A Poll: Recommendations for New Speakers

This morning I wrote a post on my original blog about presenting. I’m cross-posting here because I want to ask other speakers, and my SQLskills colleagues, for the number one piece of advice they provide to new speakers. Write a quick post, or leave a comment. New presenters want to hear from you, and I know that I can always get better. Don’t over think it; just share what comes to mind first. Go!

12 thoughts on “A Poll: Recommendations for New Speakers

  1. Your slides (if you have any) are there to help tell the story, to supplement it. They’re not there for you to remember what to say. Only read from your slides when you absolutely have to, for example, reciting a long quote from a technical article.

  2. Practice, practice, practice! I can’t emphasize that enough.

    Practice to yourself first. It’s weird and awkward, but really helpful. Do this a few times, so you know how the session will flow. Practice in front of at least one other person. They can give you valuable feedback – not necessarily technical either! Do you know how many times I can say "just" in a talk? A lot. I found that out once.

  3. Record your rehearsals..
    Painful to watch back @ first, but they do give you the ‘Attendee perspective’ and I know I’ve picked on some of my presenting faults….
    Try to to restate any Questions .. for clarity for all to to know the question your answering.. {especially if you being recorded and have a microphone)

  4. The #1 thing is to only present about topics you know really well, and be 100% sure of every fact you state. Don’t be afraid to say "I don’t know" in response to a questions – we’re all fallible to some degree. Don’t over practise – rehearsing is a double-eddged sword – too much and you sound scripted. I haven’t rehearsed for many years – once you’re public speaking 100+ days a year, rehearsing isn’t needed any more.

    Oh, and enjoy yourself – if you hate doing it, don’t do it.

  5. Don’t forget to tell stories in your presentation–it’s a great way to engage your audience and show how what you are talking about is applicable in the real world. Also, ZoomIt–it’s hard to make fonts big enough everywhere in SSMS and just typing CTRL+1 lets you zoom in, and ensure that everyone in the room can see your demo.

  6. Be prepared! Bring a VGA converter if your laptop is DVI/HDMI/DisplayPort only. Get a clicker and use it instead of making roundtrips to the keyboard. Bring a copy of your presentation and demos on a USB stick. Have a physical copy of the presentation in case the power goes out (it happens, ask @BrentO).

    But above all, remember to breathe, KEEP CALM AND CONFIDENTLY ROCK YOUR PRESENTATION.

  7. I rehearse by recording myself using Camtasia whilst I practice and practice. It adds pressure and it feels like an ‘audience’. It also doubles up as a safeguard since if, for some reason, your demo fails (e.g. laptop crashes and burns just before a presentation) then you have a backup to show people. I’ve had to do this, when I’ve had a complete failure of a machine but fortunately had videos to talk through. It wasn’t ideal since I prefer demo-ing live, but it was better than crashing and burning in public.

  8. Find a well established, and GOOD, public speaker to give you feedback on your session. Having a good mentor goes a long way to becoming a much better public speaker. You also need to find someone that fits your style of presentation. For example, I don’t use pictures in my slide decks, I prefer to provide more text so that someone can review the deck later and learn from it. Picking a mentor that has a different presentation style can lead to frustrations that aren’t going to help you improve. Like Paul I never practice delivering a deck, even when it is completely new content that I have never delivered before. If you stick to presenting topics that you know well you will be able to stretch/shrink content to fit your times, and you’ll learn how much material to put in a deck for a given time period.

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