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PASS Summit Speaker Evals – THE ANALYSIS

Rule: No Sushi with Adam within 24 hours of session

I’m inspired by Brent Ozar‘s and Andy Leonard‘s sharing of their PASS feedback scores and comments. But first, I’m going to tell you how I think my PASS session went: I give it a C+. 118 people attended the session, and it ranked (by average score) 170th out of 185, so I feel that my assessment is in agreement with the attendees’. The good news: I have lots of feedback to improve myself and my session.

My session was T-SQL Brush-up: The Best Things You Forgot You Knew About SQL Code, which I’ve given at my hometown user group NTSSUG AND at 24HOP fall, where (brag alert!) it was the most well-attended session of the event.  I’m pleased with that, and I’m very pleased that it was chosen for the PASS Summit lineup, but I still haven’t improved it as much as it needs. It’s a good session, but still growing; and I’m a decent speaker, but definitely still growing. 

I had a couple of other strikes against me. First, I was nervous. I did reasonably well taking care of that, but it came out anyway in my classic tell: I spoke WAY too fast through my session, and the attendee comments reflect that. 

I also unwittingly committed a cardinal sin of presenting: I spent a good deal of the previous day with somebody who knows a good deal more about what I’m presenting than I do: SQL author and MVP Adam Machanic (blog, Twitter).  Now, we had a great time – Adam introduced me and Sean to sashimi, and we all walked around the Seattle pier market – but he contradicted something big that I had in my presentation. While that’s very very cool, I didn’t have the time to really wrap my head around it in the little free time I had before my time slot. Moral: If at all possible, hang out with SMEs well before, or just after your session. Or be right about everything. :)

Okay, enough leadup. Here are my scores:

How would you rate the usefulness of the information presented in your day-to-day environment? 
Average: 3.89 [Hm...perhaps only 78% of attendees need midlevel T-SQL at work? No idea...]
5s: 16       
4s: 39       
3s: 9        
2s: 3        
1s: 3           

How would you rate the Speaker’s presentation skills? 
Average: 4.10 [That's a solid B, I'll take that and work on next time.]
5s: 26       
4s: 33       
3s: 6        
2s: 2        
1s: 3        

How would you rate the Speaker’s knowledge of the subject? 
Average: 4.14
5s: 31       
4s: 30       
3s: 3        
1s: 6         [Ouch, baby.]

How would you rate the accuracy of the session title, description and experience level to the actual session? 
Average: 4.11
5s: 32       
4s: 24       
3s: 8        
2s: 2        
1s: 4        

How would you rate the amount of time allocated to cover the topic/session? 
Average: 3.67
5s: 17       
4s: 28       
3s: 14       
2s: 7        
1s: 4         

[This is interesting...this 3.67 was the killer on ratings, and the comments say that (a) they'd like to see more, (b) there wasn't enough time, and (c) I spoke to fast. I clearly need to rework this session to either be a two-parter, or contain less material. (I doubt people are clamoring for more topics at a shallower depth.)  Very, very valuable information for me, and I'd like to thank everyone who submitted their comments and scores.]

How would you rate the quality of the presentation materials? 
Average: 4.04 [Funny, the "presentation materials" were pure T-SQL code in SSMS. I guess that counts...]
5s: 23       
4s: 31       
3s: 14       
1s: 2        


  • Run through each topic really quick. [Again, I probably have too much material for an hour session.]
  • she shouldn’t type in presentations [That's one rule I really like to break. Makes for good self-deprecating comedy.]
  • Sometimes too fast in places, more explanations would have been nice.
  • spurs creative thinking about TSQL [Ooh yay! That was the idea!]
  • Talks pretty fast so I missed some info. [Dang, I know...]
  • The presenter was very sarcastic.  [Umm, sure. I try not to be sarcastic toward the audience, though. It's meant to be funny, and I know not everyone will go with me on that. More comments same guy:]
    She was also apparently insensitvie to the fact that many i the audience were not native English speakers.  [Ergh, sorry. Will slow down. More, same guy: ]
    Because the theme of the presentation in sort of a “Best of…..” talk, it is very difficult to prepare a talk that is coherent.  It turns easily into “Look at this!”  “Now look at this”! etc.  [Yes, but that was in the abstract. I'll reinforce that in the intro.]
  • Jennifer was awesome-But several speakers came in mid-session and sat inthe back of the room and chattered away.
    they were quite distracting-note to speakers:  – If they’re in a room and not the presenter they should respect the attedees who are there and trying to learn.  (in this case, it was serveral BIG NAME SPEAKERS.  That said- Jennifer is absolutely awesome- this is the first time I have seen her.  [Thanks. And no, I didn't plant this comment myself.]
  • Took lots of questions but caused derailment of presentation.  Enjoyed presentation.
  • Using over for aggregate w/o Group by is “killer” [I definitely think so! Glad you liked that.]
  • Very entertaining.
  • ran out of tiem
  • Quick response. Would love to see more. [Cool!]
  • Appeared to have a lot nervous energy.  Spoke much to fast. [You're right.]
  • Nice presentation style-Easy to understand and with humor.
  • A little slower while talking will clarify. [You're right too.]
  • A lot of it I already knew but some of it will be useful. [Oh good.]
  • Actually there were no materials. [True dat.]
  • very personable, easy to follow
  • Clearly needed more time – lots of good stuff, just ran out
  • Demo is key here
  • Just need a little more time.
  • Lots of good code examples.
  • Lots of leaving and good fun.
  • needed more time
  • Nice that she doesn’t take herself too seriously. [:)]
  • Very useful session.

I’m so glad I did this.  I wasn’t pleased with how I did at PASS – thus the C+ – and it really knocked me off my horse for a few weeks, speaking-ego-wise. I’ve taken this time to recover, and the comments and this analysis came at the right time.  Now I have clear direction for what I can do better in the coming year, and I know to have lunch with Adam at a minimum of two weeks before any given session.

Happy days, and thanks to all,
Jen McCown


Posted by julie.smith 54188 on 24 December 2010

I'm glad you are recovered from your self reported ego bruising.  You are a wonderful speaker--continue to give yourself a break for the fact that you only started speaking THIS YEAR, take the useful bits of the feedback and speak on!  Have a great Holiday.

Posted by Steve Jones on 27 December 2010

Looks like a good job overall. I didn't notice you speaking fast at SQL Saturday, but perhaps that's me.

One thing I'd like to see more speakers do is leave 10-15 minutes at the end for questions. Don't pack so much in that people struggle to keep up. Better to go with less material in the presentation, give them more code, some blog posts, and let them ask questions.

Worst case, they get to the bathrooms early during the break.

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