I recently was thrust into a conundrum. I suddenly found myself in need of a speaker for a recent SQL Server Meetup this month. My co-organizer and I had one week to find a presenter, set up a new Meetup, and then publicize so people outside of Meetup would know about it. I decided that was too short notice to go out to Twitter and ask for volunteers to speak.
I thought, “What could I talk about?” You see, presenting is something I’ve always wanted to start doing. I just never did it. For many years, I thought that I didn’t know enough and that presenting was for the “famous” SQL Server people to do and I should just wait on the sidelines. However, over the last couple of years I’ve felt more confident about what I know.
Alos, I’ve come to realize that even people starting out have things they can share. For example, presentations can just be a series of short talks and work problems that a person has solved. Everyone has those examples. you don’t have to Brent Ozar, Kendra Little or Grant Fritchey to share problems you’ve solved at work. Presenting that information helps the presenter grow and helps the people hearing the content. People in the audience might hear a new, inventive way to resolve an issue, or they might have this problem in the days immediately after the presentation and be helped by having recently heard someone’s explanation of how they solved it, even if the solution wasn’t “ingenious”.
Almost out of nowhere I had an idea. I could talk about features in modern SQL Server that make certain aspects of working with the product easier. These could be enhancements like brand new features and feature sets or things like enhancement to T-SQL. I put together a rough list of items to include. There were close to 20 things on the list. As I worked through the presentation, I narrowed the list to 12 features or enhancements. After about 11 hours building slides, doing research, creating and testing demos and another 2 hours practicing giving the presentation, I was ready. You can see the results of that work here.
However, this post isn’t about the content of the presentation. I want to share what I learned as the result of putting together and giving the presentation. Without further delay, let’s look at the bullet points that follow.
- Be careful what you eat before presenting. You want to focus on your presentation and not your queasy stomach or your heartburn, etc.
- I re-learned where Presenter Notes are in the slides. I had given a presentation many months ago internally to my company. It was on finding good resources for training and during that process, had to look up presenter’s notes for PowerPoint. So much time had gone by since then, that I had to look it up again. In the lower right corner of PowerPoint there is an icon with an ^ with four dashes under it and the word “Notes” next to it. Click that and you get a small window below your slide that you can type your talking points into.
Rather than fill up your slides with text that you end up reading, use this Presenter’s Notes area to make short notes about the ideas you want to explain. Or you could type out what you’re going to say into paragraphs in this area. When you run the slideshow, you will see the slide and your Presenter’s Notes on one screen and your audience will see just the slides.
- I learned there is a Presentation Coach feature in PowerPoint that lets you practice your presentation and provides a feedback report. To use this feature, inside PowerPoint select the Slide Show menu at the top and then “Rehearse With Coach”. This feature gives you feedback about things like your use of filler words, how fast you’re speaking and the tone of your voice.
- I learned there is a built-in Design suggestions feature for your slides in PowerPoint. Once I had my content and Presenter’s Notes mostly the way I wanted it, I realized that I needed to do something about the drab looking slides. I hadn’t started with a template of any kind and now I needed help making it visually interesting.
At the top of the Power Point menu ribbon I clicked on the word Design. Then off to the far right I saw a button called “Design Ideas”. I left clicked that and a new set of slide options opened up down the right side. I clicked on the ones I thought would look ok, keeping in mind certain key things. First, when designing slides you will need to avoid bright or pastel type colors that hurt the eyes. Second, these color choices also often make the text hard to read. As I left clicked on options down the right side, the slides changed and I could see what my presentation would look like.
- I learned new information about SQL Server as I researched some topics I was less familiar with. I was less familiar with some topics I was planning to cover than others. As a result, I had to do some research to make sure I understood how the feature worked. In this way, the experience of presenting forced me to learn more about SQL Server, and that’s a good thing!
So, that’s what I learned from giving my first public presentation. I hope this encourages you to start presenting and makes things a little easier for you when you decide to give it a try.
Next Steps to Take
- Consider some problems you have solved at work and give some thought to formalizing what you learned by sharing that information with others.
- Look up a SQL Server Meetup group and join one. Start attending and think about how your experience can help others.
- If you would like help with anything in this post, or with something else related to SQL Server, reach out to me here, or on Twitter, and I’ll be glad to offer assistance.