SQL Saturday 60 Says Keep Speaking

So last week I told you to start speaking and presenting what you know. I may even have a taker in John Sansom who blogs about SQL Server and chats on twitter. Looking forward to seeing John (and you!) on a speaker list someday.

Well after having that series go up last week, I got a bit nervous when I got an e-mail from one of the event organizers with my survey results and a note just saying here are your evals. I opened them up and I was largely relieved but got a few lessons. I saw a couple other folks share their results and some lessons/thoughts so I guess I’ll do the same. I was involved in two talks and I’ll talk about each really quick.

All Alone

The first talk was my “As a DBA, Where Do I Start?!” presentation that I love giving. I give a room clearing disclaimer when I start (but folks don’t leave often enough…) that this talk isn’t demo rich, overly advanced or even heavily technical. It is rally just a talk about the things a DBA should feel responsible for and an order around them. It is a talk I wish I went to at least once in the 11-7 year ago range when I was starting out on the journey to here (and wherever I am going next).  I really enjoy giving this chat because I remember being new, I remember feeling overwhelmed and I remember going to events and feeling scared hearing 300/400 level content when I was barely ready for 200 or 100 level content. I’ll probably stick with this one for another year and then retire it, maybe not, new people are always coming on.

Anyway here is how it did on a 0-4 scale (ratings were very poor, poor, average, good, excellent) and I assigned them 0-4:

The questions asked were all phrased, “How would you rate:

  • The usefulness of the session in your day to day environment – 3.17
  • The speaker’s presentation skills – 3.52
  • The speaker’s knowledge of the subject – 3.73
  • The accuracy of the session title, description and experience level to the actual subject – 3.59
  • The amount of time allocated to cover the topic/session – 3.24
  • The quality of the presentation materials – 3.41

I had 29 responses, the lowest I got anywhere was an average (2) on a couple forms for a few of the questions. Some comments:

“Timely for me, enjoyed presentation”  Great

“Could spend hours” Was that I could spend hours because I ramble on or we could spend hours on the topic? ;-)

“Perfect for my role and level of knowledge” Winner Comment! This is what I was hoping to accomplish. Have material appropriate for where someone was. This comment came from one of the more active participants and I was happy to know they appreciated it.

Would like to have ppt slides before” Fair enough

More time could have been used, not appropriate for SQL Saturday” – Was that an internal dialog? Self1: More Time Could be used, Self2: Yeah but that isn’t appropriate for a SQL Saturday? This person rated all 4s except for the time part, so I am presuming it was the internal dialog and the content was good, they just wished I could talk longer. At least that’s what I am leaving myself with.

“Good suggestions about what to look out for!” Great, another goal

Would have liked  a little more technical detail” Fair enough here, I did keep it more theory and gave that disclaimer but I can do better on future deliveries, perhaps. This person gave 4s everywhere except the accuracy of title (3) and length of time (2)

Thoughts While Reviewing

  • I like comments so much better than numbers. I got a few tips from my comments. I also got a couple pats on the back. Good balance and I know what to do better next time.
  • Work on abstract/description/disclaimers – That one comment and the fact that I only scored an overall slightly above good on usefulness tells me I need to do more work on the content or the audience preparation (or both).
  • I’m knowledgeable? Wow. The highest point was the knowledge where I scored .3 away from an overall excellent. Oh it is knowledge of the subject. Well that’s good still :-) It was the subject I chose to speak about and it is kind of broad reaching, even if basic.
  • Time Time Time – Tough topic to fit into one slot. I wonder how I can either go in more depth and cut material/side roads or maybe I should just realize that an hour is never enough to cover all points and be happy. I did ask to go first since I could point people to other sessions so that is one way to extend time on a beginner talk through the rest of the community.

Joint Presentation

Erin Stellato who also blogs about SQL Server and plays on twitter invited me to an idea she had while we were at the PASS Summit. It was present together a talk on the struggles vendors and DBAs face. She saw my posts on vendor questions DBAs should ask and my constructive rant at vendors in general and thought it would be a good match. I really enjoyed this one. It was really more of a professional developmentish chat though the audience was intended to be DBAs or vendors. It felt more like Erin and I were giving a seminar on good communication in a marriage as a lot of the same principles work in any relationship. That being said we had good interaction with each other and the audience. We allowed time to stray with Q&A and had some good group discussions in the room. I could definitely see doing this with Erin at the PASS Summit in a half presentation half panel discussion/Q&A.

Same questions, “How would you rate:

  • The usefulness of the session in your day to day environment – 3.47
  • The speaker’s presentation skills – 3.87
  • The speaker’s knowledge of the subject – 3.87
  • The accuracy of the session title, description and experience level to the actual subject – 3.67
  • The amount of time allocated to cover the topic/session – 3.53
  • The quality of the presentation materials – 3.73

Overall great results from the 15 people who filled out surveys. The high and low points (while higher) match the same format as my earlier presentation so I guess time is never enough and presentations aren’t always going to be 4 out of 4 useful but we got much closer here with this presentation!

A few comments were about how the dialog, back and forth and interaction worked well. That is great news! One commenter would have preferred a cage match (though Erin came prepared for one with her protective gear on) and one commenter that left a heart (i’ll give you 2 guesses) and a comment saying they “liked having a vendor and real person :)”

Takeaways from this one:

  • See above on timing
  • Present with Erin Stellato, your ratings will be higher!
  • Need to investigate how to properly scope and spec a presentation to be more useful though I don’t think that these scores are bad by any stretch.

I stand by my call – Go out and present sometime. And if you are in an audience, leave some feedback. Helpful feedback is not just ego boosting comments (though they are nice from time to time, no?) but constructive thoughts on what didn’t work. Another tip – be honest with your feedback, I’m not going to stop presenting based on the feedback here, if you really want me to be brutally honest on your scores, I can’t take clever hints but a bunch of 0s 1s and 2s would have me in the audience more.

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