How Long is Too Long?

  • Comments posted to this topic are about the item How Long is Too Long?

  • "Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit,
    And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,
    I will be brief: "
    Shakespeare advocates keeping it short and sweet.
    As does Chekhov... "Brevity is the sister of talent".
    "I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had time to make it shorter." ~Blaise Pascal (1623-1662).
    Blaise Pascal implies that it is lazy to be otherwise!
    I'd aim for the 50 minute mark - if it gets up to the hour with a bit of Q&A then that's not too bad!

  • As a classic introvert I don't really care how long conference sessions are, because I won't be there.  Too many people in too small a space just makes me very tired and in need of a bit of solitude.  Although the sessions may be interesting I never learn anything because I am too anxious about getting out quickly at the end and avoiding being caught in a crowd.  As most conferences have videos of their sessions available afterwards these days I can catch up on those subjects that I want to know more about in my own time, at my own pace, and (more importantly) on my own.

  • I was in Manchester this year and have to say the content this year in the sessions was of a very high standard but on both Friday and the Saturday each presenter seemed to have an issue with the 50 minutes so  you definitely werent alone.

    We were all aware of it in the audience that presenters were in a hurry so personally i didnt interject with questions.

    The challenges of delivering high quality technical content is tough against a clock but in most cases the presenters did fantastically. Efforts were appreciated.

  • allinadazework - Friday, March 15, 2019 2:14 AM

    "Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit,
    And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,
    I will be brief: "
    Shakespeare advocates keeping it short and sweet.
    As does Chekhov... "Brevity is the sister of talent".
    "I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had time to make it shorter." ~Blaise Pascal (1623-1662).
    Blaise Pascal implies that it is lazy to be otherwise!
    I'd aim for the 50 minute mark - if it gets up to the hour with a bit of Q&A then that's not too bad!

    "

    “[…] the art of the future will not require that complex technique which disfigures the works of art of our time and requires great effort and expenditure of time, but, on the contrary, will require clarity, simplicity and brevity – conditions acquired not by mechanical exercises but by the education of taste.â€
    Leo Tolstoy, author of War and Peace -- 1296 pages.

  • As with all else concerning SQL Server, "It Depends".  Some subjects can be adequately covered in a lightning round in only 10 or 15 minutes.  Sometimes, even shorter.  Other's aren't adequately covered even as a precon, never mind a 60 minute or even 90 minute session.

    Shifting gears to the subject at hand, I think a little research by the people setting up the conference would go a long way, especially in drawing people to present.  To me, it seems that 1 hour sessions with a 15 minute break between sessions seems to be the norm in the world of SQL Server thanks to things like SQL Saturdays and the PASS Summit.  Deviating from that "norm" is going to cause presenters that frequent the conference circuit to scramble to reduce the usually carefully planned timing of their presentations, remove important material from their presentations, or do that all on the fly when a conference deviates from the implied norm of 60 minutes to a 45 or 50 minute schedule.

    I'll also say that having a homogeneous session length also seems to be the norm and certainly makes it easy on both the schedulers and the people attending.  While I'd love to have 90 minute sessions for what I teach, a mix of 90 minute and 60 minute sessions would be a problem for the attendees.  For example, if you attend a 90 minute session and then want to attend a 60 minute session, you're total wait time between sessions could be the half hour length offset plus the 15 minute dwell time between the hour long sessions for a total of 45 minutes.  That can be a total waste of time.

    As to the question of "How long is too long?", I'd again say "It Depends".  If the presenter is an idiot or a bore, a 10 minute lightning round can be painfully long.

    --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".

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

  • RAThor - Friday, March 15, 2019 7:00 AM

    allinadazework - Friday, March 15, 2019 2:14 AM

    "Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit,
    And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,
    I will be brief: "
    Shakespeare advocates keeping it short and sweet.
    As does Chekhov... "Brevity is the sister of talent".
    "I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had time to make it shorter." ~Blaise Pascal (1623-1662).
    Blaise Pascal implies that it is lazy to be otherwise!
    I'd aim for the 50 minute mark - if it gets up to the hour with a bit of Q&A then that's not too bad!

    "

    “[…] the art of the future will not require that complex technique which disfigures the works of art of our time and requires great effort and expenditure of time, but, on the contrary, will require clarity, simplicity and brevity – conditions acquired not by mechanical exercises but by the education of taste.â€
    Leo Tolstoy, author of War and Peace -- 1296 pages.

    Very funny! Practice what you preach!

  • I think shorter times with double sessions is a great middle ground. If you have 45 or 50 minute sessions, then have some double sessions and let the speaker decide if he/she should break in the middle (generally a good idea) or to push through. Having said that - the push through speakers should definitely consider making a longer Q&A period at the end.

  • Jeff Moden - Friday, March 15, 2019 7:33 AM

    As with all else concerning SQL Server, "It Depends".  Some subjects can be adequately covered in a lightning round in only 10 or 15 minutes.  Sometimes, even shorter.  Other's aren't adequately covered even as a precon, never mind a 60 minute or even 90 minute session.

