Presentation Nerves

My previous post on interviews and a number of conversations this year inspired me to write this post. I am lucky enough to have been selected to speak at numerous events over the past few years and I am really lucky because I thoroughly enjoy doing them. The feedback I receive from those sessions has been wonderful and it seems that in general most people really enjoy them.

This leads to some misconceptions though. Recently people have said to me “Oh I am not like you, I get far to nervous to do a session” and also “I am so glad that you get just as nervous as me before presenting I thought it was just me” even though I have blogged about this before. I think it is important for newer speakers as well as more established ones to know that more presenters than you realise get very nervous before they speak.

Many don’t publicise this (which is fine) but I will. I get nervous before I speak. I know that it doesn’t show when I start my presentation but it is there. My stomach does back flips, my hands shake, I forget to bring things to the room. I worry that I will make a catastrophic mistake or that I’ll open my mouth and nothing will come out.

It’s ok. It doesn’t last very long, it’s gone at the moment I start speaking. Other speakers need a few moments into their session before they stop really feeling those nerves but it goes.

Whenever I am involved in a conversation about nerves and presentations on twitter I respond in the same way

I love this quote by Joan Jett (young people link) To me it means that you should be nervous before speaking because that energy will ensure that you give a good presentation. If you get up to do a presentation and you are blasé or complacent about it this will be obvious to your audience and not in a good way.

So what to do?

Practice

You can’t just approach a presentation knowing that you will be nervous and expect it to be ok. You need to have a background of confidence that your presentation will turn out ok.

You need to practice.

You need to practice your presentation.

You need to practice your presentation out loud.

You need to practice your presentation out loud more than once.

You have to get used to hearing your own voice when presenting. It can be off-putting hearing yourself blathering on and you don’t want that to surprise you or interrupt your flow. This will also help with projecting away from your screen and into the room if you practice correctly. Imagine all the people in the room and try to speak in their direction with your head up and not pointing down at the screen.

You also need to practice your timings, so that you know that your session will fit in the allocated time. Make notes of your timings at certain points in your presentation so that when you are presenting your session you can be aware of whether you are still on your expected time. Some people will speak faster in their actual session than the practice and some slower. As you practice and learn you will understand your own rhythm and cadence and be able to alter it if required. This will help you to build that confidence that your presentation will be ok.

More Practice

You need to practice.

You need to practice your demos.

You need to practice your demos more than once.

Being able to reset your demos and run them through will teach you more skills. Using Pester to make sure your environment is in place correctly will help.

Run your demos with your machine set up as it will be for the presentation. If you need to have PowerPoint, SSMS, Visual Studio, Visual Studio Code and three SQL instances running then practice with them all running. You should do this so that your timings when running your demos are the same as when you actual present your session. This is even more important if you are doing a webinar as that software will require some of your machines resources which may slow your demo down.

Knowing that your demos are consistently repeatable and how long they will take will also help to give you the confidence that your presentation will be ok.

Deal with them

If we accept that you will have nerves and that’s not a bad thing you have to be able to deal with them, to use them to make your presentation rock.

This is a distinctly personal thing and I have no idea what will work for you. You will have to try some things and see if they work or not. Recently I found a new way for myself

Normally I like to be in the room I will be presenting in before I do my session as this gives me something that I can listen to, I can see and feel the layout of the room and also usually prepare my laptop with the correct programmes and run Pester to make sure all is as it should be for my demos. In Portugal I was chatting with someone and missed the start of the session and because of the room layout I did not want to disturb the presenter before me. Slava Oks was giving a presentation which I started to watch and it was so mind-melting I completely forgot that I was presenting in the next time slot! Surprisingly, I had almost no time to be nervous and for this time that was a good thing. The fact that I had already opened my presentation and run my Pester tests also helped.

Some speakers like to be amongst the hustle and bustle of a common area. Some like the peace and quiet of a speaker room or work area. Some put their headphones on. Some go outside. Some pace up and down. Some sit quietly. Many sit in a session in the room. Find the one that works for you.

A few deep breaths

Then just before you are giving your presentation take a few deep breathes, reassure yourself that it’s all good and go and be amazing.

Deep breaths will also be useful if you start to feel nervousness overtaking you during your session. Stop, take a deep breath and carry on.

Incidentally, during a presentation in Exeter at my first SQL Saturday I felt decidedly light-headed and as if I was going to pass out. I had literally forgotten to breathe!

