Tips for speaking at a SharePoint Saturday Event!


So I am doing a bunch of speaking engagements this month.  Keep them coming.  This week I have two.  Tuesday at Mentor Graphics they are having a Microsoft Day which is a employee learning day.  I am covering some fun topics in SharePoint.  Then this Saturday the 22nd I have 3 sessions at the Redmond SharePoint Saturday.  So let’s talk about what makes a successful talk.

Speaking at SharePoint Intelligence Conference

  1. Keep the material fresh

    1. I have seen many presenters do the same deck over and over,,,,and over.  Seriously I get that this topic might be in your comfort zone, but change up the deck and information.  In business things change every second, it is very frustrating to see the same samples, and use cases.
    2. If you use the same company examples and use cases this makes the audience think….”well this guy is no longer in the field, he is showing the same stuff from 2 years ago!”
  2. Humor…get it don’t be boring

    1. I have learned that humor is the best way to release the tension of a talk.  Now this is important…you are not a stand up comic, however using fun examples, or terminology is great.  Calling your folks Data Squirrels, or picking on the crazy sales guy, or the IT guy in a Spiderman Outfit are great examples everyone can connect with.
    2. If you are not able to come up with some humor, at least use examples that folks can identify with.  You know you have there attention when they smile, nod, write tips down.
  3. Death by Power Point

    1. Now I am a big fan of Power Point, but sometimes I see presenters bombard you with 50 slides of bullet points…..kill me now!
    2. Not saying don’t use Power Point, to the contrary do not be all demo and lab….people need info in an organized manner.  If you are doing a Dev session, you still need to tell them what they are going to do, and what we did.
    3. Mix up your content, add some graphics, small animations that show the process, embed a video, even embed the webpage to show the sample.
  4. Transitions and Animations

    1. Dear God do not try and make every slide an adventure in animation….unless you are Pixar we don’t need to experience Finding Nemo or 3D.
    2. Having simple transitions from slide to slide are acceptable, remember the animations you use should COMPLIMENT the material….not distract or annoy.
    3. Gif animations or in page videos.  Use these to convey a process, show the flow of information, or demonstrate a complex process you just cannot do in a speaking session.  I have seen folks use Camtasia to capture a process, the show it in a quick 2 minute video.
  5. Don’t fidget, pace, or dance in place

    1. Your body motions and movements say a many things about you.  From confidence to get this guy off the stage, you can kill a great topic.
    2. Pacing….so if you wear a path in the carpet during a demo your audience is going to forget the information trying to keep up with where you are.  Moving about the stage is OK, as you can engage with the folks all across the room.
    3. Fidgeting….finding a place to put your hands, or keeping your hands out of the pockets is a real challenge for folks…..tip….hold your remote, find stress ball to hold…etc….but do not play with it.  It provides a method of pointing, directing or moving your topic along.  Many folks find that having stuff to toss out to crowd gives them just the right distraction.
  6. Speaking pace

    1. DO NOT TALK FAST…….slow down.
    2. Trick to this…before you start to talk tap your foot at the pace you want to talk, then begin by introducing yourself at that pace.  This should carry you thru.
    3. Ask a person you know to sit in the front row, and have them be your pace keeper/time keeper.  They can signal you if you are going to fast.
  7. Watch TED events

    1. The TED events on youtube or the TED website are some of the best speakers you will see.  They are talking about a mix of topics, and can demostrate some the best examples of public speaking….watch, learn, do.
  8. Practice, Practice, Practice

    1. Yep, get up and do your sessions infront of your cat, your friends, the mirror, in your back yard.  The more you practice the better you will know your material.  This also allows you to answer questions…nice right.
  9. Be prepared you Boy scout

    1. Come with extra everything, extra mouse, batteries, USB sticks, backup presentations on a USB Drive, second laptop. even a alternate version of your presentation just incase you cannot do live demos.
    2. Remember the audience will not care if you had a laptop die, they came for the show.  It must go on.
  10. Demos are a risk

    1. So nearly everyone who does a demo is playing with fire.  Your environment in the conference is a big unknown.
    2. Offline your demo environment (local VM).
    3. Have slides of the demo just in case.
    4. Pre-record the demo so you can just play it back like a movie you are going to narrate.
    5. Have a friend drive while you talk…yes some folks just cannot type and talk…it is a talent.

Conclusion

Doing speaking events like a SharePoint Saturday or a local user group is a great way to grow your presentation skills and get you confortable with your peers.  It is not for everyone, and it can be very challenging to put yourself up there as an expert.  Remember you can always co-speak or do a panel at first to break into it.  Please consider a few of the points above next time you have to do a presentation, and all else fails drop me a line I will speak with you. Smile

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