Critiquing myself: My SQL Cambs user group talk

I love to learn and I love to improve. It strikes me that this is one of the key principles behind the drive towards the iterative, lean, agile, [other buzzwords], frequent releases that are symptomatic of continuous delivery. People want to try something, get feedback, iterate, get more feedback, improve, slay the dragon, iterate, get the girl (or guy), iterate, become the next Silicon Valley billionaire before they’re thirty etc.

I’m not bidding to be the next Silicon Valley billionaire – but I would like to be a better public speaker. I kind of fell into speaking by accident at Pipeline in the spring and with the support and encouragement of various wonderful people at Red Gate, in the SQL PASS community and in the London Continuous Delivery community I have ended up with quite list of sessions lined up at various UK user groups and larger events (thanks in a big way to SQL Relay). I’ve even got some sessions lined up in the US.

So I prepared the bare bones of a talk and presented it to an audience of about 50 at the London PASS SQL Server user group last month. I then refined it a little and gave it at a smaller group a couple of weeks ago at the SQL Cambs user group. That session was recorded:

Now it’s time to iterate again. I already have some thoughts on this of my own:

  1. Don’t start with such a pathetic opening! Be confident and welcoming rather than apologetic.
  2. Do more rehearsals. I stumble and stutter over my words too much. I need to appear more polished.
  3. Cut out many slides. There are far too many slides in this talk. I have to race to get through them all. Also, I’m not sure the large amount of time I spent on the Toyota slide was necessary.
  4. The message of ‘focus on your constraint’ is contradicting the message around the four stages. Pick one or the other. My vote is to keep the four stages as it is more aligned with exactly how to put the theory into practice.
  5. Manage my time better. Prepare a short and a long version of the demo in advance so that if I do run over I can switch to the short version of the demo. Have pre-defined milestones so that 1/2 way through I have a better idea if I am ahead or behind schedule. (Also, rehearse more and cut slides so that I don’t run over in the first place!)

But to me, this stuff is obvious. I can spend some time tweaking slides and rehearsing. That’s the easy bit. The crucial stuff about frequent iterations is the user feedback. I’m very grateful to @matt40k who has already given me a great starting point after attending the SQL Cambs talk. He said some nice things but, despite his kind words, reading between the lines, I’m personally afraid that I was too sales-y. This brings me to an interesting point:

My really big question

I work for Red Gate. I make no apology for this. Thanks to my day job I have a lot of experience setting up continuous delivery solutions within many different contexts using many products (source control tools, CI servers, release management tools etc). Some of these tools are open source (SVN, Git, Jenkins, tSQLt etc), some are Microsoft tools (TFS, VS Database Projects etc), some are Red Gate products (SQL Compare, SQL Source Control, SQL Automation Pack) and some are products by other third party vendors (Perforce, TeamCity, Bamboo, Octopus Deploy etc).

How do you get the balance right between demonstrating how to do the cool Database Continuous Delivery stuff that I am so passionate about using many tools, including (but not exclusively) Red Gate tools, and avoiding coming off like a Red Gate sales guy. It is easy for me to get advice from people at Red Gate – but I’m pretty sure that advice is biassed! I want advice from people who don’t work for Red Gate. And that means you.

I want your feedback!

I also want any other presenting tips. What are the other bits and pieces that I haven’t thought of? What should I think about that I am not currently thinking about? What do you think of the content? Whether you are an experienced speaker or whether you prefer to watch others, I really would value anything that you might wish to share. Thankfully, talks are somewhat easier to change than legacy SQL Server databases so I anticipate several pivots before I deliver this talk again!

Thank you in advance.

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