PASS Summit Speaker Feedback

SQL Server

The 2010 PASS Summit attendee feedback just arrived, and I’m very, very honored to have two sessions in the top 10.  Last year, I had one session in the top 10.  Based on the trends of this data, I look forward to the 2019 PASS Summit evals when I will have all 10 of the top 10 sessions.  WORLD DOMINATION, MUHAHAHA!

I’ve already talked to a few other speakers about their feedback, and if you’re a speaker reading this, remember something: it’s an honor to even be chosen to speak at the Summit.

But enough about you – let’s talk about me again.  Here’s the scores and feedback for my sessions, along with my own feedback about the questions themselves.  I used to work for a survey company, so I’m really anal about this kind of thing.

Virtualization and SAN Basics for DBAs (DBA283S)

How would you rate the usefulness of the information presented in your day-to-day environment?

  • Average – 4.76 (out of 5)
  • 5s – 94
  • 4s – 27
  • 3s – 1

I hate this question because it’s not the speaker’s fault.  It’s up to the attendee to choose the right session, and there’s already a separate question asking about the accuracy of the abstract.  Sometimes people want to go to completely irrelevant sessions just to learn – take the cloud or future versions of SQL Server, for example – and it’s unfair to penalize the speaker for talking about futures or esoteric stuff.  I don’t pride myself on getting a high score on this question, and I don’t kick myself for low scores.  I got a really low score on this when I did a cloud session at the Summit last year, but I knew it’d be low because nobody was using the cloud back then.

How would you rate the Speaker’s presentation skills?

  • Average – 4.88
  • 5s – 107
  • 4s – 15

I have a rather goofy presentation style – fast, loose, and casual – and I know it can generate extreme reactions on surveys.  If you sit through a Paul Randal session, a Kimberly Tripp session, and then a session from me back-to-back, you’ll see completely different styles.  There is no one right style for presentations.  You have to find your own voice as a presenter, then hone the bejeezus out of that voice.  I’m proud of this score because it means I’m continuing to refine my approach.

Finding your voice is only part of this score, though – if somebody comes into my session expecting a Paul Randal style of delivery, they’re going to give me horrendous marks.  Before people sit down in my Summit sessions, it helps if they’ve already seen me speak online or at a user group.  If someone sees my session and style online and decides they don’t like my presentation methods, they won’t sit in my session at the Summit either.  The more people see you speak, the higher your scores become on this question.

How would you rate the Speaker’s knowledge of the subject?

  • Average – 4.91
  • 5s – 111
  • 4s – 11

Jeez, I hope so.  I’m a Microsoft Certified Master and I specialize in virtualization and SANs.

But seriously, I think getting a high score here means showing the audience something they didn’t already know.  In the future, I’d like to surprise every attendee in every session with at least one slide.  That’s insanely difficult in the age of blogs, but that’s what it takes to ace this question.

How would you rate the accuracy of the session title, description and experience level to the actual session?

  • Average – 4.79
  • 5s – 74
  • 4s – 41
  • 3s – 5
  • 2s – 2

This is all on me, and it sucks.  I’m completely dissatisfied with this score.  I have to do a better job of crafting my abstracts.  My problem has been that I start by writing an abstract, then I write the deck, then I deliver the deck several times at different places, and I gradually refine the deck over time.  Unfortunately, the abstract reflects the original session because I had to write it so far in advance to get approved for the Summit!  I have to make this work better.

How would you rate the amount of time allocated to cover the topic/session?

  • Average – 4.53
  • 5s – 74
  • 4s – 41
  • 3s – 5
  • 2s – 2

This is where the marketing guy in me comes out: this score is too high.  I have a full-day session on this exact same topic, and I’ve got around 12 hours of material on it.  In my 1-2 hour session on this topic, I go out of my way to emphasize this to the audience by saying things like, “I wish I had a whole day to cover this, but because we’ve only got an hour, I’m going to give you some of the most important topics.”  I want them to walk away saying, “Wow, I wish I could have heard him talk more about this.”

Why?  Because that’s how you sell training.

I want the audience to give horrendous marks on this question and leave comments like, “I wish this session was four hours long.”  For me, that’s a win, because they can pay to hear me talk all day on these topics.  The trick is to get low scores on this question, yet get high enough scores on the other questions to make it into the top ten.  This is one of the reasons I’m amazed I made it into the top 10 this year.

