Microsoft records TechEd sessions, and you can watch the recording of mine. Here’s the abstract:
You’ve heard it before: “It worked fine on my machine, but the users say it’s too slow.” Don’t blame the developers: they’re using SQL Server features that look great on paper, but in reality, they won’t scale up to production loads. Learn to recognize these common mistakes before they go into production and be armed with alternatives.
Feedback From The Attendees
Here’s some of the comments I got from presenting it at TechEd:
“All developers should be forced to see this.”
“One of the interesting session attended. Quite humorous too. Well done.”
“Wonderful. Good info wrapped up into a nice package that was easy to understand.”
“The speaker made this one very enjoyable.”
So far so good – but then here’s a rough one:
“I would suggest that Brent not make blatant political references during his presentation. He compared the intellect of Albert Einstein to President George Bush. Also, other pictures included a person with clown makeup on holding a gun to his head. Maybe he thinks these are funny, but I really don’t… Inappropriate for a professional environment.”
Handling this kind of feedback is part of being a presenter. It would be easy for me to call this person a stick in the mud and disregard their opinion, but that’s not the right thing to do here. I want to reach as many people as possible, teaching things while having fun. My slides made this person so angry that they stewed in their chair throughout my session, then promptly went over to the feedback computers and banged out an eval. I don’t care about the evaluation scores – but I do care about reaching more people.
To do the right thing, I have to stop and ask myself, “How did the audience react when I showed those slides?” Nobody really reacted to the clown, so I need to pull that image out and swap it with something funnier or more appropriate. No sense in aggravating audience members if I’m not gaining anything. (I examine most of my photos that way – for example, the duct tape on the airplane window on the TempDB slide didn’t elicit so much as a chuckle, so that one comes out and either gets replaced with another photo or none at all.)
The Einstein vs Bush slides, on the other hand, made the audience erupt in raucous laughter. Most of the audience doesn’t know that I’m a Republican, so I could ease the pain for the hard-core guys by saying something like, “I’m allowed to make fun of Dubya because I’m a Republican myself.” That statement would generate negative comments for another reason, so that doesn’t work either. I need to find someone that is universally recognized as less-than-brilliant – preferably someone who isn’t well-loved, so that when I show their picture, nobody gets pissed off.
- Paris Hilton – might get interpreted as sexist, so no go.
- Me – pictured doing something really stupid. Usually I’m quick to jump in as a self-deprecating punch line, but because this is so early in the slide deck and I just got done touting my credentials, I don’t think it’d flow very well.
- Fictional character – ahh, now, here we go. I thought about the Three Stooges, but that might not play everywhere. Maybe Vanilla Ice. The only tough part about using fictional characters is that it’s sometimes harder to find Creative Commons-licensed pictures to use, but I’ll figure this out.
Feedback From Other Presenters
I was lucky enough to have a few other presenters in the audience, and I asked for their feedback individually. They gave me feedback on how to craft my message better and how to interact more smoothly with the audience.
I still have to work on repeating questions from the audience, and I need to avoid belittling someone with a controversial opinion. I cringe when I listen to the way I handled the Heap Heckler at about 50 minutes in:
- HH: “I get great performance from heaps, and *I* speak from experience.”
- BGO: “You’re experienced and I’m not? What? Call me when you’re up here.” (referring to him being in the audience and me being on the podium)
Ouch. Not good enough. It felt good at the time to zing somebody, but that’s not how I want to treat audience members. Thankfully he came up to me after the presentation and we hugged it out. He admitted he only used it for staging tables (which makes perfect sense) and I paid him off with Starbucks gift cards.
A presenter’s work is never done. This is why it’s so important to do your presentations at progressively larger sessions – I’d done this particular presentation at local user groups, the SSWUG Virtual Conference, and finally in front of 204 live meatbags at TechEd. Even now, I’m still honing this presentation and working on my delivery.