How I prepared for my first ever SQLSaturday session

I presented for fifty minutes on 27 June 2015, for my first ever SQLSaturday talk.

The amount of time I put into that presentation is easily 200 hours, not counting my experience as a college lecturer and high school teacher.

Firstly, I had to write the software I presented on. Even until yesterday, three days after the session, I was modifying the GitHub page, adding documentation, and so on. Anyone in the industry knows that the software is never finished. This is no exception.

The slide deck itself started as 12 slides, grew to 26, and then after I decided to do the demos as slides as well, it finished at 62 slides.

The original script I wrote for the talk was over 5,000 words long. Yes, I scripted the entire talk. I’m not good at speaking off the cuff, even on something I invented, and the classic advice (see links below) is not to read what the slides say. After rehearsing a number of times, I was able to recall most of what I scripted.

In my first run-through, speaking aloud and going through the deck, I got to 58 minutes without allowing time for questions, which meant that I might have enough content for the talk (it is better to cut content than to be left stranded with nothing to say).

I watched Paul Randal’s Pluralsight course, “Communications: How to Talk, Write, Present, and Get Ahead!”. This course goes hand-in-hand with his 2009 blog post, Public Speaking: A Primer.

(I also presented during an “open night” on four separate occasions to Paul and Kimberly, during the Immersion Events training I attended in 2012 and 2013, to get some feedback).

I read more of Paul and Kimberly’s respective blog posts on how to set up SQL Server Management Studio, and writing clear slides for presenting to an audience:

Then I read about the lengths that David Peter Hansen went to, to prepare for his PASS Summit session in 2014:

Brent Ozar, from four years ago, had some good advice:

(A side note: Brent was kind enough to recommend a remote clicker to me, on Twitter, about five minutes after I asked. The device he recommended worked very well, and despite his wariness over battery life (I packed extras), I didn’t need to change the batteries mid-talk!)

Scott Hanselman has a number of posts about preparing for talks, but here’s his seminal post from way back in 2003:

And most importantly, the posts from people who had been there, done that, and made mistakes. I learned a lot from Greg Low:

And my friend Janie Clayton:

A final note: I planned to give my PowerPoint presentation on my MacBook Pro, and I made sure I had a connector to plug into the projector the organisers had listed. Even so, when I got there to test in the morning, the DVI-D cable was not there, and I still had to borrow a VGA adapter from them. I had left enough time to walk to the Apple Store nearby to purchase one if they did not have the connector on site. My notes were in PDF form on my iPad, which I only had to refer to twice during the talk.

I also kept a copy of the presentation on the iPad, with the necessary Lightning to VGA connector, should my laptop fail. My notes were printed out in hard copy for this eventuality, but I did not have to resort to this, as my laptop worked flawlessly.

I only had one live demo (my presentation was about Azure Blob Storage, so it could easily have failed, and I had prepared screen shots in this eventuality), which ran flawlessly, but only because I tested it just before my talk, and had to change a configuration file to get it to run. It was that close.

I would like to thank everyone for helping me prepare for this session, directly or indirectly. I could not have done it alone.

Author: randolph

Randolph West is a Microsoft Data Platform MVP, and has worked with SQL Server since the late 1990s. When not consulting, he can be seen acting on the stage and screen, or doing voices for independent video games. Randolph is available for talks on SQL Server, and technology in general. He also offers training for junior DBAs. Connect with Randolph on Google+ or Twitter.