How would you rate the quality of the presentation materials?

  • Average – 4.68
  • 5s – 90
  • 4s – 26
  • 3s – 5
  • 2s – 1

I think the attendees were being generous here.  The only way I can justify this score is because of my resources page approach – I put all of the links on a single page on my site, and keep referring to it throughout the presentation.  Otherwise, I don’t think the deck itself was as good as I’d like, and I don’t have demos for this one.

Attendee Comments:

  • Ran out of copies of handout. – (From Brent: errr, I don’t have handouts.)
  • There wasn’t a question he couldn’t answer.
  • This could have been a 90 minute session. – (From Brent: good answer!)
  • This guy knows how to present and keep presentation topic entertaining and interesting.
  • This was great, thanks!
  • Very direct, personable and funny! Time flew by.
  • Very good introduction with lots of useable information.
  • Very good!
  • Very informitive session and best practicle tips.
  • Very interesting, keeps your attention, very amusing.
  • virtualization isn’t all vnware. Would like to hear a bit on hyperv. – (From Brent: This is where I need to perfect my abstracts. When I first wrote the deck, it was a mix of Hyper-V and VMware, but the attendees *overwhelmingly* tell me they only use VMware, so I gradually phased out the Hyper-V material.)
  • wish it could have been a bit longer, good info.
  • Perfect combination of basic and advanced information.
  • Wish you would have did a day session! Great work!! Really liked the tips! Your session was very useful. – (From Brent: Awesome with the day-session stuff – again, love that.)
  • Wonderful! After seeing Brent’s presentation at 24 hours of PASS I don’t want to miss another mc. He is fantastic.
  • Very informative and love the energy. Happy Birthday and Thank you! Great session.
  • Need to do it a bit louder, we had issue hearing on the last row.
  • Entertaining and educatinal.
  • Loved it. Thanks for the repeat.
  • Could’ve used a longer session on this.
  • Could use more time.– (From Brent: Woohoo! See the trend here? I’m really proud that my evil subliminal messaging worked.)
  • Brent’s sarcasm and wit always keep his presentations entertaining. Good content makes it worth it. Great links from his site also help facilitate learning after the fact.
  • Brent is very engaging and informible. Excellent speaker, very comfortable in front of a large group.
  • Excellent insights.
  • Brent – always impressive!!
  • Awesome presentation and timely as we are in progress with these issues.
  • As normal, nice job!
  • As always, good info from Brent. Thanks for helping new guys like me grow as a DBA!
  • A bit longer, more of SAN details and a longer question and answer period. Thanks!
  • Awesome presentation.
  • Excellent presentation. Best so far.
  • Excellent. Thank you!
  • Fantastic presenter, gave a lot of useful info that I will use when I’m back at work.
  • Loved it.
  • Like drinking from a firehose but in a less painful way. thanks for all the info and links. Now it’s time to go learn.
  • Informative and entertaining, as always.
  • If you can extend the session to 90 minutes that will be great. – (From Brent: Remember when reading feedback that the attendees don’t understand what’s under your control, versus what’s controlled by the conference.)
  • I will highly consider attending any presentation he does with only the topic being my final decision!
  • Have many virtualized servers and would like to understand better.
  • Great!
  • Great tips for SAN
  • Great job! Good lines and good level of detail.
  • Great job!
  • Giving me lots to go back to work and look at.
  • More time. Brent could have spoken for 2 more hours. – (From Brent: Yes, indeed I could, or even several days.)
  • Awesome! Very deep knowledge and great topics.

You’re Not Attractive – But Your Presentations Can Be (PD193S)

I co-presented this with Buck Woody, and lemme just say that he was the best co-presenter a guy could ask for.  He is the reason this session is in the top 10 – I simply couldn’t have done a good job without him.  The bantering back and forth made that session so enjoyable.

How would you rate the usefulness of the information presented in your day-to-day environment?

  • Average – 4.71 (out of 5)
  • 5s – 53
  • 4s – 12
  • 3s – 4

I think the attendees were being generous here.  Realistically, you’re not presenting day-to-day, although we did cover how to communicate things better to your managers.

How would you rate the Speaker’s presentation skills?

