How I Accidentally Became a Conference Keynote Guest Speaker

Over the years, I’ve attended many industry technical conferences. I’ve been an attendee. I held a whiteboard session that was livestreamed over the Internet. I’ve done video interviews. I’ve been booth staff. I’ve given presentations in booths. I’ve been responsible for the entire booth.

With all that, there are still a few things I haven’t ever done at a technical conference. I’ve never given a keynote speech (yet), and I’ve never been a guest speaker in a conference keynote.

Pure Storage logoEarlier this week, that changed when I accidentally ended up with a (very brief) speaking role in the keynote on Day 2 of the Pure//Accelerate event.

If you were there, you may have witnessed it, or if you were following the event on Twitter, you may have read about it more-or-less as it happened, but I’ve been encouraged to share the story of how it came about.

I was invited to the event on an “Influencer” badge. I spent most of my time in briefings, sessions, and just generally hanging out with the other Influencers. There was a fair bit of overlap between this group and the Storage Field Day 9 Delegates.

On Tuesday over lunch, we were discussing different sorts of mischief we might get up to (as one does). I honestly don’t remember who brought it up first, but I ended up talking about the idea of playing Buzzword Bingo during a session, or maybe even during the keynote.

After lunch we stopped into the Media Lounge to hang out for a bit before the keynote started. Someone located a large flip-pad of paper and — in what is known in some circles as one of the Basic Grave Tactical Errors — called my bluff by handing it to me saying, “Here, you can use this to make the Bingo card.”

Dave with CardOne of the things that’s always in my Everyday Day Carry is a Sharpie marker, so I started drawing out the card and soliciting suggestions for words to fill the spaces with. We had it completed about 3 minutes before the keynote was scheduled to start.

We Influencers had been given reserved seating in the front row for the keynote. So, there I am, surrounded by some of the folks who helped created the Bingo card, sitting there with this giant pad of paper. It was hard not to feel at least a little silly.

Just as the lights went down to signal that the keynote was about to start, I turned to my companions and said, “If we actually get five in a row, I won’t be alone in shouting out Bingo!, will I?” They all reassured me. “Of course, not,” they said.

We’ll come back to the later.

The keynote began with the first speaker placing a baseball bat next to the podium. We were suddenly worried that Pure had been tipped off about the Buzzword Bingo game and had brought it out in order to discourage us… As it turns out, it was simply a prop to help introduce the first guest speaker, who works for the San Francisco Giants.

Bingo Card 2Once the various speakers began speaking, we became fairly well convinced that they may have been tipped off anyway, as several times words extraordinarily close to the ones we had were spoken, but not quite what I’d written down.

We decided to play things strict, however, and wait for the exact terms. We began to think nothing was going to happen, since by 45 minutes into the keynote we had a few 3-in-a-row sets going, but hadn’t even come close to picking up a fourth.

Then, Raghu Raghuram, guest speaker from VMware, came on stage, and shortly thereafter he spoke the term “low-latency” which completed a column of five on the card.

Bingo Card 3As I crossed that square off, I alerted my neighbors, gave the signal, and shouted “Bingo!”

I shouted alone.

Yes, that’s right. Alone.

To make the situation worse, it stopped the keynote cold. Mr. Raghuram — from 20 feet away from me — looked right at me and said “Sorry?”

I responded as any sane person would under the circumstances — I turned the pad to face him and, while drawing the line through the column, I said the one word that could explain the entire situation: “Bingo!”

To their credit, the gentleman onstage handled it with style and grace, acknowledging the interruption, but getting back on track quickly.

If you’d like to see it, you can watch the Day 2 Keynote here. While you can’t hear my voice, you can see the exact moment it happened (right around 00:52:30), and you’ll see the professionalism in how the speakers handled it.

So, that is not only the story of how I accidentally came to have a brief (two-word) speaking role in a conference keynote, it’s also the story of why I may never be invited back to another Pure Storage event ever again…

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2 Responses to How I Accidentally Became a Conference Keynote Guest Speaker

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