Last week I spoke remotely for the Sioux Falls SQL User Group. Adam Hafner had approached me several years ago about speaking at their SQL Saturday event. As much as I was interested, I just couldn’t fit it into my schedule at the time.
More recently he approached me again about speaking, this time at their user group meeting. I hesitated at first, but finally agreed. My hesitation had nothing to do with the group itself, but because I had not spoken in awhile and am still suffering from a bit of what I consider burn-out from Covid and had two less than stellar experiences speaking remotely.
As a User Group Leader, I’m often in the in the position of trying to find speakers and I know how much work that can be at times. And as I’ve noted in the past, I like to give back to the #SQLFamily community that has given me so much. So I said ultimately yes.
I have a variety of topics I can speak on (my favorite though is still my talk about Plane Crashes and IT) and when I’m in a regular rhythm of talking, I can probably give almost any of them on short notice and with little practice. That said, ideally I will run through any of my talks at least once in full again before I present it in front of people. This helps me with pacing, remembering what slides come when, ensuring I don’t forget points I want to cover, and equally important, not straying too far off topic. If the talk requires demos, I DEFINITELY want to run through it at least once or twice before I present.
In this case, since I think I had only presented a SQL talk twice since PASS Summit last year and it was even longer since I gave this talk (A Dive into System Databases), and this one is particularly demo heavy, so I definitely wanted to practice. And it was frankly a damn good thing I did. One demo didn’t work at all. I realized after 30 minutes of struggling with it, that it had never worked and I had simply forgotten that. (Though the comment at the top of the code Do Not Demo might have been a clue to me I should have heeded. I just couldn’t remember why I had written that). Another demo quite honestly, didn’t work nearly as well as I would have liked, in part I believe because I had written the demo for SQL Server 2014 or 2016 and was now running that machine on 2017. I didn’t have time to rewrite the demo, but I did have time to revise my comments and put the issues into context.
The other demos ran according to plan, but being able to run through them again helped me group my thoughts and comments so I could present them more effectively.
Ideally I would have had one more chance to run through my entire talk before I presented it, but I just didn’t have the time. I’ll admit it was not my best effort, sorry Sioux Falls folks, but it wasn’t one I am ashamed of either. And it was far better than if I had not run through it at all.
One of the issues with giving a remote talk is you don’t get nearly as much feedback from the audience. That can also be discouraging. And I won’t shame any particular user group, but there was a group I presented to remotely in the last year where it went quite honestly from my ending it with “Any Questions?” and getting none to having the organizer within seconds basically saying, “Thanks Greg. Ok folks, meeting is over” and closing the session. The lack of any feedback, positive or negative was really discouraging (hint to organizers of remote sessions, don’t do that.)
In this case I had several questions and we chatted briefly afterwards before the session ended. I also ended up with at least 2 additional followers on Twitter. I’ll take that as a good sign.
I think as the time of Covid is hopefully ending I’ll be looking at speaking more and more. I still prefer in person (and have one scheduled next year for the Hampton Roads SQL User Group) but will probably still do a few more remote ones.
Writing this, I realized I had ignore an interview I recently did with an old college friend and a partner of hers. It’s not a presentation, so didn’t come to mind when I was writing the words above. The interview was about an hour, but they managed to break it up into 2 different videos, with some overlap.