  • Average – 4.93
  • 5s – 67
  • 4s – 1
  • 1s – 1

I got such a laugh out of the person who said “1.”  Awesome.  But really, this score is kind of self-fulfilling: if you choose to attend a presentation about how to present, odds are you’re going because you admire the presentation skills of the presenter already.  If somebody thinks Buck and I suck at presenting, they’re not going to come to our “how to present” session because they don’t want our advice.  This is a high score, but I’m not particularly proud of it.  I’m not saying I’m not proud of the presentation we did – I had a hilariously good time with Buck – but the score isn’t an indication of our presentation skills.  The real score here is the number of people who attended, and I’m proud of that.

How would you rate the Speaker’s knowledge of the subject?

  • Average – 4.93
  • 5s – 64
  • 4s – 5

We’re really good at faking it.

How would you rate the accuracy of the session title, description and experience level to the actual session?

  • Average – 4.90
  • 5s – 62
  • 4s – 7

Compare this to my score on the virtualization & SAN presentation and you’ll see why I need to work on my abstracts.  Buck and I wrote this abstract specifically for this one presentation, and we never honed the deck.  The abstract exactly lined up with the original deck.

How would you rate the amount of time allocated to cover the topic/session?

  • Average – 4.74
  • 5s – 53
  • 4s – 15
  • 2s – 1

The funny thing is that Buck and I finished the material after 30-40 minutes, and we riffed for the rest of the time.  The only reason we scored well here is because of great attendee questions that let us elaborate.  If we didn’t have a fired-up, friendly audience, we’d have bombed here.

How would you rate the quality of the presentation materials?

  • Average – 4.72
  • 5s – 56
  • 4s – 10
  • 3s – 1
  • 2s – 1
  • 1s – 1

I think the audience is being generous here too, because our slides were just a handful of pictures.  We wanted you to focus on us, not bullet points, and we wanted the flexibility to go off on tangents.  It worked for us, but if someone else took our deck and tried to read it without attending the session, they’d be disgusted.

Attendee Comments:

  • So engaging
  • Smile 🙂
  • Simple, good and effective.
  • Some examples of good power point and other presentation materials.
  • ran out of time. – (From Brent: Wha? We finished early!)
  • perfect
  • not just a good show-but great content as well.
  • Not as focused on tips to improve presentations as I expected- based on title.
  • No new information-but good refresher and well presented.
  • Ppt was not very inspiring-presentaion depended the skillsof the presenter-if you’re not a charismatic speaker, not much to help you out. – (From Brent: that’s completely fair.  I would argue that there are no good speakers that don’t have charisma.  Charisma is not optional for great presenters, and that’s why we explained that you HAVE to go to something like Toastmasters.  PowerPoint slides alone can’t carry you to the top.)
  • Speakers were in shadows-lighting could be improved. – (From Brent: That’s to protect us from the snipers.)
  • Very entertaining!! Thank you!!
  • “The talk is excellent with very practical tips.
  • I wished you could include some of the info as bullets – (From Brent: I’ve got your bullet right here.  Just kidding.)
  • You answered the one nagging question I’ve had for ALL my presentations; Don’t read your bullets. Thanks 🙂
  • wish it could go on and on and on
  • Wasn’t sure what to exactly to expect coming into this. I have great struggles with telling a story with data (lots of data and sometimes there really isn’t a story). I think some of the referencs that you cited may deal with that. I enjoyed the presentation a great deal. Thanks! – (From Brent: Edward Tufte‘s stuff is fantastic about lots of data, and he explains that there’s always a story.  One of my favorite examples is on pages 56-57 of Envisioning Information when David Hellerstein explains the economics of health care by telling the story of just one receipt.)
  • Very polished speakers, their lifetime of presentation work shows.
  • very pleasant speaking voice.
  • Very informative session!!! Thanks.
  • more time would have been ok.
  • very entertaining and usefull at the same time.
  • Very engaging-high energy, funny.
  • trololololoooooooo!!
  • Thought it would just be funny with some good tips, but it was incredibly useful. Even for daily life. NOt fjust for when presenting. (and of course it was very funny as well).
  • Take a Bow!!!
  • I am a budding/new speaker for pass events (chapter/SQL Saturday) and trying to find my “groove” this session was really helpful.
  • “*phenominal & absolutely excellent.
  • *Ver applicable to everyone.”
  • Great tips-the wacom/draw your preso is priceless.
  • Fabulous, excellent conversational
  • Excellent ideas for improvement and ideas to get audience involved and engaged!
  • Excellent coverage of how to prepare a preso. Great tips on how to tell stories, final pics. When to use power point? Good stuff. How many times to reherse. Where does he come up with his retorts? Great!!!
  • Entertaining, lots of content. Thanks!
  • Do you think Dora the Explorer is an excellent presenter?
  • Both guys are the top of the heap.
  • Awesome!!!!
  • Awesome presentation, funny and inforative.
  • Awesome presentation – would love a longer session discussing methods and stlyes.
  • Amazing, funny
  • You guys suck. 🙂
  • Fun with lots of good info.
  • “Great way to end the day.
  • Good info presented quickly and to the point while still entertaining.”
  • Fun, informative and more fun on many, many levels.
  • getr the point across and entertaining also.
  • Great Team!
  • Great Presentation
  • Great Job!! Thanks
  • Great information. Appreciate the tips. Really want to someday (soon) apply them or at least pass them on. Great audience questons.
  • Great info as I start doing more demo’s/ presentations.
  • Great ideas, suggestons & links.
  • Great humor and great points.
  • Great deck.
  • Good, fun presentation, but hard to say how much information will help improve attendee’s presentation. Nice way to wrap up the day.
  • Good Stuff
  • Good Detail. Very much enjoyed the follow up as well. Looking forward to using this on my execs.
  • Funny and extremely relevant. Great job!!!!
  • You guys sucked. Thanks!!! 🙂

