Well now I have a new call for you – Present. Speak. Stand in front of strangers and teach them what you know.
I will post two parts here. Today starts with the Why and I’ll post the “How?” question later in the week so subscribe to my feed to see that post when it goes live. Update – The “How Should I Present” post is live.
Disclaimer: I failed High School Communication class because I was too mortified to speak in front of people. If I had to speak at a meeting in the first half of my career, I would feel my hands tremble as my voice crackled with fear and my heart raced to find a way out of my rib cage. If you were to ask me if I would ever be giving advice to start public speaking, I’d laugh at you.
Well… That was then. This is now. I started presenting to coworkers in brown bag lunches and enjoyed it. I spoke at my first SQL Saturday last January in Waltham with two sessions. I ended up presenting at 8 or 9 community events in the past year, including the SQL PASS North American Summit (still shocked I can say that in light of the disclaimer.) I was an alternate and had low attendance as a result but managed to find myself in the top 15 presenters by score, near meaningless with the low sample size but still neat )
I am speaking to the reader who knows something, has an urge to teach others that knowledge but starts hyperventilating each time you think about it. Is that you?
Why Should You Present?
A few thoughts here. There are plenty of reasons but here are some that come to mind.
- You Learn – Just like one of my reasons for blogging, you’ll learn a lot when you prepare a presentation. You want to be ready to have questions. You want to master the knowledge required and will spend much time in study.
- Someone Helped You Once – I gained my knowledge, in large part, by others taking their time to teach me with nothing expected in return. If you have something to blog about that is useful to others, then you have something to present on. There are people out there where you were 2 years ago. Help them along so we can all be better together.
- Job Interviews Get Easier – Seriously. When you start blogging and presenting a couple things happen. One you may get some added consideration points because someone knows about your blogging or speaking history. Even more important is the confidence you’ll gain through presenting, it follows you to your job interviews, client conference calls, etc.
- It gets fun – You won’t understand this until you start doing it. Right now it seems impossible, scary, intimidating and that indigestion like feeling you have argues with my point. It does get fun though. Seeing interaction with questions, seeing light bulbs go off and watching people apply what you taught is a priceless experience.
Your “Why Not’s” Stink
I could keep going with reasons above. Those are the first that come to mind. I wanted to save some word count to talk about all of those dumb excuses you have. I can call them dumb because I’ve had them too.
- They’re all gonna laugh at me – Nah. Picture yourself in a presentation audience. What is your default position? Is it animosity and a desire to see the person up front fail (yeah, there are some like this but not most)? No, it is normally a hope to see success. Heck if I am in a presentation and see someone stumbling or getting nervous I say a little prayer for the person up front, I want them to succeed. Most people want others to succeed. Your audience is your friend. *
- I can’t answer every question! – Nope. You can’t. Get over it. No one can. Some can answer more but “Great question let me get back to you,” is an okay answer for a question that you don’t know the answer to. “We have some time let’s find out,” is another fine answer for some questions. You need to know your subject but no one will pull you off stage if you get stumped here or there. It happens.
- What if ______ is in the audience?! – So? As long as you aren’t handing out inaccurate information and misleading folks they aren’t there to tear you apart (usually, anyway). They started out once too and most of the experts who give so much to the community actually remember what starting out was like. The others eventually stop contributing over time and wouldn’t “waste their time” in your presentation anyway.
- My topics are too basic! – Who is your audience? Your goal is to share your knowledge (wherever you are) with someone who it will benefit. Maybe -you- already know all about clustering or collecting baseline data. Did you 2 years ago? If not, that is your audience then, right? The people going to these events are not all experts. They aren’t even all intermediate level. There are people just starting out with SQL Server. Analyze your goals and your audience and stop worrying about trying to teach Paul Randal about DBCC CHECKDB or Brent Ozar about Lady Gaga.
- I’m too nervous! Learn your material. Know it cold. Prepare. Understand your slide transitions, practice for timing and speak from your heart about the topic. Start small (local User Group, Coworkers, all two year olds in your neighborhood, etc.) and go from there.
I could keep going but I think you get my point: If you have a desire to teach people but are too nervous to act on it, just do it. In the next post we’ll talk a bit about some tips that are working for me as I am still new on this journey into public speaking. I really hope you’ll consider submitting your topic idea to a local SQL Saturday or User Group, though. You have something to say and if it would have helped you at a certain point it will probably help someone else right where they are.* – Your audience starts out as your friend for the most part, in my experience. As long as you know your stuff, don’t lie to us and don’t let your nerves shut you down (because as I said above there is no reason for it) they’ll stay your friend…