    Shifting gears to the subject at hand, I think a little research by the people setting up the conference would go a long way, especially in drawing people to present.  To me, it seems that 1 hour sessions with a 15 minute break between sessions seems to be the norm in the world of SQL Server thanks to things like SQL Saturdays and the PASS Summit.  Deviating from that "norm" is going to cause presenters that frequent the conference circuit to scramble to reduce the usually carefully planned timing of their presentations, remove important material from their presentations, or do that all on the fly when a conference deviates from the implied norm of 60 minutes to a 45 or 50 minute schedule.

    I'll also say that having a homogeneous session length also seems to be the norm and certainly makes it easy on both the schedulers and the people attending.  While I'd love to have 90 minute sessions for what I teach, a mix of 90 minute and 60 minute sessions would be a problem for the attendees.  For example, if you attend a 90 minute session and then want to attend a 60 minute session, you're total wait time between sessions could be the half hour length offset plus the 15 minute dwell time between the hour long sessions for a total of 45 minutes.  That can be a total waste of time.

    As to the question of "How long is too long?", I'd again say "It Depends".  If the presenter is an idiot or a bore, a 10 minute lightning round can be painfully long.

    Of course, it all depends! But surely we're dealing with generalities here! No-one is asking an audience member to become an expert, but to get a feel for subject, generally a complex one - or why turn up at all. In which case the art is to condense something complicated into something enlightening, entertaining and definitely not too verbose. Being able to condense a complicated topic into a length that is palatable the average audience member is that art. The debate here is surely what is the right length to do this for the average audience member and I suspect that once you hit the hour mark you probably start to lose the attention of the average audience member. I have no stats to back this up though... just my hunch and my preference. I'm probably at the conference to listen to someone else anyway 😉

  • As for Shakespeare, "methinks the lady doth protest too much" (i.e. perhaps he was poking fun at himself as well when referencing brevity)

    I get the 50 minute limit to allow for physical movement between sessions, Q&A, spill-over, etc. But, I think as Jeff pointed out, this might be best addressed by asking the presenters, not the attendees. If it's too hard to make the change and present at a different structure for every event, then organizers are simply shooting themselves in the foot. Using the 1 hour with 15 minute break gives that freedom and although it makes the schedule offset from the top of the hour, should work.

    But, it must be considered by presenters "whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune, or by taking arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them". To further quote the bard in Hamlet, Act III Scene iii, line 87 "No!"

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  • Personally, I just wish I could attend a conference!!! My current employer doesn't allow anyone to go anywhere. They haven't, ever, as far as I know.

    Kindest Regards, Rod Connect with me on LinkedIn.

  • Rod at work - Friday, March 15, 2019 8:20 AM

    Personally, I just wish I could attend a conference!!! My current employer doesn't allow anyone to go anywhere. They haven't, ever, as far as I know.

    Doesn't allow or just doesn't pay for?

    "Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Instead, seek what they sought." - Matsuo Basho

  • I tend to agree with Jeff in that the length of the presentation depends on the subject and the required depth of discussion needed for it to be properly understood. Marcus Tullius Cicero once said, "If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter." On the face of it, this comment may not make much sense until you realize that it actually takes more time and effort to write/prepare something in a succinct, concise manner without impacting delivery. The subject matter being presented will determine the presentation length. I've attended presentations where 30 minutes was way too long for the subject whereas others that were 60 minutes seemed way too brief.

    As a presenter, it takes many hours of work to put together a presentation in such a manner that you keep the audience engaged, keep the information flow moving, and achieve your goal of teaching the subject. Depending on the length available to you, it may be possible to only whet an appetite for greater learning through an introduction. It's also possible to teach a subject in great detail with good examples and an excellent discussion. The audience participation can vastly affect the outcome. Once time I gave a well-prepared presentation that was intended to last 60 minutes. The audience was not well engaged and I was able to cover additional material with time remaining. A few weeks later I gave the very same presentation elsewhere and due to audience participation was only able to get through a third of my material. I received no reviews for my first presentation at all yet received numerous excellent reviews for my second. Ironically the only negative comments I received for the second was that it was felt that I had too much material!

    As my fellow presenters here can attest, giving presentations is hard work and striking the right balance is even harder. Keeping the presentation time in the 60-75 minute range makes it easier to reuse previous presentations. Having them with wildly times different requires additional work in adjusting them, practicing them for timing, etc. or even requires whole new and separate presentations which means even more time involved.

  • There's a good reason most TV programmes are around the 50-55 minute mark (even on the BBC which doesn't stop for adverts every few minutes) - that's probably the length of an average attention span. I agree with others here that more complex sessions may be better if they're split in two to give people time to stretch their legs, etc. You don't want half your audience thinking about how uncomfortable the chair is or how good the coffee smells.

  • Rod at work - Friday, March 15, 2019 8:20 AM

    Personally, I just wish I could attend a conference!!! My current employer doesn't allow anyone to go anywhere. They haven't, ever, as far as I know.

    SQL Sat coming back to ABQ next year is the rumor

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