What a way to finish up the year.  Thank you so much for filling out your evaluations, and I’m humbled by your appreciation for what I do.  I have a great time doing this stuff, and I’m amazed that I get to do this stuff for a living.

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  • …and of course the only reason we did well was the trololo. 🙂 Thanks again for giving me the opportunity to speak with you. Always a pleasure.

  • I think you make some interesting points here– I hadn’t thought about how getting greater exposure helps you improve speaker scores in part just by getting you a targeted audience.

    I have a different take on the “Quality of the presentation materials” question. I think it’s about appropriateness of the materials as support for the talk rather than take-away documentation. If you don’t need a slide deck AT ALL and give a great presentation, I’m going to give you a 5 on that. In that case, your presentation materials were just not on the screen.

    • Thanks! I understand where you’re coming from about the materials. For example, when Buck whips out the Wacom tablet and sketches his way through a presentation, to me, that’s a 5 too.

  • I have learned that every audience has these two exact members:

    One who writes that having any bullets or words on you slides means that you are a bad presenter and using slides as a crutch. Another who complains that the slides should be covered in words so that they can take it home with them as notes.

    So you can’t keep everyone happy. I still tend towards pics and examples on slides with few bullet points. And I know I will get dinged for that by those who love 32 bullet point slides. But it is my presentation of my ideas, so I take the lower rating with the job.

    I do sometimes have checklists or handouts to supplement to keep those people happier.

    • Hahaha, yeah, agreed. I’ve started working toward the Tufte style of extremely high-resolution handouts for my 2011 presentations, like a detailed 11×17 illustration of a storage area network for my SAN presentations. I know that’s not going to satisfy the bullet people either, but it should be a lot of fun.

      • You mentioned your idea for a 11×17 illustration of a SAN earlier. Hows that coming?

        Also, next time I ever sit in one of your courses, I’m so tempted to troll the comments section on the feedback form, just to make you include it for a feedback post like this 🙂

        • Hahaha, that’s what I figured some of the comments were targeted at. “Hi, Mom!”

          The 11×17 SAN thing is coming along well – it got back-burnered for a while, but it’s back on now. I’ll be using that in my paid training next year first to get the kinks ironed out, and then make it public later in the year.

  • “• Brent is very engaging and informible. ”
    My thoughts exactly. OH, no, sorry I meant “inflammible”

  • I just blogged about my session results as well, and you come up in the discussion, Brent 🙂

  • Wish I could have been at your session. I really enjoyed you 60 minute SQL Server Blitz at SQLSaturday – South Florida last summer and I enjoy your style of presenting.

    I’m seriously going to consider the Post-Con after Connections. Virtualization and SAN’s are real weak spots on my resume. I’ll have to see what happens at tax time.

  • Oh and I forgot to say Congratulations about being in the top 10.

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