What about…… ?

Don’t forget to leave time for questions at the end. Don’t practice to fill all of the allotted time with your presentation. You will need some time for the audience to ask you questions about your presentations.

Having people ask you questions is a good thing. It means that people are engaged in your presentation and interested in what you have shared. Well done, you have achieved what you set out to do and this is some validation

Repeat the question

Repeating the question that you are asked is recommended best practice for presentations but it has another advantage to you. It allows you a little thinking time to organise your thoughts and calm your nerves if needed.

I don’t know

It’s ok to answer a question with I don’t know. Follow up by asking if anyone in the audience can add some value or say I will research that and find out for you come and give me your contact details afterwards.

Feedback

Some events will provide you with feedback from your attendees. You can also ask your friends or other friendly community members for feedback on your session. Use this to improve. Don’t take all the feedback to heart. Look for trends in the data. Don’t let the poor feedback get you down and don’t let the good feedback go to your head (Remember the complacent quote at the top of this post!)

On a side note, whilst providing a score for feedback is useful, what is more useful is some reasoning behind the score. Remember also that the speaker is a human being with feelings. Be kind whilst being constructive.

Your knowledge

Don’t let worry about nerves prevent us from hearing the great knowledge and experience that you have to share. You wont be alone in feeling nervous and you can help yourself to overcome those nerves and get as much out of speaking as I do.

You will find members of the SQL community wiling to help you if you visit the SQL Community Slack you can ask questions in #presentingorspeaking

 

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Pester for Presentations – Ensuring it goes ok

Whilst I was at PSCONFEU I presented a session on writing pester tests instead of using checklists. You can see it here

During the talk I showed the pester test that I use to make sure that everything is ready for my presentation. A couple of people have asked me about this and wanted to know more so I thought that I would blog about it.

Some have said that I might be being a little OCD about it 😉 I agree that it could seem like that but there is nothing worse than having things go wrong during your presentation. It makes your heart beat faster and removes the emphasis from the presentation that you give.

When it is things that you as a presenter could have been able to foresee, like a VM not being started or a database not being restored to the pre-demo state or being logged in as the wrong user then it is much worse

I use Pester to ensure that my environment for my presentation is as I expect and in fact, in Hanover when I ran through my Pester test for my NUC environment I found that one of my SQL Servers had decided to be in a different time zone and therefore the SQL Service would not authenticate and start. I was able to quickly remove the references to that server and save myself from a sea of red during my demos

For those that don’t know. Pester is a PowerShell module for Test Driven Development

Pester provides a framework for running unit tests to execute and validate PowerShell commands from within PowerShell. Pester consists of a simple set of functions that expose a testing domain-specific language (DSL) for isolating, running, evaluating and reporting the results of PowerShell commands

If you have PowerShell version 5 then you will have Pester already installed although you should update it to the latest version. If not you can get Pester from the PowerShell Gallery follow the instructions on that page to install it. This is a good post to start learning about Pester

What can you test? Everything. Well, specifically everything that you can write a PowerShell command to check. So when I am setting up for my presentation I check the following things. I add new things to my tests as I think of them or as I observe things that may break my presentations. Most recently that was ensuring that my Visual Studio Code session was running under the correct user. I did that like this

Describe "Presentation Test" {
    Context "VSCode" {
        It "Should be using the right username" {
            whoami | Should Be 'TheBeard\Rob'
       }
    }
}

01 - username.PNG

I think about the things that are important to me for my presentation.  I want to ensure that I only have one VS Code window open to avoid that situation where I am clicking through windows looking for the correct window. I can do that using Get-Process

It "Should have Code Insiders Open" {
(Get-Process 'Code - Insiders' -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue)| Should Not BeNullOrEmpty
}
        It "Should have One VS Code Process" {
            (Get-Process 'Code - Insiders' -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue).Count | Should Be 1
        }

I use -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue so that I don’t get a sea of red when I run the tests. Next I want to check my PowerPoint is ready for my presentation

        It "Should have PowerPoint Open" {
            (Get-Process POWERPNT  -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue).Count | Should Not BeNullOrEmpty
        }
       It "Should have One PowerPoint Open" {
            (Get-Process POWERPNT  -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue).Count | Should Be 1
        }
        It "Should have the correct PowerPoint Presentation Open" {
            (Get-Process POWERPNT  -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue).MainWindowTitle| Should Be 'dbatools - SQL Server and PowerShell together - PowerPoint'
        }

Again I use Get-Process. I check if PowerPoint is open, if there is one PowerPoint open and I use the MainWindowTitle property to check that it is the right PowerPoint presentation after nearly starting a presentation for SqlServer module with the dbatools slides!

