I’m at least one of the people who yelled Zoomit during a keynote at PASS Summit.

I want to take a moment and explain why I did it and why it was wrong.

I was frustrated. I’m watching a presentation on a HUGE screen, from about mid-way in the room and the presenter is earnestly showing off a cool new feature of SQL Server in about 3 point font and saying “… As you can see …”.

No. No I couldn’t. After a little while of staring at the blur on the screen and hearing the person say I could see this or see that, I popped. I was interested. I was paying attention. I really and truly wanted to see what was on the screen and I honestly could not. So, I yelled at the stage.

I was wrong.

The person on stage probably didn’t have Zoomit installed. Nor did they know how to use it. They probably also didn’t know that Windows has a magnification utility built in (don’t like it, but it’s there). My yelling didn’t help them at all to discover this information. Further, it probably made them even more nervous. Neither of these improved the experience for anyone in the audience. Finally, it was unprofessional behavior. That’s the important one.

What should I have done? Find a positive solution. Get a hold of someone, anyone, from PASS, from Microsoft, and let them know that we can’t see. Nothing is going to get fixed at the moment, but the feedback has to be delivered. It can just be delivered in a way that’s helpful, not hurtful. Write a blog post? Sure, but try to make it a positive and helpful one. Tweet about it at the time? Yeah, why not? Just make the tweets informative as opposed to negative. Communicate the necessary information (and yeah, it was necessary) in a way that does two things 1) It gets heard and 2) It provides help to those who need it.

I seem to frequently serve as a negative example. “Don’t do what I’ve done. It hurts” is a repetitive message I deliver. Please remember. PASS Summit is a blast. It is. The event has changed my life in a positive way and I’ve grown to truly love the giving community that built and continues to improve the PASS organization. So don’t do what I’ve done. Have fun at PASS, yes. SQUEE and hug your friends. Wear a kilt. Go to the parties and imbibe. Just remember, through it all, you’re still expected to behave as a professional. Don’t follow my bad example. Instead, build on the positive aspects of PASS and the community in a positive fashion.

See you next week!


  • I don’t know man, I don’t think I agree with you on this one.
    1. I’ve been on stage quite a few times when they yelled zoomit at me and it’s just a way of letting me know they can’t see. If you can’t see I need to know so I can do something about it. I don’t have zoomit on my box either, but I’ll do *something* for you. So as a frequent speaker I consider it my job to make sure you can see, and I don’t mind at all when you tell me you can’t. I’ve had a thing with color schemes before. I keep darker schemes so I can work in the dark. Doesn’t come off so well on the stage.

    2. I don’t like it that everyone says that something they should or shouldn’t do is unprofessional. Flagging down someone at PASS or MS in the middle of a demo isn’t going to do anything for you at all. And you need to see the demo. So why is it more professional to sit there with your mouth shut and not get anything out of the talk? Why does professional mean doing nothing but sitting there and just waiting so you can golf clap at the end? So many people get on this high-horse and bark about different things being unprofessional. If you wouldn’t do it that’s fine, but don’t label it like that. Just because you wouldn’t do it doesn’t mean it’s unprofessional, it means it’s something you wouldn’t do. I’ve seen plenty of people label something as unprofessional and then turn around and do something far worse and they’re somehow just fine with that. We’re DBAs. That’s our profession. That’s what we need to be professional at. Sure, we’re at an industry conference, but we do all kinds of things there that we wouldn’t do in a business setting. That doesn’t make us unprofessional. People dressing in costumes, etc. They wouldn’t go to work like that, but does that mean they’re unprofessional? I don’t think so.

    And I’m not getting on you at all… Just spilling out my opinions. Unprofessional gets used so much by others trying to keep people ‘in their place’ when they have no right to.

