Thursday, October 20, 2005

Speaking out loud...

Speaking out loud, in front of a room full of people.  Something that can scare the daylights out of many of us.  It used to make me physically ill to a degree.  I got over it by forcing myself to do it.  I signed up for 15 cities when 9i Release 1 came out to do a new features over overview as the main speaker.  The first one was hard – by the time we were done though, it was like I could do it in my sleep.  (I have caught myself sometimes thinking about something entirely different from what I’m talking about!  That is when I know “time to update the material dude”)  

By the time I was done with that seminar series, I was quite a few times better at speaking than I was before I started.  I learned a lot, I asked people to really criticize me – be harsh, be honest.  

Not that I don’t still get nervous – new material, first time presenting – that is a killer.  I’ve never been on a blind date in my life, but it probably is very much the same.  You don’t know if you’ll have anything in common (with the material), you don’t know if you’ll have something witty to say, you don’t know if you’ll be wishing your cell phone was going off part way through the experience, you don’t know if you’ll ever want to see the material again.

Last Tuesday I did a ‘best practices for upgrading’ session in Atlanta (20 minutes on that, 45 on what I thought was cool about 10gR1 and R2…).  I was “on” (as least I thought so) – a really good session.  And reading this article this morning reminded me of that session.  There were over 100 people and I think I made contact with most of them.  I too break the room into three parts – left right and center (of course) and use that technique.  But it is really “left back”, “center front”, “right middle”, “center back”, “left front” and so on – maybe like a grid of nine.  I try to connect with as many people as possible.

Since my first presentation (IOUG in Orlando, 1994), I’ve never “read” at a session.  I read there (I was also in a state of shock, my manager made me do it, I really did not want to).  It was horrible.  I vowed never to do that again.  

Now when I speak, I just know what is coming next.  I find every time I give the same material it takes a couple minutes longer than the last time – because I’ve thought of yet more to add.  I even practiced sessions before giving them a couple of time (when I just cannot sleep the night before…)

Have you ever been to a session where the speaker read or just didn’t look at you.  It drives me nuts.  

I thought that was a really good article – was surprised to see it in the financial news (I’m a news junkie).  Take it to heart if you have speak.  Your message will be received better, people will feel the connection to you.  Look at them, engage them, talk to them.  When I answer a question in a session, I typically start by walking directly in line with the questioner and looking right at them while they ask it, then start answering just to them but after a bit – start looking all around.

I’m always (always) looking for the head shakers too.  There should be at least three of you out there – left, right and center!  I need to have that positive affirmation that what I’m saying is getting across – and nothing like the head nodder to make me feel like that is happening.

One thing I’d add – be really excited about what you are speaking about.  I really dig Oracle and I know that comes across when I talk.  I think it is contagious.  Even after three days in a row (I’m getting ready to do 5 next week – 3+2) I’m still excited about what I’m talking about.  (Now, try to talk to me about 30 minutes after I’m done for the day and forget it!  Stick a fork in me, I’m very much done).


Blogger Mark said....

> Not that I don’t still get nervous – new material, first time presenting – that is a killer

> Now when I speak, I just know what is coming next. I find every time I give the same material it takes a couple minutes longer than the last time – because I’ve thought of yet more to add.

One disadvantage I have is that, as I only speak once or twice a year, inevitably the material is going to be new for each talk, therefore I never get the chance to get used to it.

The only way I get around that is to print out the powerpoint handouts (the six to a page print format), note down 2 or 3 keywords for each slide, memorize them, then use those as memory joggers rather than a set of written down notes.

I like your point about inviting criticism though, it's the only way to sort out the "tics" that we all exhibit - for me, I always say "sort of thing" all the time, I guess it's a nervous thing, but once someone pointed it out I try and stop myself doing it.

At the end of the day though, as long as I at least get some sleep the previous night, it usually goes OK - I think Doug Burns said something similar, you surprise yourself in the end about how you end up getting through it.

Thu Oct 20, 06:08:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Doug Burns said....


