Speaker of the Month: August 2014

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Speaker of the Month is now officially one year old.

I went back and reread my first post. The goals were for a relentlessly positive experience. Reading back through the twelve posts, I feel like I hit that mark pretty well. Yes, I’ve always pointed out places where improvements can be made, but I think I’ve done it in a constructive and positive manner. Plus, I’m picking your session (if you get picked), as the best session that I saw that month, which is pretty darned positive in and of itself. I also promised it would be random and arbitrary. Mission accomplished.

I’ve considered wrapping this up. I did it for a year, just to see what the response would be. I didn’t have much more of a goal in mind than trying to help out both attendees and speakers by pointing out what I thought were some awesome sessions. Maybe pointing out some places where people could improve would be helpful. Since I’ve been blessed with getting to present a lot, the implication is, I know what I’m doing and maybe I could share some of that knowledge with others. Done. Does it really need to continue? The feedback you get on most blogs and most blog posts is largely a null set. You toss the information out there, it sinks into the pond, the ripples quickly fade. You don’t have a clue if the blog and the posts are helping or not. I’ve received some feedback on this, but, it’s actually been mixed. I’ve had people tell me because I’m pointing out areas of improvement that I’m not being positive, that I’m in fact being mean. Which… I really don’t know where to go on that. If I just say, “It’s awesome” and walk away, is this useful? Is it helpful? Is it constructive? Will it make a positive difference to the person I’m praising? Heck, will it do anything for anyone except the person I’m praising? I’d say no.

I’m going to go with the thought that this matters, even if it is only to the people who get picked. But I think that hearing from someone, anyone, what works in a session and what doesn’t could be useful to those who are just getting started. So, assuming it makes a small, positive, difference, I’ll keep the Speaker of the Month award going for one more year.

Speaker of the Month for August 2014 is someone I just recently had the chance to meet. We had exchanged a number of emails on a topic that I knew nothing about, so I was utterly unhelpful to them. But, by explaining the problem to me, they figured out their own solution, and then turned that into a presentation. Wow! That alone is amazing. Then I saw the presentation and was blown away. My Speaker of the Month is Derek Stanley and his presentation Remove the Linked Server 2 Hop Limitation by Implementing Kerberos from SQL Saturday #302, Albany.

This is absolutely not a topic I’m familiar with or good at. I know I’ve run into the situation a couple of times. Explanations for exactly what was happening kind of pinged off my head. After sitting through Derek’s session, I have a better understanding of the problem and, I have a bunch of great solutions (that I couldn’t implement if you threatened me with torture, I just don’t know systems that well). Derek presented everything in a very clear fashion. He walked us through the problem space so we could understand what it was he was fixing, then he walked us through a bunch of different solutions. His explanations were good, but his demos really made the presentation shine. They were great. Demos can frequently be summed up as “look, I can make this work” but they don’t always teach. Derek’s were so clear and pointed that even I could understand how his solutions were working (still couldn’t replicate them). He put the presentation together really well, told a clear, concise, useful story in a way that made it easy to understand. The presentation was absolutely a win.

Areas I’d like to see improved are fairly slim. I think, my opinion, the slides were too wordy.  I get the “slides are documentation” school of thought. I just don’t agree with it. That one may be a throwaway. The one area that sometimes got a little confusing was caused by naming the servers VM1, VM2, etc. I think some clearer names that somehow help illustrate the points might help the demos along some. One more word: Zoomit.

In short, it was a good presentation with great demos. If you get the chance to see this one, I strongly recommend it. Derek, submit this to more events. If you’re organizing an event, accept this session. It’s good, you’ll be happy.

Derek, get a blog. Here are some articles he wrote for SQL Server Central. Here’s his LinkedIn profile.


  • Andy "SQLBek" Yun

    As a past honoree, I for one was floored and flattened by the honor. Maybe it’s because I’m new at this, but I definitely took your feedback to heart & applied it (both what you wrote & what you communicated to me in person). You’ve definitely made a difference for me, and for that, I am grateful!

  • I am so happy you are continuing your speaker of the month posts. There has been a lot of post and tweets regarding speaker quality and feedback. Your blog helps fill the feedback dearth. I look at your blog post to find tips for things that I could do to improve, both to remind myself of what not to do, and what things I should add to my own talks.

    I am looking forward to reading next year’s installments of Speaker of the Month.

  • Grant, thanks for doing these. I’ve spoken at several SQL Saturdays (and have more lined up), and getting great speaker feedback is almost like finding a Unicorn riding a Bigfoot. Since presenting I’ve tried to be more informative by talking with the speakers (or being ultra-verbose in the comment fields, much like right now). We all want to be better, but it’s hard to know what works and doesn’t sometimes. So, thanks again for doing these – it helps all of us.

  • I enjoy your Speaker of the Month series as they usually lead me to someone new-to-me in the community that I have not met/followed/blog stalked, and I’m able to add another source of information flow to my pipe.

  • David Moutray

    I am astonished to hear that you have received NEGATIVE feedback on your Speaker-of-the-Month posts! I was surprised, delighted and flattered to be your second pick (September of last year), particularly since you were one of only FIVE people in the audience!.

    And, yes, your critique that the title of my presentation did not communicate its purpose was right on target. 🙂

    I am glad to hear that you are continuing this series for another year. I have enjoyed hearing about some of the interesting and off-beat topics out there. I also get a lot of value out of your comments as to what makes a presentation great (AND how to make it better).

    Please keep up the great work. The lack of positive feedback must be discouraging at times, but as the saying goes, “Contentment is silent.” To that I will add, “But it shouldn’t be.”

    Thank you, Grant.

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