    Now, if you think it makes the presenter feel bad to shout zoomit then by all means don’t do it. I don’t think it makes them feel bad because I think they’d want to know if you can’t see their demo. But I’m also not one who yells at the stage anyway. Not for any particular reason, I just don’t. But I do think it’s ok to yell something like that as long as you’re not rude about it and as long as it improves the quality of the talk. I do think it’s rude though to otherwise heckle the speaker. Is it unprofessional? I don’t know. I wouldn’t do it, but I hesitate to label it like that. But by most social conventions, it’s definitely rude as hell to heckle someone… and it’s just mean.

    But we can debate the ins and outs of something being unprofessional at PASS if you like.

  • Hey Sean. You’re wrong, but that’s OK.


    For those who don’t know, I’m kidding. Sean and I are friends.

    You bring up good points.

    1) I agree. As a presenter, I want to know if you can’t see. But in a room with 5,000 people, just screaming it at the stage is unlikely to be helpful to anyone. I could be wrong, but that’s my view.

    2) Pretty sure we can agree on some level of “professional” without putting everyone into ties. And I used to wear costumes to work, but I also never objected to trips to HR, so…

    However, I agree absolutely that each person should pick and choose what they think is the appropriate level of professionalism. I know I’ve been called out on presenting while wearing a kilt, and I really DO. NOT. CARE.

    But yeah, let’s talk about this. Why do you think I posted this?

  • Pat Phelan

    I also need to disagree with Grant that calling for a needed change or aid to be unprofessional.

    If I’m presenting and someone notices that I don’t have pants on, don’t worry about it right then… HR will deal with that later and no one will benefit from knowing of my faux pas.

    If I’m presenting, and more than 1% of my audience can’t see what I think that they can see, then I have a problem and one which I almost certainly can address from on stage. If I think that the audience can see something, then either my test audience actually saw it or I need to march the entire lot of them out to the woodshed. I’ll assume that my test audience did see whatever I’m discussing and that in my excitement at the live presentation I forgot to engage Zoomit or whatever was needed to make the content easy to see and understand.

    I get so revved up when presenting that I might actually forget my pants someday (particularly on a Thursday at Summit). There’s a fair chance that whatever aid I used in my test presentation either isn’t working or isn’t adequate in the live presentation. I can and I think that I should address these needs.

    I thrive on feedback from the audience, so I’d be really peeved if someone needed an aid like Zoomit and didn’t speak up. I can handle the interruption, especially if it addresses a problem that I can fix and is marginally polite. If I’m ever the speaker where you can’t see/hear/whatever something that I’m talking about, I expect and I ask you to speak up then and there to help me!


  • Hello Pat,

    Sorry I didn’t respond sooner, I’ve been on the road.

    You’re right of course, but I think it’s about the approach. If i’m in your session and I say “Can you make that larger please?” or “I can’t see that” it’s one thing. Just hollering “Zoomit” and nothing else is another. At least it seems that way to me. However, happy to be wrong. It’s not like it’ll be the first time.

  • John McLusky

    These things aren’t necessarily obvious to a presenter until they know about things – when I spoke at SQLBits I already knew about ZoomIt (and used it, and had increased my SSMS font size!), but never thought to repeat back questions asked so that the recording would pick them up.

    I wonder whether conference organisers everywhere might find it useful to produce a short ‘advice for speakers’ piece that is sent out a few days before the event. After all, the speaker is (at least in part) representing the event, so it’s in the organisers’ interest to make sure that things go smoothly.

  • Cody

    These are high quality problems. “I was at PASS and…”

    I’m usually on the opposite end of the spectrum where I’m watching a webinar where the presenter is showing everything in a nice perfectly visible big font… but then keeps pausing to click and zoom in far beyond what’s required until it’s a pixelated mess. And when there’s only one thing on screen… they don’t need to circle and underline specific words in red. It’s mental.

    This aside I don’t think you did anything that wrong. Life is hard enough, we shouldn’t beat ourselves up over things that really don’t matter.

  • Did you know there already *is* required training for PASS speakers? And that we do a required speaker training at MSFT in addition for every speaker? And that one of the very first items is USE MAGNIFICATION? And that they should repeat the question?

    And yet, here we are…

    While you’re yelling, I’m face-palming.

OK, fine, but what do you think?