Hear, hear. That more or less covers my feelings about speaking to, although I seem to have got more nervous over the years, not less.

I know what Mark means, though. Teaching was much easier because the course notes stayed more or less the same and I'd do an individual course a few times a year so you get to know it and it makes things easier.

In the end, though, the number one thing that works for me is to remember I'm just going to talk to some people about something I'm passionate about. There have been times (last year's UKOUG for example) when I didn't say every little thing I intended to, but it didn't matter. Nobody knew what I missed out, they were far more interested in what I did say and how I said it. Sometimes I can walk away feeling disappointed because I missed something or didn't feel I hit the right tone, yet people have really enjoyed it.

Last year felt terrible actually - first time material, over-ran my time etc. - then Jonathan Lewis sidled up afterwards and told me how much he'd enjoyed it. That softened some of my disappointment ;-)



Thu Oct 20, 06:43:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Robert said....

You're born for this Tom !
nuff' said.

Thu Oct 20, 07:50:00 PM EDT  

Blogger LewisC said....

I hope to speak for the fist time this year. I'm going to present to a local user group. If that goes well, I plan to submit my talk to ODTUG for next year.

I hope I don't get ill when I do it.


Thu Oct 20, 07:56:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Robert said....

BTW is your car in the recall ? got it fixed ?

geesh can you image cars of the future can burst into flame or whatever because of some programmers screwups !

sorry off-topic....

Thu Oct 20, 08:05:00 PM EDT  

Anonymous Anonymous said....

I like the head shakers as well as the head nodders -- shows that people care enough about the topic to have an opinion. And heck, the head shakers might know something I don't -- so I stop and ask them what they disagree with.

The worst presentation I ever did was where I had to read someone else's material -- never again!

Thu Oct 20, 10:03:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Connor McDonald said....

Giving presentations is a blast...a nice little adrenalin buzz, and a great way to get chatting with people.

I used to hate conferences as an attendee, because there was always that possibility that "networking" doesn't occur (everyone's too shy), or you get stuck with the networker from hell - who wants to unload his/her problems onto you.

But as a speaker, its like getting the introductions out of the way before you even meet someone. People are much more inclined to come up to you when they can say "Hey Connor..." as opposed to "'m Pete...what's your name?".

In terms of knowing what's coming in a presentation - I'd love a PowerPoint option where the current slide is on the big screen, but on my laptop I can see the current AND next slide. That would fix my problem of getting way too excited about something on a slide and discovering that I've just covered the next 5 slides as well!


Thu Oct 20, 10:15:00 PM EDT  

Blogger Rachel said....

Once I started to remember that my audience wanted me to succeed, that they wanted to learn from me, speaking in front of a group got easier.

I also try to have friends sit in the front row, as that assures me of faces I can immediately see that will be sympathetic. I try to look around the room, find the people I am not reaching and aim towards them.

It helps that women tend to have wider ranges of peripheral vision, so I can "see" more of the room at once

I would love Connor's change to powerpoint though.. or at least to show the "notes" section of the slide so I know I've covered everything I wanted to before I move on.

Fri Oct 21, 07:34:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Barry Cooper said....

Give me a big room full of people anyday. The more the merrier!.
I tend to be far more nervy when there are just a handful of people - i guess its because you have to connect with all of them for much longer.

If the material is new to me, I tend to condense the powerpoints and add some speaker notes just to nudge me along.
I agree with the suggestion about having a view of the upcomming slides whilst the audience are seeing the current one...The times i've galloped ahead "on a roll" only to find i've now got some slides that are redundant.

Fri Oct 21, 08:48:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Toon Koppelaars said....

1994 IOUG Orlando... My first presentation too. On the Oracle version 6 server for OS/2 deployed in a Novell network. Haha, times have changed technology. For the presentor too. Overhead-projector with loose transparancies and blanco sheets in between, and of course they always got mixed up order-wise. And no changes possible. Once 'manufactured' that was the presentation material, period.
Nowadays your own laptop with powerpoint, animation including audio+video if you like. And last-minute changes just prior to start of session is possible (though not advisable, in my own experience).