I don’t want any distractions when I am presenting. I have the sort of friends who will notice if I get notifications for twitter popping up on my screen and repeatedly send tweets to make people laugh. (I admit, I’m one of those friends – I do this too!)

02 - Friends!!.PNG

Now I cannot get a test for quiet hours working. You can apparently use a Registry key, which of course you can check with PowerShell but I was unable to get it working. I haven’t looked at testing for Presentation Mode  but I test that those programmes are shut down, again using Get-Process

        It "Mail Should be closed" {
            (Get-Process HxMail -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue).Count | Should Be 0
        }
        It "Tweetium should be closed" {
            (Get-Process WWAHost -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue).Count | Should Be 0
        }
        It "Slack should be closed" {
            (Get-Process slack* -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue).Count | Should BE 0
        }

I am generally presenting with SQL Server so I need to make sure that SQL Server is running. I do this with Get-Service

Context "Local SQL" {
        It "DBEngine is running" {
            (Get-Service mssqlserver).Status | Should Be Running
        }
        It "SQL Server Agent is running" {
            (Get-Service sqlserveragent).Status | Should Be Running
        }
        It "DAVE DBEngine is running" {
            (Get-Service mssql*Dave).Status | Should Be Running
        }
        It "DAVE Agent is running" {
            (Get-Service sqlagent*dave).Status | Should Be Running
        }
    }

In this example I am testing that the SQL Service and the Agent service are running on both of my local instances.

I use a NUC running Hyper-V to enable me to show a number of SQL Servers running in a domain environment so I need to be able to test those too. I set the values of the servers I need into a variable and check that the VM is running and that they respond to ping

 Context "VM State" {
        $NUCServers = 'BeardDC1','BeardDC2','LinuxvNextCTP14','SQL2005Ser2003','SQL2012Ser08AG3','SQL2012Ser08AG1','SQL2012Ser08AG2','SQL2014Ser12R2','SQL2016N1','SQL2016N2','SQL2016N3','SQLVnextN1','SQL2008Ser12R2'
        $NUCVMs = Get-VM -ComputerName beardnuc | Where-Object {$_.Name -in $NUCServers}
            foreach($VM in $NUCVms)
                {
                $VMName = $VM.Name
                  It "$VMName Should be Running"{
                    $VM.State | Should Be 'Running'
                  }
			    }
    }
Context "THEBEARD_Domain" {
            $NUCServers = 'BeardDC1','BeardDC2','LinuxvNextCTP14','SQL2005Ser2003','SQL2012Ser08AG3','SQL2012Ser08AG1','SQL2012Ser08AG2','SQL2014Ser12R2','SQL2016N1','SQL2016N2','SQL2016N3','SQLVnextN1','SQL2008Ser12R2'
            foreach($VM in $NUCServers)
                {
                                 It "$VM Should respond to ping" {
				(Test-Connection -ComputerName $VM -Count 1 -Quiet -ErrorAction SilentlyContinue) | Should be $True
				}
                }
    }

I also need to check if the SQL Service and the Agent Service is running on each server

  Context "SQL State" {
        $SQLServers = (Get-VM -ComputerName beardnuc | Where-Object {$_.Name -like '*SQL*'  -and $_.State -eq 'Running'}).Name
        foreach($Server in $SQLServers)
        {
          $DBEngine = Get-service -ComputerName $Server -Name MSSQLSERVER
           It "$Server  DBEngine should be running" {
                $DBEngine.Status | Should Be 'Running'
            }
           It "$Server DBEngine Should be Auto Start" {
            $DBEngine.StartType | Should be 'Automatic'
           }
              $Agent= Get-service -ComputerName $Server -Name SQLSERVERAGENT
              It "$Server Agent should be running" {
                  $Agent.Status | Should Be 'Running'
           }
           It "$Server Agent Should be Auto Start" {
            $Agent.StartType | Should be 'Automatic'
           }
        }
        It "Linux SQL Server should be accepting connections" {
            $cred = Import-Clixml C:\temp\sa.xml
            {Connect-DbaSqlServer -SqlServer LinuxvnextCTP14 -Credential $cred -ConnectTimeout 60} | Should Not Throw
        }

