For several years, I ran a regular feature on this blog, Speaker of the Month. I attend a lot of events, so I have the opportunity to hear a lot of people talk about various topics. I decided, as an attempt to help out, to call out individuals that I thought had given a great presentation. There was no other reward beyond my attempts to promote others.
In addition to that promotion and praise, I did offer criticism as well. It was never intended to be hurtful or in any way negative. I was hoping to point out people that I thought were great at presenting and provide a tip or two to make them even better. Not everyone liked it. In fact, a few people were decidedly, animatedly, against the idea. This partly why I stopped doing the Speaker of the Month thing.
Yesterday, I mentioned that PASS has made all their videos easier to search and access. So, as a giggle, I searched up my very first presentation at PASS Summit, in 2008 (you’ll need to search for it, because as I type this, I can’t see how to provide an external link).
For all those who I upset (purely unintentionally, I assure you) by being critical of your presentations, I offer this self-evaluation as a gift, an apology, and hopefully a peace offering. For everyone else, I hope this is a little informative and a lot entertaining.
Yeah, I know that’s what everyone thinks about themselves, but I have proof. This presentation is very rough. Kick back, relax, and enjoy this send-up.
First words out of my mouth are a joke, that’s not funny. What’s worse, it could easily be construed as an attack of an audience member. Since I remember distinctly that only one person I knew was in the audience (Hey Alan!), I started off, picking on the audience. Unless you’re Don Rickles, that is only going to end badly. Don’t do it.
I get to my Agenda and About Me slides where I proceed to… Read the bullet points to the audience. Oh good gosh. Don’t do that. The people out there can read and don’t need you do it for them.
Allow me to say one nice thing about myself: I love that I’m doing Database DevOps presentations before DevOps was a thing. Sometimes, I get stuff right. OK, on with the critique.
The slides are moving very hard towards documentation, but aren’t. So, either go all the way, make your slides into documents, or, don’t. This middle ground just makes for sloppy slides. Better that the slides direct and control the presentation so that the presentation is the thing. You want people to need you, and only you. If the slides do the presentation for you, what are you there for?
Oh lovely… So, when on a microphone, when you need to clear your throat, cover the mic. No one wants to hear you moving phlegm around. Or at least, minimize it.
Seriously, even with a fairly small screen resolution, the fonts and stuff are hard to read. Even more so in videos. Do the people watching your presentation live, and those on the recording, a favor, blow up that tiny stuff so that it’s easily seen.
Ha! Notes. I used to use notes. Nothing wrong with that, at all. I’m just laughing because I don’t think it would occur to me do that now. Notes are fine. In fact, better to use notes and get things right, than wing it and get things wrong.
Nine minutes in, and this is painful. I can’t believe anyone let me speak ever again. Anyway, zoomit!
When you get questions from the audience, especially when on a recording, you must repeat the questions prior to answering them. Unlike what I did.
Of course, right after saying that I was going to repeat questions, I did not repeat the question. You really should repeat the question.
Ha! OK. I’m going to forgive myself for cheering when I got my first error. That was actually funny. Errors are going to happen, so how you deal with them reflects your maturity as a presenter.
REPEAT THE QUESTION!
Time management is very hard. I had rehearsed this presentation multiple times, alone, with audiences, and even presented it at a local group. However, I got on the big stage and somehow… completely dropped the ball on timing. I skipped demos or something, because I finished very early.
Ha! “I’m never going to use a virtual server for this kind of presentation again.” Guess what I use for the vast majority of my presentations? Yeah, VMs. Not a criticism, just funny.
And, I’m going to say something nice again, sorry. I’m actually enjoying the passion that I bring to this topic. I suspect that people I’m presenting to also appreciate that passion. It’s easier to get interested in something that the person telling you about it is also interested in.
I just noticed that the footer on the slides shows: SessionID and #Session Name. Very unprofessional. Love or hate the slide template you’re given, be sure you edit it appropriately so that your slides look good.
Finally, if you’re working with beta sofware, and it’s working. Leave it the heck alone. I tried updating my demos the day of the presentation. Guess what? They failed. I think that, in part, explains some of my time management issues (finishing 1/2 hour early at PASS Summit, is not good, just so we’re clear). You need to present from a stable position.
The whole AMA section saved the presentation, however, the jokes I cracked were seldom funny. That’s dangerous. Especially as a newer presenter, staying away from comedy is a better choice.
Finally, within the AMA, I let people run the floor too much. As a presenter, it’s my mic, my stage, my presentation. At that point, I wasn’t acting like it.
I was probably a little mean to myself. However, it’s shocking to my modern ears just how poorly I presented things in 2008. Overall, I think I did fine. I clearly knew what I was sharing. I was just sharing it so poorly. It had to detract from people’s learning just a little bit.
I think the one point I can make out of this for all of you is that, however bad you think you may be, you can absolutely improve. I’m living proof.