Twitter Test

If it's good enough for Joe...  I just setup my own Twitter account to give this a test run.  Looks like a good option for quick comments from the PASS conference that may later lead to broader blog entries.  Anyone else playing along?

Last Minute Presentation Tips

By now (we hope) you have fine-tuned your slides and demos, and are feeling very comfortable and confident in the material you are going to present at PASS this week.  There are a lot of things that go into preparing for a live presentation, and there are a lot of bad examples out there.  One of my favorite blogs on presentation skills is Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds.  Absolutely fabulous tips for any type of presentation (technical or otherwise).  But it's probably too late to radically overhaul your slides and incorporate all of his recommendations, so here are a few simple, last-minute tips to make this one better and get you started in the right direction for your next one.

  1. Do NOT read your slides to the audience.  They are already busy trying to read your slides for themselves and having you just repeat what is already there on the screen makes you an unimportant part of the presentation.  Instead, simplify the text on your slides and then fill in the gaps for people.  Be the source, and provide background information as well as expanding on the simple points in your slides.
  2. Unless your presentation is all about the features and benefits of Intellisense or SQL Prompt, do not type during your demo.  Typing while everyone is watching you is harder than it sounds, and the audience quickly begins to feel like you are wasting their time.  Have your code pre-written (and tested!).  Then you can highlight key parts and explain the magic of your code rather than spend your time trying to re-type the syntax you finally got working last night.
  3. Act excited about your topic.  You picked it, so you should be excited about it...or at least interested.  You don't have to be doing a cheer or trying to hype the crowd, but don't talk like you're bored to death, either.  Maybe this is the 95th time you've given this talk, but it's the first time we have heard it, so try to keep it sounding fresh and interesting.
  4. Increase your fonts.  There is a huge difference between you sitting 18 inches from your monitor and the guy or gal sitting 100 feet away from the screen.  Even with a large projection screen, bring your fonts up to something in the range of 36 so that it is EASY for everyone to read.  In SQL Server Management Studio, go to Tools, Options, Fonts & Colors...  Remember to set the size for the Text Editor and the Grid Results and Text Results.  If you are demonstrating some other specific feature, such as Query Plans, remember to adjust the font for that feature as well.
  5. Respect the Clock.  You were allotted a set amount of time for your presentation.  The entire schedule of events is designed to give people enough time to get from session to session, but also to give the most bang for the buck.  I understand that you are excited about your topic (see point 3 above) and that it is the most important thing that anyone will ever hear at the entire conference...but respect the clock.  It is rude to run your session overtime, holding hostage the members of your audience.  Sure, some people will get up and leave, but some are actually interested in everything you are trying to squeeze in, and others are just too shy to walk out.  You're messing with their schedules and their ability to get a good seat in the next session they want to attend.  And you're messing with the schedule of the next speaker scheduled in your room.  So wrap-up on time.  Or better yet, wrap-up early so there is plenty of time for people to ask questions.  Which brings us to...
  6. Similar to the writer's credo to Omit Needless Words, you should use fewer slides.  You probably don't really need all those slides you've put in your deck.  You're not going to read them to the audience (see point #1) and if your audience is busy trying to read all that stuff, they aren't listening to you.  This isn't a book.  And it should not be a slideument.  Purge some slides and create yourself some breathing room to ensure you end on time, and even better, have time for a little Q&A.

There's still time to make your whole presentation better by implementing just a couple of these.  And your audience will thank you for it.  Especially if you're speaking at the end of the day.  So let's help each other out, that's what a conference like this is all about, and make this the best one we've ever had!

FREE Parking

Although, officially, the posted parking rates said 0-1 Hour: $5.00, apparently the Washington State Trade and Convention Center has some minimum amount of time that you can park there for free.  I don't know what the time limit is, but I just ran up there on my lunch break to pick up my PASS registration materials and when I came out to the machine to pay it told me that no payment was necessary.  I was probably in and out within 15 minutes (no line in the middle of the day on pre-con Monday, yippee!).  So, if you find yourself in a hurry to pick up your registration, keep this option in mind.

It's Time for PASS

Well, here we are on the eve of another PASS Community Summit in Seattle.  Last year it was in Denver, then two years ago it was here in Seattle.  I'm looking forward to another great event!

The main conference doesn't really start until Wednesday.  On Monday and Tuesday there are day-long pre-con events which are always popular.  Tuesday night is the kickoff Welcome Reception where you can reconnect with friends from past events, and meet new ones.  And then we hit the ground running Wednesday morning with the first Keynote by Ted Kummert, Corporate Vice President, Data and Storage Platform Division at Microsoft.

If you have never attended a Community Summit, I encourage you to start planning (and saving if necessary) right now to get there next year.  This will be my fifth summit and every time it has been a fantastic experience.  As Joe Webb mentions, there are a ton of different training sessions, and this year, the opportunity to complete certifications.  It's likely that the author of your favorite SQL book will be speaking at the event this week, along with a whole lot of very knowledgeable folks who never got around to writing a book.  Just take a look at these snippets from the agenda (spotlight sessions and program sessions).  And of course there will be plenty of experts from Microsoft who will be presenting as well.  In fact, with this one being in Seattle, the Microsoft presence will be phenomenal.

The exhibit hall is a great opportunity to check out a ton of cool tools for both developers and DBAs (and you can win great prizes, too...right Wendy?).  And, of course, the networking opportunities all week are amazing.  I won't go into a bunch of name-dropping, but let me tell you, it rocks!

As I have done in the past, I'll post a few bits from the event, but there's nothing like being there yourself.  Come join us!