Thursday was the last day of the main conference this year, and it was kicked off in fine fashion by Bill Graziano who promised to have the fastest keynote at the conference. Part of Bill’s talk involved a moment of recognition for Kevin Kline, for the amazing amounts of work he did over 10 years of being on the PASS Board of Directors. Over the seven Summit conferences that I have attended, I have never seen the PASS crowd give a standing ovation to anybody, but they did this year, and it was well deserved. Thanks, Kevin, for all you have done to build PASS into the great organization it is today.
After Bill’s brief talk, a representative from Dell took the stage for a Keynote presentation. Unfortunately, I can’t remember a thing he covered. I’m sorry guys, I like your computers, but your keynote talks at PASS Summits are horrendous. I’m sure the guy who talked this year is a fine fellow, and probably very successful and important to Dell; however he and his presentation were utterly forgettable, and not just because he was upstaged by the next keynote speaker. The Dell guy sounded very nervous all of the way through, which was a huge distraction. Perhaps he was nervous, I’m sure all speakers that get up in front of a crowd of this size experience nervousness, but most of them still come across fine. So what was the issue? Was he not prepared? Did he not practice his talk, over and over, refining the message, like most of the other speakers at the conference? Was he just trying to wing it? I don’t know. But what I do know is that the vendor keynotes have never gone over very well. Maybe they just don’t understand who the audience is that they are talking to. That, and failing to practice would be like breaking cardinal rules #1 and #2 of public speaking.
The third portion of the Thursday Keynote was a talk by David DeWitt which was really outstanding. DeWitt is a Technical Fellow in the Microsoft Data and Storage Platform Division, and he leads the Microsoft Jim Gray Systems Lab in Madison, Wisconsin. Or in other words, he’s really, really smart. He talked about storage performance and stretched our brains with discussion of column-store vs. row-store methodologies, along with disk latency analysis and a whole bunch of other really technical stuff. Interestingly, although none of what he covered is directly applicable to anything I will be doing or needing in the next several years, it still kept my attention. WHY? Well, first of all, he was very comfortable presenting, knew his stuff, knew that he knew his stuff, and obviously enjoyed the subject he was discussing. And he did a fantastic job of taking some rather complex stuff that would normally fly right over my head, and conveyed it in a manner that I was able to understand and follow without having to work hard. I’m sure everyone there will remember his reference to the greens stuff on the stacked bar chart and that “the green stuff is bad”. This is the trait of a great communicator. Communicators take the complex and make it simple so that others can participate. All too often, it seems that really smart people do just the opposite, taking rather simple stuff and make it so complex that only a couple other people in the world can participate in the conversation. So, massive kudos to David DeWitt for doing it right.
And DeWitt understood his audience, and also understood the perception that many have of keynote presentations in general. This was made abundantly clear when he told a little of his background and talked about preparing for this talk, and poked fun at his own employer by saying that his boss had told him to make his talk more marketing-like and that he had refused. The loud cheer that went up when he said that should have sent the message loud and clear to all past and future speakers at PASS. Again, well done…very well done.
I should also give credit to the folks behind the scenes at PASS that arranged to have DeWitt present, because the truth is that he presented last year and was wildly popular then, too, and they made the effort to get him to come back again this year. Also, kudos to the Board or whoever made the decision to include DeWitt’s presentation on the Summit DVDs. Keynotes don’t usually end up on the DVDs, and this will be a great addition. And kudos specifically to PASS President Wayne Snyder, for coming out right at the end of DeWitt’s talk to announce that it would be on the DVDs. Well done!
posted @ Saturday, November 21, 2009 10:43 PM