Since there are a few rookie speakers presenting at the upcoming Orlando SQL Saturday, I thought I’d offer some tips on presenting. These are some of my lessons learned, and some that have come from other people. These are mostly focused on things to do day-of, not on the preparation aspect.
- Make sure you bring a bottle of water with you. Don’t rely on the event to have it (sometimes they run out). When you are speaking, stop periodically and take a sip of water. It does two things- first, it helps your voice and second, it tends to slow you down. Going too fast is usually a common problem for newer speakers.
- Use the bullet point animation advance feature in your slides. Each click and you get the next bullet point. This will also tend to slow you down.
- As soon as you get to the event, find the room you are speaking in and go there. Stand in the room, walk around and visualize yourself speaking there. It really helps eliminate nervousness.
- Plug your laptop into the projector and test connections and look at how the presentation looks from the back of the room. This will reveal if you have picked large enough font sizes.
- If you are doing demos, don’t forget to set larger font sizes for the Query window and the results pane. I prefer Lucida Console, 16 point. You could even bump to 18 or 20 point depending on your laptop.
- Bring a watch with you and set it near your laptop so you can keep track of time and pace yourself.
- Don’t hide in the speaker room all day. Sometimes getting out and going to sessions helps ease your mind if you’re nervous.
- Dress appropriately for the event. I generally wear the event shirt and khakis. I think it shows disrespect for your audience if you show up in shorts and sandals but that’s my own opinion. (Orlando was really, really hot last year so you may
waffle on this onecatch me in shorts this weekend- just this once)
- Turn off your cell phone and leave it in your bag. It’s not good to have your cell phone ringing while you are speaking.
- Get a wireless slide advance control and learn how to use it. It give you the ability to prowl around the room, something I like to do.
- Get setup early. Then while your audience is coming in, strike up a conversation with them. Thank them for coming. Nothing builds rapport faster than this technique, and better yet, it helps eliminate your nervousness by getting to know your audience.
- Learn to read your audience. This takes experience. Are they bored? Interested? Restless?
- Try and poll the audience when you start so you know who you are talking to. Are they DBAs? Developers? Managers? This gives you the ability to tailor the message a little. Example: In my Upgrading presentation I have a slide on DTS extermination tools. I always poll first if anyone is still using DTS and if not, I skip over it so as to not waste people’s time.
- If there’s a question, always repeat it back to the person asking it. This first allows you to confirm that you understood the question and second it gives you a few seconds to frame an answer.
- If you don’t know the answer, don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know, but I’ll research that and get back to you”. Then get the person’s email and follow up with them.
- Believe it or not, the audience is on your side. They want you to do a good job. Reach out to them by trying to connect and share.
Lastly, relax and have fun. SQL Saturdays are great way to get experience with public speaking. You won’t regret it. I haven’t.