I’ve presented a few times recently and discovered I like doing it. Presenting is a great way to give back to the I.T. community – in this case the SQL Server community. I’ve previously blogged about things I learned from giving my first presentation, and what it was like presenting at New Stars of Data. Here are six additional thoughts on presenting.
Be sure you show up early for your presentation
The day of New Stars of Data, I was up 90 minutes earlier than usual to use the link to the track I was in to join a panel discussion in progress. I just wanted to be sure that the link was going to work and catch a bit of that presentation. I also wanted to be sure I was wide awake when it was time for me to present. Slumber does not mix well with presenting!
If you’re not presenting early in the morning like I was, be sure to leave yourself plenty of time to get to your computer to have it ready for presenting. You don’t want to turn it on 5 minutes before you’re supposed to present only to find that it won’t turn on for some reason or that you can no longer find your presentation materials.
Use stories whenever possible
In one case I not only used words to explain why data professionals should use a particular SQL Server feature, but I told a relevant store from my work experience. People connect to stories and they are likely to remember the story and the feature you discussed long after all the technical details. Also, telling the story helped keep me engaged and excited about what I was saying. In turn, that helps the audience remember what was discussed.
Avoid making a bunch of changes to the slides or demos late in your preparation
Doing this may make you less comfortable when you get to the parts of the slide deck that you’ve recently modified. This is especially true if you’re a new speaker or if the slide(s) have undergone more than just cosmetic changes.
Also, once you’ve tested your demos and you know they are working, I would encourage you not to adjust them if your presentation date and time is coming up soon.
Practice frequently and record yourself giving the presentation
You need to practice so that your comfortable explaining the content of your presentation. The transitions between slides, to demos and back, also need to feel comfortable and as smooth as possible. Adequate practice will help you be feel at ease with the mouse or keyboard presses necessary to make those transitions.
You also want to listen to your tone of voice to ensure you seem engaged. This is a tough one because we all have different communication styles. Some people are naturally animated and excited when talking. Some people use their hands a lot. Some are more demure. You know yourself, so do some reflection about how you sound and make any adjustments that are needed and that you can comfortably make while still honoring your own personality.
Additionally, pay attention to your pace when speaking. You don’t want to sound rushed. Try to strike a balance with the speed of your speaking. Check out a post from Catherine Wilhelmsen on a tool she used recently that helps with presentation skills.
Be sure that your information is accurate
Please, please, please do your research as much as possible to ensure that what you’re presenting to people is the correct information. Everyone is learning as we go. Just make a commitment to yourself and to your audience that you will exercise due diligence to research your topic and present accurate information.
If possible, brush your teeth before presenting
Now, this seems a bit out of place, but I learned this recently from a practice session I was doing. I was practicing for New Stars of Data and had eaten food 1-2 hours before I was practicing. Early in the practice recording I realize that I have a piece of food that has now dislodged. Luckily this happened during a practice session and not while I was presenting live to people!
Next Steps to Take
1. Check out the speaker improvement library here.
2. If you would like help with anything in this post, or with something else related to SQL Server, reach out to me on Twitter, and I’ll be glad to offer assistance.