Promote Community

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When I present at any given event, I generally assume that the people attending have heard of the event that I’m at. For example, I don’t need to ask people at SQL in the City, “Who here has heard of Redgate Software?” Same thing goes for a SQL Saturday event “Did anyone here know that there’s a local, free, event being held that provides free training and networking in your area?” seems like a waste of time while at the event. However, what about the rest of the community?

If you’re working on your presentation skills, I’d like you to add one more bit of work to everything else you’re doing (yes, yes, you’re welcome). I’d like you to get in the habit of taking 3-5 minutes prior to the start of your presentation to promote community. If you’re at a SQL Saturday event, talk about the local chapter and any other nearby upcoming SQL Saturday events. If you’re at a SQL Server event, mention the upcoming BA event. Cross-pollinate your communities as much as possible. Be respectful though. If you’re at a paying event, it’s not really good form to promote another, competing, paying event. However, passing along word of a meet-up or virtual chapter where people can get additional information on the topic you’re presenting, that’s fine.

Don’t assume that everyone knows what you do. I’ve made a habit of checking at the beginning of my sessions, “Who attends their local PASS Chapter? Who hasn’t heard of PASS? Anyone here who hasn’t heard of SQL Cruise? Who is going to PASS Summit this year? Let me tell you about PASS Summit…” I know I’m introducing people to the size and depth of the community that we all take part in because over and over, I get large sections of the room who haven’t heard of the different topics I bring up.

Talking to the people in your session like this serves a dual purpose. First, and I’d argue most important, you’re promoting the community. Second, you’re warming up and you’re warming up your audience. They’re getting used to you and you’re getting a sense of them. This will help you deliver your session because you’ll know better how the crowd is responding.

5 Comments

  • I’m going to disagree with you on this one – if, at a SQLSaturday, every single presenter burns 5 minutes talking about free local events, is that really the best use of attendees’ time?

    I say that because I’ve sat through a few well-meaning presenters who’ve done exactly that. The keynote presentation spent 10 minutes talking about upcoming area events and local user groups, and people rushed to the first session only to hear…the same stuff repeated for another 5 minutes.

    At local user groups, sure. In the keynote and prize giveaway recap, sure. But in every session at a SQLSaturday, no.

  • I’m on the fence. One issue I had at SQLPass was the first 5 minutes of every presentation (ok, almost everyone) being filled with the exact same boilerplate.

    I do agree overall it’s well worth making sure people know about the surrounding community, but perhaps just the first 2 speakers of the day or something.

    So I’ll say, “I mostly agree, but…”

  • Hey Brent!

    That’s fine. Disagree away. However, I sure wouldn’t spend that five minutes in my presentation. I do it before, after I’ve set up, tested & verified I’m ready. And, I don’t automatically do it. I ask, “Who has heard of X” and assuming most of the audience has, I’ll tell them, “Then those who haven’t should talk to your neighbors.” It shouldn’t be a rote listing of upcoming events. That’s dull and it doesn’t promote community.

  • Hi Greg,

    I agree with the boilerplate stuff (although I’m pretty sure I got through mine in about two minutes), however, a phone went off during my session, on Thursday. Presumably that person had been to X number of sessions and still hadn’t received the word that a ringing phone is frowned on. And they wouldn’t let me answer it. I’m not sure why, but no one ever lets me answer their phone.

    You both bring up a valid point. If every one does this exactly the same way, every time, it’ll get dull. Quick. So everyone should bring their own spin, their own favorites, but I’d still argue for it. But hey, it won’t be first time I’ve been wrong…today.

  • Yeah, the Summit is one of the worst offenders I’ve seen with this. It seems to hit two extremes – either the presenter drones on and on on the resources slide, or else they make fun of it as they skip past it. In both cases, that doesn’t reflect well on the org.

OK, fine, but what do you think?