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I'm Andy Warren, currently a SQL Server trainer with End to End Training. Over the past few years I've been a developer, DBA, and IT Director. I was one of the original founders of SQLServerCentral.com and helped grow that community from zero to about 300k members before deciding to move on to other ventures.

Presentation Styles

I had a chance to watch a few different styles this week at TechEd, and I think it helped that many were speakers I had not seen before. I don’t know if I can name the styles yet, but here are some notes about things I noticed:

  • Dual presenters can suck, or be very powerful. Trying to share presentation is hard, a great fit (at least for code) is one narrating high level, one doing code and narrating low level. It takes work to make this work.
  • Avoid rhetorical questions. You look like an idiot when you’re waiting for an answer but the audience doesn’t care. This normally happens when the speaker tries a few warmup questions just prior/after start. Better is to ask for non-verbal to start with, call for a ‘show of hands’ a couple times and then move to asking for comments based on those.
  • You’re there to teach. Not entertain. Anything – anything - you do that isn’t about how or why to do something is a distraction that makes learning harder. Does that mean you can’t be funny or have a light hearted approach? Not at all. It’s valid as a way to get them engaged, but don’t start counting how many laughs you get.
  • You’re there to teach. Not mandate, not humiliate. You may believe that solution X is the only way to do something. Fine, show us why that’s good, the downside of solution Y and Z. But learn to find ways to get some good out of non optimal solutions too. The ideal for me is to say “step 1 is to solve the problem” and here are some variations. Let me show you why I think you should do it this way and how to do it. Don’t berate me because I find it valuable to do it a different way.

I’ll say again my thoughts on presenters – give me the person that’s passionate but not a zealot. Looking back at this week, my favorite presenters were the ones that were passionate about a topic and it showed. It wasn’t a cold practical technical hour, they got me excited about what they were teaching.


Posted by Glenn Berry on 11 June 2010

Presenting to a large audience at a big event is definitely a skill. I've enjoyed your coverage of TechEd this week. Good information about the content and the experience.

Posted by Andy Warren on 11 June 2010

Glenn, good of you to say so - always nice to get feedback, more so when it's good!

Posted by Steve Jones on 13 June 2010

Good comments, and I do hate presenters that pause too long. Or read their slides. Grrrrr

I heard on Fri that we really ought to give handouts, and avoid the "reveal of bullets" since people read so fast. Give them a little more information and let them absorb it while you start to talk on things. They'll catch up quickly.

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