The New Conference Presenter on the Block

Just 17 days ago, I found myself in front of a mostly-filled room, talking about PL/SQL and Ellucian Banner “stuff”.

It was my first time presenting to a tech crowd, and I was so grateful to have my very cool, calm, collected, and knowledgeable colleague, Sue as a co-presenter.

Here are a few take-aways from the experience. My all-things-tech-and sometimes-life-guru and friend, Chet Justice (@oraclenerd) suggested, “Write down what you learned now – or you’ll forget it for the next time”.

So here are my top 5 lessons learned as a first-time presenter at a tech conference:

No. 1 – Fake it ’til you feel it. The nerves were there. I tried not to allow them to rattle me, nor make me appear incompetent. I thought of some of the Kscope15 presenters I saw last June, those folks who seem like it is second nature to them to be in front of a crowd, and tried to channel some of their chutzpah. Like Jeff Smith (@thatjeffsmith) , Bryn Llewellyn (@BrynLite), Steve Feuerstein (@sfonplsql), and Heli Helskyaho (@HeliFromFinland) to name a few.


No. 2 – It’s not about “You”. I once went to a public speaking seminar – and the single most valuable bit of information the speaker gave to us was this:  It’s not about YOU. It’s about the information you’re giving to your audience. It’s about THEM. Once you don’t make it about YOU, the nerves will subside. Thus, my mantra for the day, that looped constantly through my head the days leading up to, and day of show time was: It’s not about me. It’s about them.

No. 3 – Leave the props at home. I was under-prepared. I did not commit to memory what I wanted to tell the audience. I had note cards in one hand, the laser pointer in another, and it was most likely distracting to the crowd as I flipped through my cards and tried to juggle the pointer and cards.

No. 4 – Practice, practice, practice. Even if Carnegie Hall is not in my future, next time I’ll be more prepared. Which is what Bobby Curtis (@dbasolved) told me to do, but I just ran out of time. You can never be over-prepared. I plan to record myself practicing next time – and watch – and remove any cringe-worthy moments by running through it all over and over and over…until I could spit out the information in my sleep.

No. 5 – Have more than one version of the slide deck. The room I presented in was very large, and the projector made the slides appear so small, that there is no way that anyone in the back of the room could have seen what I was pointing out. To accommodate room size and projection-related issues next time, I’ll have a larger-print version of the deck, as well as a regular version. And maybe even print out some handouts. Maybe.

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