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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Speaking? You? Go on. #tsql2sday #84

This is a blog post for¬†this month’s T-SQL Tuesday post, hosted by Andy Yun (b|t). T-SQL Tuesday is a monthly blog event started by Adam Machanic (b|t). The T-SQL Tuesday topic this month was about advice for new speakers. Thanks Andy for hosting. I have created a channel in the SQL Server Community Slack for presenting which everyone can make use of to ask and to answer questions

I think you should share what you know with others.

You will be amazing.

I will give you some great advice I learnt from a fantastic person’s blog post

  1. Start speaking
  2. Keep going
  3. Listen to feedback
  4. That’s it.

Kendra has said it all, you don’t need to read any further ūüėČ

 

 

 

 

However..

Not all plain sailing

I love giving sessions but I never knew or thought¬†that I would. My journey to speaking started at my SQL user group in Exeter and two fabulous people Jonathan and Annette Allen¬†who encouraged me to share some PowerShell with the group. I was terrified, didn’t think I was worthy,¬†my HDMI output wasn’t strong enough to power the projector, I had to transfer my slides and demo to Jonathans laptop. It was a fraught and frustrating experience.

My second presentation was done on Stuart Moores MacBook Pro¬†using Office Online for presentations and Azure for demos. Again a change right at the last minute and using a machine I didn’t know (and a different keyboard set-up).

Stuff will go wrong. Murphy’s Law will always show his head somewhere and no matter how often you test and re-test your demos, sometimes an odd thing will make them stop working

There will be problems and issues, you can mitigate some of them by following the 6 P’s

Proper Preparation Prevents Pretty Poor Performance.

You can read some great blog posts in this T-SQL Tuesday¬†Series and also this one from Steve Jones¬†or any of these¬†But also accept that these things happen and you must be prepared to shine on through the darkness if the power runs out or use pen and paper or even plastic cups like John Martin¬†ūüôā

You never know you might enjoy it

I found I enjoyed it and wanted to do more and since then I have presented sessions in a wide variety of places. It was very strange to have been sat watching and listening to all of these fantastic presenters thinking I could never do that and then find out that actually it is something that I enjoy doing and find fun. You can do that too.

Equally, it’s ok to not enjoy it, think its not worth the stress and hassle and support the community in a different way but at least give it a go

You will be nervous

quote-joan-jett-you-want-to-have-butterflies-in-your-185899

I shared a train across Germany with someone who had attended the PSMonday conference in Munich and they were astonished when I¬†said that I get very nervous before speaking. It’s ok to be nervous, the trick is to make use of that nervous energy and turn it into something positive.

I get very nervous before presentations. My hands shake, I sweat, I either babble or loose my voice. I fret and fidget and check everything a thousandillion times. I find it is better for me if I am sat in the room during the previous presentation as that generally helps me to feel more relaxed as I can listen to their talk and also out of respect for the presenter and the organisation it forces me to sit quietly.

You will find your own way to deal with this, maybe listening to music on headphones or just sitting quietly somewhere. Don’t worry if it is not immediately obvious, try some different¬†things, talk with others and believe me, it will be ok.

Don’t try to numb it with alcohol

Once I get up and its ‘my’ turn I take a few deep breaths and suddenly presenter turns on and I forget all about being nervous.

173101-everything-you-want-is-on-the-other-side-of-fear

Something to talk about

I have nothing to talk about.

Or everyone else knows more than I do.

Or X Y and Z talk about this much better than I do.

I’m scared

Richard Munn and I gave an impromptu session at SQL Relay in Cardiff where we talked about and hopefully encouraged people to start speaking and these statements came up.

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Heres (a little of) what we said

No-one knows everything. Many people know a hell of a lot but not everything. You know a lot more than you realise and you also know things that no-one else does.

If you are stuck for things to talk about think about the you of 6 months or a year ago and something that you have learnt in that time and write the session that you wish you could have seen then. There will be other people at a similar stage who will appreciate it.

Don’t be scared, they are only people.

Practice

My dog is the one person who has been present at my presentations the most. He has listened (sometimes intently) to me practicing.

You need to practice speaking out loud.

You need to understand the timings

You need to be comfortable with hearing yourself speaking out aloud

You need to practice speaking out loud

A double reminder because I think it is important. You should practice and practice and practice with an eye on your timings and if you have a good friend who is technical or a small group at work for a lunchtime maybe then ask them if they will listen and give feedback.

Wanna chat?

I am very passionate about community involvement and lucky enough to be involved in two fantastic communities – the SQL community and the PowerShell community and have made some great friends along the way. I was amazed and proud when very soon after my second presentation someone told me that I had inspired them to start to present.

