SQL Saturday 265 - Tips for Presenting
05 November 2013
This previous Saturday was SQL Saturday Oregon. My favorite was a workshop Q&A about how to give technical presentations, organized by Jes Borland. Present were a good mix of newcomers, experienced speakers, and inexperienced speakers. Here's what I took away from the session.
Why Should I Speak?
- Technical presentations make you more comfortable when speaking at work.
- Technical presentations make you more comfortable speaking in public, which is a great skill.
- You meet new and interesting people. The networking is great.
- It's a great way to conquer a fear.
- Use the 'Rule of 3' - present 3 key ideas, and that's it.
- Rehearse. A lot.
- Record yourself. See how you look afterwards. Adjust. Repeat
- Relax before you get on stage. Take a deep breath.
- Start off someplace friendly. Work "lunch brownbags" are good. SQL Saturdays and user groups are great.
- Tell people to ask questions at the end. Then they won't interrupt when you're speaking.
- If you feel confident that you can get back on topic, allow questions during the presentation.
- Do not go on tangents.
- If you are running short of time and need to skip ahead, don't advance through many different slides if you need to catch up. People feel like they're missing out.
- Bring up a demo, flip to the right slide, and then flip back
- Or, go directly to the appropriate slide if you're running in 'Presenter View'
- Add a smiley face to your laptop background or post-it. It'll make you smile more. That helps the audience bond with you.
- Do not, DO NOT B.S. your way out of question you can't answer. Say "I don't know, let's work on it together afterwards" and keep going.
- Most of the session demand is at the 200 level (advanced beginner or intermediate). Most people wear many hats, and they're trying to learn and progress. They haven't specialized enough to need a 400- or 500-level talk because they can't.
- Add a little humor, especially self-deprecating humor.
Titles and Abstracts
- First, start with ideas.
- Then build an abstract from those ideas
- Build an outline
- Send the abstract (and outline) to speakers who are approachable. Ask for their help. They probably will.
- Titles are difficult, and important. Often people will only look at the titles
- Putting funny jokes, or pop-culture references in titles doesn't translatein large, culturally diverse events.
- Having a slightly cute presentation title depends on the conference culture. SQL Saturdays and PASS Summit love slightly cute titles. Tech-Ed really doesn't.
- Explain what the session is about. Then tell people it's OK to leave if it isn't what they expect. This is a good thing.
- You end up with a more engaged audience, and fewer difficult audience members.
- This improves your session evaluations, which ask "did you learn what you were expecting to learn" and "did the session meet your expectations"
- Look at your audience, not the screen
- Use a presenter mouse or presenter 'wand' and walk around. You can advance the slides remotely. This works great for slides, not demos.
- Ask for a show of hands. It keeps people engaged.
How to Keep From Speaking Too Quickly
- Add time marks on the slides. Slow down if you see yourself going too fast.
Difficult Audience Members
- They're relatively rare.
- Most common type is someone who wants to be the "smartest person in the room", and stump the presenter
- Say, "That's interesting, but a bit off topic. If you and anyone else wants to chat, come up afterwards. We can work on it together."
- Practice them
- NEVER, EVER type in a demo
- Optionally, record a demo, and play it back live.
How to Recover When You Bomb Onstage
- Apologize. "Oops. Lost my train of thought. Sorry about that"
- Take a deep breath
- Move on
- Practice screwing up in rehearsal. Practice recovering.
- Have a plan B if things go sideways, especially for a demo