At SQLBits 2018, I presented my Level Up Your Biml: Best Practices and Coding Techniques session, and the session recording is now available! :) You can also view the entire slide deck (including lots of slides I didn’t show during the session itself) on my SlideShare, and download my Biml Demos so you can dig into my code examples.
Level Up Your Biml: Best Practices and Coding Techniques Session Recording
Watch the video on the SQLBits Website:
What did I learn and how can I improve?
In a previous post about presenting webinars, I recommended that everyone should do a few things afterward: watch the recording and take notes about what you can improve, and write about it.
The same goes for session recordings. My sessions are rarely recorded, especially not with video of me (eeeeek!), so I decided to take this opportunity to learn more about how I deliver sessions in-person. By sharing my thoughts, I hope to improve my own skills and maybe even help a few others so they can pick up a few tricks and not make the same mistakes as me.
And if you’re wondering, yes, it still feels extremely awkward watching and listening to my own session recording :D
Rehearse your introduction
Here’s a little secret: I did. Many times. I even rehearsed in front of mirrors. My whole introduction was planned. I would tell everyone that this year’s SQLBits theme is magic. Because I’m a dork, I obviously had to buy props with my costume. So I ordered a wand. And not just a regular wand, but a wand that blinked and played a little pling plong pling magic sound when you pressed a button. When I ordered it I thought it would be fun to use it with my remote presenter so it looked like I used the wand to advance my slides… until I received the wand and realized how awful that sound was. I would show everyone the wand and play the sound while telling them that I wouldn’t want to annoy them that much.
You know, a fun little way to start a session. Break the ice. So why didn’t I do that? If you watch the recording, you might notice that I sound nervous when I start talking. My pitch is high. I mess up a couple of sentences. It was not the introduction I had rehearsed.
Remember all your dongles and devices
Well, what happened is that I made a big mistake. I walked into my session room 15 minutes early, all prepared. Only then did I realize that my big bag of dongles and devices was missing one crucial item: my Mini DisplayPort to HDMI adapter. I had the Mini DisplayPort to VGI adapter, and both the HDMI and VGI adapters for my Surface Pro 3, but they don’t fit my Surface Pro 4. The HDMI one I needed? Not there. I lent it to another speaker the day before (yay for helping others!), but somehow managed to leave it in my hotel room instead of putting it back in my bag. I had planned to spend the 15 minutes getting ready, taking deep breaths, and going through my checklist. Instead, I ended up frantically running around trying to find someone with the right adapter. Just a few minutes before my session was about to start, my wonderful room monitor Richard Munn (@sql_unicorn) saved my day with the most beautiful spaghetti I have ever seen :)
Richard saved my day in the end, but the stress of feeling stupid for forgetting something so important as my adapter threw me off. Once I started presenting, I realized that I had left my wand on the podium. Instead of getting it, my brain went “just keep going, these people are waiting”. So I winged it. And messed up a few things.
But hey, my introduction wasn’t horrible. It just wasn’t what I had rehearsed. It took a few minutes to get back into my rhythm.
So remember to rehearse – and then remember to bring all your devices and dongles :)
Practice and reduce unnecessary gesturing
I look up and point at my slides too often. Why? Because a lot of the time I couldn’t see my computer screen. I was supposed to stand on the podium, but because I’m very short, it felt like I was hiding behind it. I made a decision to stand on the floor instead. While I do know my slide deck and content, I kept looking up to ensure that I was talking about the right thing, instead of just glancing down or to the side – like I would have done if I could see my screen.
Because I started out by gesturing a lot, I kept doing it even after walking back to the podium. To be completely honest, I never realized how much I talk with my hands until the first time I saw a recording of myself. Talking with my hands feels natural, so I will never be able to present with my hands in my pocket. However, I do need to be aware of this fact so I can practice emphasizing the things I say, instead of just waving my arms around like floppy bunny hands and distracting the attendees.
This time, I consider myself lucky. My gesturing worked out pretty well in the recording – for one reason: The video of me is on the lower left side of the video of my screen, just like I was standing on the lower left side of the screen in the room while presenting. Imagine if the video layout was different. I would have been pointing off the screen throughout the recording. This is obviously not something you need to worry about if you’re not being recorded, but it’s something to keep in mind if you want to speak at SQLBits :)
Practice mirrored gesturing
In addition to reducing unnecessary gesturing, I recommend practicing mirrored gesturing. Let me explain with an example. If you talk about something moving from left to right, it’s natural to move your hand from your left to right. However, everyone in the audience will see you moving your hand from their right to left. It interrupts the attendees’ brains with a “hang on, something’s not right…” instead of enhancing and supporting what you’re saying.
Changing these gestures takes a lot of practice. I get it wrong a few times, but because I practiced it while talking about tiered Biml files, I fortunately got it the right way around in this session recording. Woop woop!
Some final advice
Things will distract you. You will forget something important and facepalm when you realize it later. If you’re speaking in a foreign language, like I usually do, you will most likely trip over sentences and get words wrong. There are always things you can do better. It’s ok. Watch your session recording. Learn from your mistakes. Make a conscious effort to improve. Most of all, just keep going. Finally, recognize all the things that went well and that you’re happy with, and give yourself a pat on the back. Because after all, you were brave enough to step up and speak in front of a room full of strangers. That’s a big achievement. Be proud of it :)