This past Friday, I had the great privilege of speaking at the on-line Group By conference. Group By is a community-driven conference where anyone can submit an abstract. Site visitors will then rate sessions as well as help you build and improve your abstract.
My presentation was about various tips and tricks in SQL Server Management Studio, some of which I’ve already covered in previous articles on this blog.
Here’s my presentation, saved for posterity on YouTube:
My thoughts on presenting on-line
I’ve done a few presentations in usergroups and SQL Saturdays as a way of developing my presentation skills and slowly building a speaker career. There are so many rewarding things with presenting at conferences, not least of which the feeling that you’re contributing to the community and ultimately helping people. Speaking on-line was a first for me, though, and it’s quite different in a few key ways.
No visible audience
The video conferencing app said that I had a few hundred viewers out there on the Interwebs, but when you’re presenting on-line, you don’t get to see them. As a group fitness instructor, I’m in a way used to looking for people’s reactions and adjusting my delivery accordingly. The experience in this regard was more akin to recording a video session.
However, there was a lot of good feedback, and there were interesting questions. My co-host Brent Ozar was a huge help in sifting through the hashtags and mentions in the social media channels and picking interesting questions and comments and relaying them back to me and the audience. Having Brent help out as a co-host is a real treat, both for the audience and the presenter, and it helped keep me grounded in the fact that I was still presenting to actual people out there, and made my job presenting so much easier.
Apart from a good web cam and some flattering off-the-shelf LED lighting, one thing that struck me while I was presenting was how valuable the screen real estate is. I typically work only from my laptop, without any external screens. This means that when I was screen-sharing a slide deck or my developer environment, I couldn’t see Brent or the bells & whistles of the presentation software. At one point, my audio dropped out for a minute, and I just kept on going, oblivious to the fact.
Whenever I do this the next time, I’m probably going to have a second display – a tablet or an external screen – with the presentation software and my co-host, and perhaps even my speaking notes (as it happened, taped to the right of the screen this time).
I did my presentation from my relatively small home office, late at night in my local time, sitting down. Reviewing the YouTube clip the next day, I found that these things all had a noticable effect on my delivery: My voice was less nuanced and more quiet than it would normally be when speaking in a room full of people. Ironically, voice pitch and delivery are key things that I work with when I deliver spin classes, but there and then, I forgot.
Would I do a Group By talk again? Oh, yeah.
Presenting to hundreds of SQL Server professionals is a total rush and it teaches you a ton of things to help you improve as a speaker, which is good in a lot of contexts – not just community work! I can safely say that very few conference organizers that draw speakers like Aaron Bertrand, Adam Machanic or Hugo Kornelis, to name only a few, would ever consider giving me an hour in front of their audiences. I’d say my 2017 is off to a great start.
Now, you should totally write an interesting abstract and submit it too. Do it, I’ll make sure to upvote it.