. I put all my working energy into my new job, and it paid off well: I've been enjoying where I work! I forgot all about the commitment I had made for December 2nd.

In November, I began receiving reminders about the talk I signed up to give, just a few weeks out on December 2nd. I procrastinated, and procrastinated, and procrastinated.

At this point I began using mental health tools I've learned since my visit to the mental health hospital. I had to remind myself that public speaking is a terrifying thing for many, but there is no real danger. The fight-or-flight response is simply my body trying to protect me from a non-existent "threat". I also may be an impostor, but whether I am or not isn't even relevant. I'm a person who made a commitment to do something, and to remain in integrity with myself, I must take that on with my best effort. The results of the effort are completely out of my hands.

To push myself to prepare, I scheduled a lunch-and-learn session for the Thursday preceding the conference. I also set aside time at home with my partner to practice the talk.

I prepared, somewhat, and both practice rounds went poorly. But my partner is a wonderful supportive woman, and my coworkers are wondferful supportive people. I received advice, ideas, and encouragement from all and I felt confident I could put something together that was better for Saturday.

And so, the night before the conference, I worked like a caffiene-addled college student to re-work the whole structure of my presentation. I wrote it all out on paper several times and talked to the wall at my desk with my phone's stopwatch running to work out timings. I went to bed around 2am that night, which was exceptionally late for me.

The morning of the conference I ported my notes on paper into a brief slide deck. In my opinion, staring at slides is boring: if someone wants to read a bunch of text to learn something, a book or a web page is a better option than slides. I would rely on my charming looks and personality to teach and entertain my attendees.

My talk was at the end of the day so I spent the rest of the conference enjoying talks from other presenters, chatting with other attendees and spending time with my friends and partner who came with.

I gave my talk, I had a lot of fun with it, and received a lot of positive feedback. I'm glad I did this and even moreso I'm thankful I had the opportunity.