Presentation Skills – How to Create a Connection

Erin Stellato (blog | twitter) asked on her SQLskills blog for comments/recommendations on presenting (be sure to check out the comments/links). She wrote a fantastic post on her favorite recommendations for new speakers here. And, I thought I'd add a couple of quick recommendations as well.

First and foremost, if you want to create a connection with your audience choose something for which you have a connection. Choose something that you've struggled with and that you're passionate about. And, my main recommendation for how to really connect with the audience is to show some empathy. There's a reason that these folks are in your session. They want to know something. And, if you struggled then they have too. Often, I like to write my presentation in the same way I learned something. I'll start with what I may have thought (like what an index is generally defined to do – "help queries") but then I'll go into what I learned it *really* does. And, ideally, *how* it does it. These are not always the easiest of things to teach (e.g. internals) but when you can open up the hood and show how something works you often take the mystery out of something and that – in and of itself – makes the lightbulb go on for many folks. Highlighting YOUR stuggles also makes you human. We often look unapproachable on-stage, as if we can achieve magic. But, we all put our pants on the same way and subsequently, if you can relate to them (and they with you) then you'll all enjoy yourselves A LOT more. There's nothing I can't stand more than being talked down to from a presenter (and I've seen it done time and time again) OR being talked to as if I don't know anything.

So, to summarize:

  • Find a subject for which you are passionate
  • Go back in time to when you first learned that subject and remind yourself of where/why you struggled
  • Highlight these struggles in your presentation (what did you do right, what did you do wrong, how did you ultimately get past this)
  • Talk to your audience as PEERS (they are!)

And, have fun!

Thanks for reading,

PS – Part of my delay in posting is that I've been going through some dental nightmares… I grind my teeth and subsequently cracked one of my back molars (even though I wear my nightguard religiously). This led to an inlay (temp for 2 weeks and then the permanent last Wed) but in the interim got infected (or, maybe it was before the process started?) which led to an emergency root canal (NOT a happy Friday) and then a second emergency visit to the dentist for stronger antibiotics and more shots of Novocain than I can remember EVER having in my life. I had 6 on Friday (of two types because I kept "feeling" the root canal) and then 2 more on Saturday just to keep the throbbing at bay.

Anyway, it all reminded me of a polar bear that I photographed a few months ago in the Arctic (this was North of Svalbard [Norway] up in the pack ice). So, I thought I'd leave you with a picture of what I've been doing for the past couple of days:

3 thoughts on “Presentation Skills – How to Create a Connection

  1. Ha, ha, ha… I actually had thought about heading that joke off at the pass but I didn’t. I should have known you’d go for it!! ;-) ;-)

    But, yes, I haven’t been the most pleasant. I have a feeling I’m going to have to make it up to you!!!


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