Before we dive in to the post, I’d like to give a big thank you to Bob Pusateri (Blog|Twitter) for hosting this months T-SQL Tuesday “Presenting and Loving it!”. T-SQL Tuesday was the brainchild of Adam Machanic (Blog|Twitter) you can find out more about the concept here.
Coincidentally I am actually giving a presentation on baselining the evening that this post goes out!
Here’s the remit we were all given for the topic:
What’s the Topic?
This month the prompt is how did you come to love presenting? What was the first time you gave a presentation in front of a group and really enjoyed it? Was it something that was required of you in school? Something you did in the workplace? Were you inspired by other SQL community members and thought “I think I can do that too”? Whatever your story is, I’d love to hear it. Not a presenter? Not a problem! Feel free to chime in with whatever you like that’s related to either presenting or SQL Server in general.
Seeing as Bob has written a number of questions down for us it would be rude of me not to answer all of them, so this post is going to be more of a Q&A style interview rather than an essay on my experiences.
Was it something that was required of you in school?
Kind of, my school wasn’t the type of academic institution where we’d all be creating technical papers and reading them out in an assembly, but there was a good music department. I was asked to go for a trombone audition during a class lesson and the brass professor suggested the trumpet would be a better fit.
Why am I bringing this up? Believe it or not there is a parallel. While I’m not suggesting that every session is a performance (although it can be) having a musical background does allay the fears of larger audiences. I used to play at a pretty decent level having passed my grade 8 ABRSM exam. The youth symphonic wind bands and symphonic orchestras I played in pretty much wrapped up all the major awards for our age groups. This meant that we were invited to play at the Royal Albert Hall on no less than four occasions. The reason that I bring this up is that an audience in a venue like that can hold thousands of people, I would imagine the times we played were probably around the 2,500 mark.
The reality however, is that ensemble and solo work are different and in solo work nerves do play a bigger part. Although I do still get nervous, I am thankful for the training that playing in ensembles have provided.
Something you did in the workplace?
Up until my current role no. I did try to organise a few things at other companies but there wasn’t much interest so rather like my attempts at the high jump it never took off the ground.
In my current role however it’s a completely different story, I regularly present webcasts on SQL Server topics as well as live product demonstrations to potential clients. I do get a kick out of this, I hear about some really interesting implementations and can provide input on where I feel things may be improved and how solutions could be improved with feature x of our portfolio as well as provide advice on best practices.
It all comes back to wanting to help the community, but more on that in the next section…
Were you inspired by other SQL community members and thought “I think I can do that too”?
In a word, “yes”. Going to SQLBits in Manchester completely changed my career. Here were a bunch of guys (and girls) who were willing to give up their own time to help educate others from their own experiences. It was absolutely mind blowing to think that there was this whole community that I never knew of before and I only found it from Googling (sorry Microsoft) “SQL Training” or something similar.
Suffice to say that one event led to another and another and now I have founded my own PASS affiliated user group in Maidenhead – http://www.SQLStudy.org and I am on the organising committee for a national event in the UK called SQL Relay which will be holding 8 free events over 8 days in 8 different venues across the UK this June. Go to http://www.SQLRelay.co.uk for further details.
I now present fairly regularly at my own user group and will also be presenting at SQL Relay. Local user groups are a great way of cutting your teeth when it comes to presenting, go and support your local user group by attending a few sessions. You’ll then get to know a few people and nerves won’t be so much of an issue. I promise it will make the whole process a lot easier.
Don’t think you have enough content for an entire session? Don’t worry, many user group leaders would love to have more participation from members and will no doubt let you do a 5 minute “lightening talk” or “nugget”.
What was the first time you gave a presentation in front of a group and really enjoyed it?
Being a DBA I get a bit retentive about certain things (a shock I know), as such I don’t really enjoy the first time at a new venue or presenting a new session as there is too much “unknown”. Once I have done a presentation a few times I find that things flow more naturally, I can fit in more audience participation elements and hone the presentation based on feedback and gut feeling on what seems to have worked and what hasn’t.
The other aspect here is the topic, some topics seem to have audiences more enthused than others. From my perspective I tend to judge things by how much I feel the audience has gained something from the session. To date I think that the best session I do is one called “Natural Born Killers, performance issues to avoid”, the reason for this is you can see peoples whole demeanour change when you show them something they thought behaved one way and actually does something else.
I like to think of this kind of reaction as a eureka moment, as soon as you reach one of these audiences are a lot more receptive to what you have to say.
How did you come to love presenting?
I think “love” is a bit strong, I now enjoy presenting and look forward to doing it a lot more. If I had to put the label “love” to something, it would be that I love helping others. Presenting is a device that enables me to do this to more people in less time. If you would like to see one of my presentations why not check out the presentations section of my blog to see if I am doing a session near you any time soon.
The following are not required, but might be a good idea.
- Include “T-SQL Tuesday #41? in your blog post’s title.
- Tweet about your post using the #tsql2sday hashtag.
- Make one or more references to bacon or other pork products.
This post was written whilst eating a chicken burger topped with cheese and bacon, as such at least two animals were harmed during the creation of this post.
As an “extra” that isn’t listed, why not check out my recent interview with Kevin Kline on presenting.