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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.


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.


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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