Doing my first Sitecore User Group talk

Developers developers

Thank you for joining us for our first London Technical User Group of the year  on February 26, 2020. This was my first technical talk at a Sitecore User Group event. And I would like to share my experience with you.

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So, where do you start? Perhaps the most difficult part is finding out a topic to speak about. I could imagine this resonates with you too. I decided to talk about Sitecore Host because I believe it is an area that relatively new and has not been blogged about as much. It also gave me chance “learn by doing” as I needed to demonstrate one or two highlight features of Sitecore Host.

Nailing your topic

Having nailed the topic, I embarked on reviewing as much documentation as I could to get content for my own talk.  I also planned out the various scenarios for my technical demos. Naturally, I went for Sitecore Horizon 9.3 being the new kid in the block in the Sitecore Host front. For comparison, I also went for Sitecore Identity Server, which also gave me the opportunity to demonstrate creating and extending Sitecore Host Plugin another highlight feature for me.

So, what is your story?

The next thing was to come up with a story on why I believe Sitecore Host is so cool. For me, what is interesting about Sitecore Host is as follows:

  • Sitecore have created a pluggable architecture that gives us a framework we can extend safely using .NET Core hosting bundle.
  • Sitecore is already doing cool stuff with this framework, Sitecore Horizon 9.3, Sitecore Identity and Universal Tracker Service
  • So, what can I do with this?
    • Sitecore Identity Server as a federation gateway can be extended to work with ADFS, and many more external providers
  • So, what is the big deal? Well, if you were to implement support for ADFS in a Sitecore version prior to Sitecore Identity Server, it won’t take you hours, we are talking weeks in fact. That is a big deal for me and my clients. So, I did an experiment and timed myself. The results are out – and it took me under 2 hours to create ADFS Host plugin!!!
  • I also got a chance to share my gotchas during my preparation, which are now available for you to view on my series of blog posts accompanying the talk.

Talking the talk

And on the actual event, how do you execute your talk? How do you keep the time? Oh well this was the tricky part as I had to restart my Sitecore instances in multiple occasions during the demos…and you know how slow the instances can be in your local dev environment. That is not very time efficient. Perhaps I needed to borrow a leaf from Jeremy Davis style of presenting with pre-recorded screen capture videos of demos. And with subtle pauses which allowed him to talk about the key points, without demo getting on his way. I think I will try this next time.

I also got some constructive feedback which I would like to share with you:

  • Talking through code is tricky – Even though this is a technical user group, there are some non-technical people in the audience. Whilst it’s ok for them not to follow, you don’t want this to last too long or they get their phones-out.
  • Naturally when talking through code, you have to focus on what you are talking though – physically looking at your machine. This means you are dis-engaged from the audience (think about body language) – the aim is to be able to talk through code whilst barely even looking away from the audience.

Happy my first talk is in my back pocket now. I can’t wait for another opportunity to do another presentation in future User Group event.

The second Sitecore User Group event will be in Manchester is on Wednesday March 11, 2020 week. Grab your ticket and join the Sitecore community over there who will be digging into testing personalization and optimization, using Docker with Sitecore and have a look at the new Horizon editor.

Happy Sitecore week!

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