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Presentation Train Wreck

This year, I have started a program at work that I like to call Lunch-N-Learn. It’s a monthly, one-hour presentation on one or more topics involving SQL Server. I give these talks to my development team because they have expressed a desire to increase their knowledge of SQL Server. This past Monday was the February edition.

I feel that my PowerPoint presentation went well. They all seemed engaged and surprised by some of the information I was providing them. As you can imagine, my confidence grew. Then it came time for the demo. I imagine as you’re reading this you’re thinking, “I bet that’s when it all fell apart,” and you’re right.

You see, the meeting room that I presented in was all new to me, and I didn’t have a chance to practice in that particular room before the presentation because the meeting before finished late. As I took my position behind my computer and began to use my mouse, it became very clear that my mouse was not working. I don’t like using the touch pad of my laptop, but “the show must go on,” so I started the demo. It was immediately apparent, at least to me, that I was struggling, so I became a little flustered. Then when I received an error message on a section of my demo script, I jumped to full-blown flustered. Sweat began to bead on my forehead, and the room was suddenly a raging furnace.

It was at that moment that I thought about a blog post by Brent Ozar I read the previous week–When Good Presentation Demos Go Bad–and I remembered the line, “When demos fail, the crowd is laughing with you, or at you. It’s your call, so laugh with them.” Only, at the moment, no one was laughing…no one was talking… and I was losing attention to cell phones below the table. I was beginning to panic, and in a knee-jerk reaction, I began making changes to my script. Ugh! Bad move! I had to troubleshoot and lost my audience. After I finally got my script working, I limped through the rest of my demo, but the damage was done.

My presentation was a train wreck! I learned a lot through the experience, though. I learned, and later remembered Brent mentioning in his post, that I should take screen shots of my demos and have them as backup in the event the demo goes awry. I also learned to practice in the room where I will be presenting if possible, and if it’s not possible, then I should take the extra time to test all of my equipment before I begin.

As bad as this presentation went, and it probably went worse in my head than in reality, I still had a good time. I look forward to my next Lunch-N-Learn presentation and possibly progressing to presenting at a local users’ group.

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