Getting Started

  • Good morning everyone! I'm new to so I apologize if this is the wrong place for this sort of post. I want to get started as a public speaker for MS SQL, specifically, the business intelligence side of things. Where I work at I am the only BI person in the whole company, so I have to do it all from ETL to data warehouse design to surfacing data for end users. I know I know a bit, and can probably give an interesting talk, but I also know there are many, many more intelligent and interesting people out there so doing a talk is a bit intimidating. I thought about recording PowerPoint sessions and posting them to YouTube as a step to get started, but also wanted to get some feedback from experienced speakers.

    Specifically, how did you get started, and did you have any problems with self-confidence or were you intimidated by more knowledgeable speakers, and if so, how did you overcome that?

  • If there's a PASS user group near you, you could start there. It doesn't need to be from PASS, but it would be the obvious choice.

    For general public speaking, visit a Toastmasters Club[/url].

    Luis C.
    General Disclaimer:
    Are you seriously taking the advice and code from someone from the internet without testing it? Do you at least understand it? Or can it easily kill your server?

    How to post data/code on a forum to get the best help: Option 1 / Option 2
  • I've been speaking publicly for 10 years and I still get nervous and, depending on who is in the audience, I can be intimidated. However, you just keep going. Remember that you own the room when you're in front. I've never been to Toastmasters myself, but lots of people swear by it. I'm just a loud-mouth. That seems to work too.

    For opportunities to speak, local user groups, especially through PASS (as was already mentioned) is a great starting point. We're always looking for more speakers. Additionally, you can look the Virtual Chapters where you can do online presentations. I personally find them worse because I'm speaking to the wall instead of people, but others think they're easier. Another place to look is MeetUp to see if there are other BI focused groups in your area.

    It's not the greatest place to start, but there are also SQL Saturday [/url]events that need speakers (depending on the event, some of them turn speakers away).

    Pick a topic you're comfortable with, maybe one you've had to explain to people several times. Keep the presentation focused on between 1 & 3 goals that you want to deliver. If possible, have an action item for the attendees at the end (I generally don't do this). Don't shy away from a topic because someone else has a session on it. Your take on any given topic is unique to you and will be helpful when you present it.

    PASS has a speaker resource page that might come in handy.

    The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood...
    Theodore Roosevelt

    The Scary DBA
    Author of: SQL Server 2017 Query Performance Tuning, 5th Edition and SQL Server Execution Plans, 3rd Edition
    Product Evangelist for Red Gate Software

  • My first speech was at Instructor Training for the Navy. There was no preparation involved. It was simply to get our feet wet and all we had to do was say who we were, where we were from, and a bit about our favorite hobby and what it was.

    Most people looked and sounded absolutely stupid, including me. The cool part was, they did a video of each of us and we all reviewed each person's micro presentation together. And, it worked! We had increasingly complex presentations of our own choosing and had to hit timing. This was back in the days before VGA projects so we had to use a real slide deck on an overhead projector as well as use a real chalk board and whatever props we could gin up. All recorded... all reviewed by everyone.

    You can have your PC record your voice while you're practicing for free. Spend a bit of money on software and you can record your presentation and your voice and review it to find your ticks and bad presentation habits. It'll take a good amount of time before your first presentation but it'll be well worth it and you'll get better and better until you don't need to "watch yourself on TV" anymore. Rehearsals will always be key (I do a half dozen full rehearsals for each new presentation and at least two for old ones I've done before) to success.

    It also helps to really practice with PowerPoint including practicing flipping back and forth between the presentation and SSMS or whatever you're presenting on. Also download and get REALLY good with a free product known as ZOOMIT.exe.

    Don't feel bad about how long it takes to feel that a presentation is done. You have to be an SME on the subject, a well-spoken-easy-flowin' public speaker, an entertainer, and someone that can deal with interruption by questions (need to be sure you save some time for that) and the occasional heckler (very rare but you have to be calm and ready).

    The keys to speaking well are 1) do be the SME... know your subject very well, 2) tell them what you're going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you just told them, and 3) relax. Pretend you're talking to your best friends about a subject you know well. Of course, you do have to keep track of time but that's also where practicing comes in.

    --Jeff Moden

    RBAR is pronounced "ree-bar" and is a "Modenism" for Row-By-Agonizing-Row.
    First step towards the paradigm shift of writing Set Based code:
    ________Stop thinking about what you want to do to a ROW... think, instead, of what you want to do to a COLUMN.
    "Change is inevitable... change for the better is not".
    "Dear Lord... I'm a DBA so please give me patience because, if you give me strength, I'm going to need bail money too!"

    Helpful Links:
    How to post code problems
    How to Post Performance Problems
    Create a Tally Function (fnTally)

  • Thanks for the advice everyone! Unfortunately the closest PASS chapter is over 3 hours away from me, so I think I will just practicing delivering demos to my PC for a while and re-watch to get good at it. I am working to start a PASS chapter in my area, but that is a project for a different thread 🙂

    Now to figure out what I know well enough to present on that hasn't already had 50 or so great presentations on it.

  • It doesn't matter if there are 50 great presentations. My favorite intro topic is backups. Why? Everyone has a backup book, article, blog post and presentation, so what is one more going to do? Well, yours may be the one that finally breaks through people's overly thick skulls and they start doing their backups right. Don't avoid a topic. Find the one that you're good at and passionate about. Do that. Even if it's execution plans and I'm going to be at the same SQL Saturday. It doesn't matter. I'll probably sit in the class and learn something (it happens constantly).

    The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood...
    Theodore Roosevelt

    The Scary DBA
    Author of: SQL Server 2017 Query Performance Tuning, 5th Edition and SQL Server Execution Plans, 3rd Edition
    Product Evangelist for Red Gate Software

  • To gain confidence speaking I suggest starting small and with a non work related subject you really enjoy. Do you enjoy kayaking? Organize a quick presentation with your local club about different ways to secure it to your car. Into motorcycles? Do a local motorcycle club presentation about how to change a tire.

    As far as topics, try picking something you just did you are proud of, or something you'd like to get better at. There is no better way to learn a subject than to try teaching it to others, especially if those others are experts in the subject.

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