unSQL Friday–Lessons Learned while Presenting

Jen McCown (blog|twitter) has organized a great topic for this unSQL Friday–lessons learned while presenting. Like she mentioned in her post–these don’t necessarily have to be tragedies, just things you’ve picked up along the way while presenting.

Fortunately, in my few years of doing technical presentations, I’ve never had a major demo failure, or a laptop crap out, but I have picked up some tips and hints along the way. So here goes:

  1. PowerPoint presentation mode, for the win. This is feature in PowerPoint that allows you to have your slides up on the monitor, while looking at your presentation notes and timer on your monitor. I kind of use it like a mini-teleprompter. The one pain point of this is, it does make a bit harder to go in and out of demos, but I feel like that headache is easier than dealing with 10 pages of 16 point speech notes.
  2. Get a presentation mouse. I use a Microsoft presentation mouse, that I was able to buy off of eBay for about $20. It has a timer, which is a nice feature that I like to use. The presentation mouse allows me to move around the room, which leads me to my next point.
  3. Engage, engage, engage the audience. Some of the best presenters I’ve seen do this the best, but try to plan a couple of points in your presentation where you can engage the audience. In my recent SQL Azure presentation, I sent an Azure Reporting Services report to an audience member who had a Windows Phone 7. It breaks up the monotony of a technical presentation, and helps keep people from falling asleep–I’m looking at you guy in row 3.

One last note, based on some feedback I received from SQL Rally, it’s generally not the speakers responsibility for how comfortable the chairs and the room are. If you have a problem with the room please see the conference organizers, please use the evaluation form to comment on me, so I can improve my talks in the future.

If you are reading this, and you are not a regular presenter, but would like to get in on the act, talk to your local user group, they are always on the lookout for speakers, and many organize special events where first time speakers can talk for 10-15 minutes.

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