Since then I have gone out of my way to encourage other people to speak and to blog and am really enjoying watching them blossom. If you want to have a chat via email or via slack about speaking or blogging or getting involved in the community please feel free to contact me and I promise you I will get back to you. Better still go to the SQL Community Slack and ask questions in #presentingorspeaking

Go find out more

We are good at sharing and learning technical content but we can share and learn about so much more, about all aspects of our life. Go and read all of the other posts in this T-SQL Tuesday for starters ūüôā and develop

PSConfAsia 2016

I have just got back to the UK from Singapore following the amazing PSConfAsia conference. I must say that Matt, Milton, Sebastian and Ben did a fantastic job organising this conference and were proud that there was a notable increase in attendees from last year.

sebastians-photo

 

The conference began (unofficially) with a PowerShell User group session in the Microsoft Offices on Wednesday where Ravi Chaganti spoke about DSC

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and then Desmond Lee lead a Q and A session. In the end we decided that all the answers were

It Depends and Test in your Environment

That evening, I even managed to jump on the PASS PowerShell Virtual Chapter session by Scott Sutherland Hacking SQL Servers on Scale using PowerShell the recording of which is here  A session organised and managed online in three different time zones by Aaron Chrissy and myself :-).

On Thursday the conference proper started with a pre-con day at the Amazon Web Services office. Yes, you read that right. This conference really highlighted the cross-platform¬†direction¬†and adoption of open-source that Microsoft is taking.¬†¬†Jason Yoder spent all day teaching a group “PowerShell for Beginners” in one room

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while The Amazon Web Services Team showed DevOps on AWS with PowerShell in the morning and June Blender gave a SAPIEN Toolmaking Seminar.fter this we went back to the Microsoft Offices for another User Group where Jason Yoder gave a (nother) session with Jaap Brasser on PowerShell Tips and Tricks (Demo)

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Friday started with The PowerShell Team represented by Kenneth Hansen & Angel Calvo talking about PowerShell Past, Present and Future. It was really good that there was such great access to the product team at the conference and I saw lots of interaction around the conference as well, in addition to the sessions they provided.

Next up for me was another session from the PowerShell Team, this time Hemant Mahawar & Jason Shirk taking us on a Journey Through the Ages of PowerShell Security

Execution Policy is not a security feature

That took us to lunch, we were treated to excellent lunches at this conference

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After lunch I sat in the PowerShell Teams Ask Us Anything session although I was mainly preparing for my own session Powershell Profile Prepares Perfect Production Purlieu which followed. There were excellent sessions on JEA, Nano Server, Chef and DSC, Containers, ETS and securing PowerShell against malware whilst I attended Flynn Bundy’s session about Windows Containers and Building GUIs with XAML with David Das Neves

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That evening, organisers, speakers and attendees all went to the Penny Black pub on Marina Bay and enjoyed some food, refreshments and networking

Saturday started slowly after the rain (another impressive ‘feature’ of Singapore)¬† but the first session was a brilliant one with Hemant Mahawar & Jason Shirk talking Pragmatic PowerShell and answering questions. I am glad Jason used Carnac¬†to show what he was typing so that people could (just about¬†ūüôā ) keep up. I then attended the excellent session about contribution with Microsoft.

The rest of the day had amazing sessions on Azure Automation, IoT, AWS Cloud Formation, Centralised Repository Server, Chef, Puppet, Professional Help, Nano Server, Docker, DSC, Release Pipeline and of course some bearded fella talking about Installing SQL Scripts and creating Pester Tests for them and combining PowerShell, SQL, SSRS, PowerBi and Cortana ūüôā

Jason Yoder's photo.jpg

My takeaways from the conference were that Microsoft is very open to all members of the open source community, DevOps is a very important topic and also the following points from the PowerShell team

PowerShell Team want YOU to contribute.
Interact with them
File bugs
Feature Requests
Documentation
Tests
Code

and

Fixing is better than complaining ūüôā @HemanMahawar #psconfasia You can help fix the documentation. Use the contribute button on the doc

and

If you are thinking of starting or run a PowerShell usergroup Microsoft would like help. Tag 1 of the team such as @ANGELCALVOS #psconfasia

Special thanks and congratulations must go to Matt, Milton, Sebastian and Ben for their excellent organisation and for creating an awesome event. I am looking forward to seeing how they can better it next year and also hoping that seeing all the fabulous speakers and sessions will inspire some attendees from this years event to share their own knowledge and experience at local user groups and even next years conference.

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 ūüôā¬† 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!

 

 

 

Speaking at PowerShell Virtual Chapter and SQL Cardiff User Group this month

Just a quick post to say that I will be speaking at the PowerShell Virtual Chapter meeting this Thursday at 4pm GMT 12pm EDT and also at the Cardiff SQL User Group on Tuesday 31st March

I will be giving my Making Powershell Useful for your Team presentation

You have heard about PowerShell and may be spent a little bit of time exploring some of the ways in which it will benefit you at work. You want to be able to perform tasks more specific to your organisation and need to share them with your team. I will show you how you can achieve this by demonstrating

  • An easy way to learn the syntax
  • How to explore SQL Server with Powershell
  • How to turn your one off scripts into shareable functions
  • How to ensure that your team can easily and quickly make use of and contribute to PowerShell solutions
  • Where else to go for help

You can find out more about the Virtual Chapter here

http://powershell.sqlpass.org/ 

and the Cardiff meeting here

http://www.meetup.com/Cardiff-SQL-Server-User-Group/events/219492623/ 

The Cardiff meeting has been named The Battle Of The Beards as it features Tobiasz Koprowski: talking about Windows Azure SQL Database РTips and Tricks for beginners and Terry McCann with SSRS Inception. I will be giving the same presentation as at the Virtual Chapter

I hope to see you at one or both sessions