This month's #tsql2sday is being hosted by Andy Yun (b|t) and is about helping new speakers.

I have only been speaking a couple years so I still consider myself a new speaker. I have given a number of presentations for my Toastmasters club. I've spoken at my local PASS chapter meeting. I've spoken at 3 SQL Saturday events (Rochester once and Albany twice), with more planned for 2017. I've also presented for the PowerShell Virtual Chapter. So I'm not brand new, but I don't have what I would consider a ton of experience doing this. What I do know is that speaking is something I enjoy.

I was inspired to speak after attending PASS Summit 2013. Watching all of the speakers talk about their passion made me realize that I also had something to share. This was my "aha" moment! Standing up in front of a group of people and talking used to terrify me, but it has quickly become one of the most rewarding experiences of my career. If you've been toying with the idea of speaking I encourage you to give it a try!

First Presentation Tips

  • Pick a very familiar topic. The first and sometimes most difficult thing to do is choose what you're going to talk about. Pick a topic that is second nature to you. Just because it's simple to you does not mean that it is simple for someone else. This will give you a good level of confidence for your presentation.

  • Define your audience. Who are you writing this presentation for (beginner, intermediate, advanced, management)? For technical presentations this will help you decide how deep to go into your topic.

  • Set the goal(s) of your presentation. What do you want the audience to learn? The more specific you can be here the better IMHO. Being specific has helped keep me focused when I am developing slides and/or demos. When I've left my goals vague I've found I tend to drift off and create a lot of rework for myself.

  • Writing the presentation. This is 4th on the list for good reason. I feel it is very important to define your audience and set your goals before you begin working on slides or demos. Knowing your audience and setting your goals will help keep you focused and on task.

  • Tell a story. Figuring how your presentation should flow can be challenging and don't be surprised if you end up reorganizing things a hundred times before you are done. Stories can help you figure out the correct flow and organization of your presentation.

  • Practice, practice, practice, and then practice again. Once you've written your slides and written your demos, you have to practice. It'll help you gauge the timing and ensure that your presentation fits in the assigned time window. I also like to record my practice sessions to see where I need to improve. Hearing myself speak has helped me uncover a number of "what they hell am I trying to say" moments in my presentations before anyone else had to suffer through them. I can't stress the importance of practicing your presentations enough.

Other tips

  • Get a notebook. You know, the kind you write in with a pen or pencil? That kind. Keep it with you and write down new ideas, notes on existing ideas, or anything that might help you write your presentation.

  • Join Toastmasters. Toastmasters was made to help people with public speaking. It gives you the opportunity to speak in front of a captive audience and also receive constructive feedback from your fellow club members. It's a safe environment to practice speaking! Totaly worth it if it's available to you. Search for a local club!

So those are a few points that me as a new speaker like to think about when I'm writing a presentation. If you're on the fence and think you'd like to give it a try, please do! As I said before it's been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career. I hope to see you on stage some day!