Fri Oct 21, 08:56:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Howard J. Rogers said....

I agree with the suggestion about having a view of the upcomming slides whilst the audience are seeing the current one...

Personally, I hate attending anyone who uses Powerpoints as if they mean anything. I tell the story, the way I want to tell it. I whiteboard, I demo, I dramatise if necessary... and then I race through the Powerpoints to make sure I haven't missed anything out. Anyone plodding through the slides as part of their main presentation is a real turn-off. Sorry if that applies to anyone who has posted here.

I never forget attending my first-ever Performance Tuning course for Oracle 8.0, hosted by Steve Adams. Three minutes after sitting down, the phrase was something like 'Well, you might as well put those manuals away, because we won't be using them...'

Which was a tad extreme, perhaps (I've never been quite that bold), but makes the point. The sotry is Oracle, the actor is you, and the Powerpoints ought to be what a good prompter is: off-stage and there for emergencies only.

Fri Oct 21, 09:40:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Kevin said....

Hey, I don't want to come down as a defender of PowerPoint -- I've lived through and seen 'death by PowerPoint' firsthand -- but a good slide package lends structure to your discussion, and allows your audience to take something away that they can use later to jog their memory and apply it after your words are mere echoes ringing around in the ol' tin can.

Think of it this way -- you didn't memorize Expert One-on-One, did you? Yet, you remember many of the subjects covered, and can use it as a reference...

Fri Oct 21, 10:07:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Thomas Kyte said....

I use ppt to "structure" the talk (to remind me what I should be talking about) but the slide doesn't say it all by any means (my slides are boooorrrrrinnnnggggg - totally, but I don't want you watching them anyway, I want you to listen to me)

And I frequently pop out into sqlplus to demonstrate what the heck I'm talking about - seeing is believing. I probably spend 40-50% of my time "in" sqlplus...

Unless it is a quick 1 hour thing, then as few slides as possible - hopefully a demo or two or ten... some Q&A during the talk - and lots of movement (by me, I tend to travel).

One thing I didn't like about my Oracle Open World talk was that Cary and I were pinned to our locations.

He was trapped at the podium, I was trapped about 20 feet away by a table.

WIRED MICS in the Moscone Center in 2005!!! Ouch.

Fri Oct 21, 10:26:00 AM EDT  

Blogger DaPi said....

Some illustrate their slides with talk.
Some illustrate their talk with slides.

Some stop when they have said all they want to say.
Some stop when their audience has heard all it wants to hear (almost - "leave them wanting more").

Fri Oct 21, 10:45:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Gabe said....

When I answer a question in a session, I typically start by walking directly in line with the questioner and looking right at them while they ask it, then start answering just to them but after a bit – start looking all around.

Assuming people come to the seminars for the knowledge … I’m left wondering … do these extra emotions thrown in act as an inhibitor or catalyst?

I used to teach math in a former life, so I have some crude idea about trying to get students to want to learn in the first place and then trying transferring the knowledge. Is head shaking/nodding more of an indication of level of involvement (emotion) or level of understanding (knowledge)? I know it could be both, but …

Do you “instrument” your seminars? … test knowledge at the beginning, present/teach, test knowledge at the end … and do a diff? This may not be truly indicative, but at least the impact of emotions is minimized.

Fri Oct 21, 10:47:00 AM EDT  

Blogger Tony said....

One problem I always have is that I start to doubt knowledge of whatever it is I am talking about. I can go into a meeting feeling that I know what I am going to say, the message I want to convey and so forth. But then I start to talk and the fears that someone is going to ask a question I can't answer start to take over. It's a horrible feeling and I am sure that it shows.

As for you Tom - you are a great person to watch. You come across very naturally and relaxed. The material is always terrific as well. Kudos.

Sun Oct 23, 05:20:00 AM EDT  

Anonymous Abdullah said....

Wot a piece of writing mannn!!!

Mon May 19, 04:20:00 AM EDT  


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