    }
}

I check that the Linux SQL Server is available by storing the credential using Export-CliXML  and then use that credential with Connect-DbaSqlServer from dbatools

Using a NUC means I sometimes have fun with networking so I have a couple of tests for that too. Testing for the correct DNS Servers and gateways

    It "Should have DNS Servers for correct interface" {
        (Get-DnsClientServerAddress -InterfaceAlias 'Ethernet 3').Serveraddresses | Should Be @('10.0.0.1','10.0.0.2')
    }
    It "Should have correct gateway for alias"{
        (Get-NetIPConfiguration -InterfaceAlias 'Ethernet 3').Ipv4DefaultGateway.NextHop | Should Be '10.0.0.10'
    }

All of those are generic tests that have evolved over time and are run for every presentation but when I have specific things you require for a single presentation I test for those too.

For Example, later this week Cláudio Silva and I are presenting on dbatools at TUGAIT  We are showing the Test-DbaMaxMemory  , Get-DbaMaxMemory and Set-DbaMaxMemory commands so we need to ensure that the Max Memory for some servers is (In) Correctly set. I use Connect-DbaSqlServer to create an SMO Server object and test that

    It "Max Memory on SQl2012SerAG1 2 and 3 should be 2147483647" {
        (Connect-DbaSqlServer SQL2012Ser08AG1).Configuration.MaxServerMemory.RunValue | Should Be 2147483647
        (Connect-DbaSqlServer SQL2012Ser08AG2).Configuration.MaxServerMemory.RunValue | Should Be 2147483647
        (Connect-DbaSqlServer SQL2012Ser08AG3).Configuration.MaxServerMemory.RunValue | Should Be 2147483647
    }

We are also showing the Test-DbaIdentityUsage command so a column needs to be pre-prepared in AdventureWorks2014 to be able to show the error

    It "ShiftID LastValue Should be 255" {
        $a = Test-DbaIdentityUsage -SqlInstance ROB-XPS -Databases AdventureWorks2014 -NoSystemDb
        $a.Where{$_.Column -eq 'ShiftID'}.LastValue | should Be 255
    }

To ensure that we have orphaned files available for the Find-DbaOrphanedFile command I use this

    It "has Orphaned Files ready"{
        (Find-DbaOrphanedFile -SqlServer SQL2016N2).Count | Should Be 30
    }

There are any number of things that you may want to test to ensure that, as best as possible, the demo gods are not going to come and bite you in the middle of your presentation.

  • Files or Folders exist (or dont exist)
  • Databases, Agent Jobs, Alerts
  • Operators, Logins
  • SSIS packages, SSRS Reports
  • PowerBi files
  • Azure connectivity
  • Azure components

The list is endless, just look at what you require for your presentation.

Anything you can check with PowerShell you can test with Pester so build up your Pester presentation tests and reduce the reliance on the demo gods! I’ll still leave this here just to be safe!!

pray to the demo gods.jpg

Making Start-Demo work with multi-line commands without a backtick

I love to speak about PowerShell. I really enjoy giving presentations and when I saw Start-Demo being used at the PowerShell Conference in Hanover I started to make use of it in my presentations.

Start-Demo was written in 2007 by a fella who knows PowerShell pretty well 🙂  https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/powershell/2007/03/03/start-demo-help-doing-demos-using-powershell/

It was then updated in 2012 by Max Trinidad http://www.maxtblog.com/2012/02/powershell-start-demo-now-allows-multi-lines-onliners/

This enabled support for multi-line code using backticks at the end of each line. This works well but I dislike having to use the backticks in foreach loops, it confuses people who think that they need to be included and to my mind looks a bit messy

start-demo

This didn’t bother me enough to look at the code but I did mention it to my friend Luke t | g who decided to use it as a challenge for his Friday lunch-time codeathon and updated the function so that it works without needing a backtick

start-demo2

It also works with nested loops

start-demo3

just a little improvement but one I think that works well and looks good

You can find it at

https://github.com/SQLDBAWithABeard/Presentations/blob/master/Start-Demo.ps1

and a little demo showing what it can and cant do

https://github.com/SQLDBAWithABeard/Presentations/blob/master/start-demotest.ps1

Load the Start-Demo.ps1 file and then run

Start-Demo PATHTO\start-demotest.ps1

Enjoy!