Disaster Makes Us Better

Today I had the honor of presenting  ‘5 T-SQL Commands I’ve Been Missing’  to a remote PASS chapter, and it was terrible.  I know the material, I know the examples yet somehow the presentation is getting worse every time I give it.

“We do not learn from experience…we learn from reflecting on experience.”
― John Dewey

Since reflecting on our mistakes provides us with insight on how to prevent those mistakes in the future, I’m going reflect on the time that was able to ruin a perfectly good Friday afternoon by giving a remote presentation.

One benefit of presenting in person is that you get instant feedback, you can interact with the crowd to see who had that confused look on their face, you can see the boredom of those who might should have skipped today’s 100 level presentation, and finally you can adjust your presentation based off of any of those factors if needed.   Today I had none of that.  I had the feedback of phone, which was eerily quite.

Normally, I am able to start with a few questions to the attendees in order to gauge their experience level, today I was not able to see how many hands were raised, so I simply skipped that question.

As we got started, I connected via WebEx and everything seemed to be going well, until I realized I was not able to select which screen to share and was forced to use my primary monitor.  Unfortunately, I had prepped everything to goto my external secondary monitor.  Once I went into PowerPoint it decided to share my presenter notes, rather than the presentation, forcing me to put the screens in mirroring mode.  Now mirrored, this setting blew out my resolution to full size making SSMS unreadable to the attendees watching on a projector at their meeting location.  While we were able to increase the font size of the Query Editor window, the results were completely unreadable.   All due to resolution change.

Covering the material was not the worst part of the experience, but since I didn’t have my presenter’s view with my notes, I felt unprepared, and it came through to my audience.  I found my self nearly reading the slides as if the audience couldn’t manage the simple task on their own, the hallmark of a terrible presentation.

As I reflect on today’s events, I have a new-found respect for anyone that does remote presentations well.  These folks are very comfortable with their presentation software, which I am not. These folks likely know the material backwards and forward and don’t need notes to not sound like a bumbling idiot, which I did.  Rather than educating folks to invest in the awesome features of T-SQL available to us all, I educated them to the fact I do not provide a good remote presentation experience.

Moving forward I’m going to keep my presentations in person for the time being as I am not an amazing speaker, I am not even considered a great speaker, but I will be. It is experiences like today that will fuel me to do better, to become great at this craft.  With this feeling of defeat, the only direction left to go is up.