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Notes from Speaker Idol 2014

When last I blogged, I recommended everyone who was eligible to sign up for PASS Summit Speaker Idol 2015. The contestants have been announced:

They also announced the judges in case you want to try the bribery route:

To help this year's participants I will be blogging my notes from when I presented for Speaker Idol 2014, and I'll also add some specifics about my experience in a separate post. I also recommend that you read up on the previous contest and some follow up from a few of the judges:

The notes that follow are transcribed from handwritten notes. I'm listing anonymized comments from the judges, primarily because I haven't gotten their permission, but also to avoid bias on either theirs or the contestant's side.  In no particular order (red were items to improve, green were items that were well done, my personal comments in parentheses):

  • Need a story about how (your presentation topic) saved you time or improved your job
  • Mentioned great benefits (of presentation topic) without providing evidence or comparison
  • Too much information for a 5 minute presentation
  • Don't condense a 1 hour presentation to 5 minutes
  • The faster you need to go, the slower you should talk (don't rush through explanation)
  • Voice cut out when turning head away from microphone, turn whole body instead
  • Test demos, make sure they don't fail
  • Use scripts only, DO NOT TYPE CODE (typing is not the same as a demo)
  • No bullets on slide template (plain formatting)
  • Too many bullet points on slides
  • Avoid using periods at end of bullet points (they aren't sentences)
  • Small graphics on slides
  • Good to paste code on slides to avoid needing SSMS, also good font and color for code
  • Great time management with 23 seconds left (should finish between 4:30 and 5:00 minutes)
  • Not sure what topic was about, need to make clear in beginning; not much meat in first 2 minutes
  • Good to engage audience at beginning of 5 minute presentation ("ballsy" according to 1 judge, but not generally recommended)
  • If asking question, be sure to answer/respond, repeat question for audio/audience, and repeat show of hands to audience
  • Make sure images on your slides have proper attribution (author/source and license type), also for quotations/citations (several contestants were missing these)
  • Good recovery from technical problems (projector, mouse/remote, audio, demo issues; 3 speakers were commended for this)
  • Presentation felt like "Books Online"
  • Presented on floor rather than podium
  • ZoomIT use mostly poor (only 2 speakers had favorable comments, 3 had negative)
  • Never really explained/defined the topic, rushed to demo after long intro, could have explained better within time limit
  • Font and background color on slides hard to read (it was noted that slides were templates and presenter may not be able to change)
  • Allow enough time for audience to read slides
  • Don't repeat slides verbatim
  • Good eye contact and gestures (not too big, not too small), good energy and enthusiasm
  • Make sure to move with purpose, avoid moving without purpose
  • Careful of posture and foot placement, don't rock on feet, don't lean against objects; don't put hands in pockets
  • Presentation agenda was disjointed (should follow logical flow)
  • Too much code on one slide, hard to read
  • Wait for answers to questions (asked audience question and moved on too quickly)
  • Laser pointer discipline, do not move it excessively, use as little as possible (more comments from me in future post)
  • Engage audience before presentation if possible (say hello, ask questions)
  • Inconsistent capitalization on slides
  • Set up Top 5/Countdown but didn't emphasize during presentation
  • Use SmartArt in Powerpoint for arrows and symbols on slides, rather than raster graphics
  • Do not grip lectern, do not hold hands behind back, keep hands loose, use gestures, don't stand in one place
  • Include quotations in quotation marks (make sure to include attribution)
  • Do not wear anything that covers your face or a hat can cast shadows
  • If you do an "About Me" slide, keep it short, include at end and have some contact info (email, Twitter)
  • For a 5 minute presentation, don't have as much breadth, go into more depth on fewer items/topics (e.g. mention 3 utilities rather than 7 utilities)
  • Including cost/benefit analysis was good touch
  • Do not look at slides on projection screen, maintain eye contact with audience (know your slide sequence)
  • Spell out term before using its acronym (TDE, PLE, etc.)
  • Check text visibility especially when using predetermined slide template
  • Do not repeat slides verbatim
  • Be sure of technical details/facts (one slide had incorrect information) and level (including regedit was too deep for 5 mins)
  • Command prompt font and background colors (default B&W not visible)
Final round:
  • Improved timing for several contestants
  • Improved body movement & gestures
  • Zoomit still needs work for some folks
  • Still some ums/uhs
  • Improved slides (fewer words, fewer bullets)
Here's feedback I received during my first presentation:
  • Ran out of time, had several slides of material I didn't cover
  • Um, uh in speech
  • Stood in one spot
  • Needs more humor
  • Stood in front of PA speaker, caused muddy audio
  • Wore microphone on lanyard, picked up fabric/jingly sounds
  • Looked back at slides on projection screen too often
I don't have notes on my specific feedback during the final round, except that my timing improved dramatically (due to rehearsal). I'll go into more detail on that in my other post.

I hope this helps all the contestants for 2015, and good luck to you all!