Tag Archives: Speaking

Presenting: Presentation Mode!

As a presenter at events I am constantly trying to improve the experience of showing information in slides and transitioning back and forth to demos.

ZoomIt: An OK solution for a bad problem?

The most jarring aspect of this is making sure that demo code is visible to the audience. The fantastic ZoomIt allows a presenter to (surprise, surprise) zoom into portions of the screen and highlight/annotate code or information to the audience:

ZoomIt

First of all, the act of zooming can be disorienting to the audience. There is a flurry of zoom and scrolling activity to get to where you want to on the screen. After this, the actual presentation of the zoomed content usually works nicely enough. However, the zoom out must occur before moving back into the PowerPoint slide deck to continue with the next portion of the presentation.

This has been the only way to give a consistent and clear overview to an audience, particularly when SSMS was being used for demos. The issue revolves around the fact that although the T-SQL code editor window can resize fonts, the remainder of the SSMS interface is set in a single font type and size.

Many of you may have noticed that Microsoft made a key change in their deployment strategy with regards to SSMS when SQL Server 2016 was released. SSMS was decoupled from the core engine components and follows a much shorter release cycle. Since SQL Server 2016 was released to market in September, there have been at least 6 versions of SSMS released. This is fantastic, we now no longer have to wait for the next release of SQL Server (whether a full version or a service pack) for SSMS to get bug-fixes or feature additions.

This is now extremely important when we look at the issue around font sizes and types. Microsoft has paid attention and with their current Release Candidate (RC) for SSMS 17 they included a very important release note entry…..

Presentation Mode!

If we read the release notes, we see that there are three new tasks available via Quick Launch inside SSMS.

  • PresentEdit – This allows the fonts for presentation mode to be set
  • PresentOn – This turns on presentation mode
  • RestoreDefaultFonts – Reverts SSMS back to the default fonts after activating presentation mode

All three tasks are pretty easy to understand, although the final task highlights that a task to specifically turn off the presentation mode is currently missing (this is an RC after all).

The “Quick Launch” field can be found in the top right corner of SSMS 17.0 RC3 and begins searching as soon as we start to type in it:

Present

By choosing “PresentEdit” an xml file is opened in a new tab in SSMS, showing us the options that we can change to make SSMS look different when presentation mode is activated.

PresentEdit

We are presented with the option to choose font family and font size for both the text editor and, more importantly, for the environment in general (menus, object explorer etc.). This is where we can play around an find the fonts that work best in our presentations.

Using the values in my screenshot and launching PresentOn made a huge difference in font readability inside SSMS. The image below shows SSMS on the left in “standard” mode and in presentation mode on the right.

PresentOnSize

The difference is quite clear, all environment fonts are much larger and easier to read on during presentation mode. This is great for demoing SSMS during a presentation!

However, the biggest improvement is when we are querying data. In previous versions of SSMS the grid results were tiny when projected onto a wall. The only way to see the results were to either return the results as text (which has the downside of running off the right-side of the screen for larger result sets), or using ZoomIt and people getting motion sickness.

Now, with presentation mode on, the results grid is included in the font resizing:

PresentOnGridResultsSize

Praise be to the spaghetti monster! No more motion sickness required and attendees can concentrate their contempt at all the bullet points in the slide deck instead.

So if you are a presenter, or want to have more control over the fonts in SSMS, your wait is almost over…… or is over now if you are brave enough to install the RC of SSMS 17 🙂

Happy font-changing

My fifth (and simultaneously my first) PASS Summit

The PASS Summit is something special. It is the largest gathering of SQL Server aficionados on the planet. With attendance reported at over 4000 people each year, that is one biiig pile of SQL Server geeks!

As the PASS Summit is held in the USA, it is quite special to be able to attend for me (and many other non-US based people). I was lucky in having employers that were happy to send me on an all expenses trip to Seattle for the past few years (I skipped the Charlotte-based Summit to make sure my buddy and former co-worker @Fatherjack got to go). Attending has allowed me to learn plenty about SQL Server, but to also make some life-altering connections with people that I would probably never have otherwise met.

The first life-altering connections cajoled me into speaking at SQLSaturdays: my good friends André Kamman, Mladen Prajdić and Marco Blasio. They convinced me over many beers and steaks that speaking was the next step on my journey. This culminated in my submitting my very first session to SQLSaturday Exeter 2013 entitled “Replication: What, How and Why“. While nerve-wracking, it was one of the best career moves I have ever made. Since then I have spoken at numerous SQLSaturdays and other events around Europe and met a ton of people. My speaking career hit a couple of high notes recently, I was a contestant in last year’s Speaker Idol at PASS Summit 2015 (losing in the finals to David Maxwell) and also delivering both a standard session as well as a pre-con at SQLBits XV.

However, back to the title of this post. This was both my fifth and also my first PASS Summit. It was my first, because it was the first time I have delivered a full-length session at PASS Summit. I had submitted session in previous years, but failed to be chosen for varying reasons.

This year was different! I received confirmation that one of my three submitted sessions had been chosen…… Replication: What, How and Why! To say I was surprised is an understatement. After multiple years of not being chosen, I had received a positive response. On top of that, the session that started my speaking career had been chosen. This was quite unexpected, although in previous years when PASS had surveyed attendees on what subjects they would like to see more of, Replication was regularly in the top ten.

So I dusted off the session and made some much needed updates to the flow of the session and attempted to make the content clearer. I was surprised to find that I was able to rattle off the outline of the session pretty much from memory when practicing at home. The tweaks I made allowed me to run a full 75 minutes instead of a “normal” 60 like at most events.

I was assigned an afternoon session slot on the Thursday of PASS Summit. This means I would be in the middle of the conference, straight after lunch. Going by past experience at other events, this means that pretty much all attendees are still around (unlike Friday afternoon sessions, where many take an afternoon flight home), but as it is after lunch, some people struggle to stay awake! With that in mind, I tried to keep the audience engaged with questions and interaction. This is a great way of making sure that wandering minds are re-engaged and gives me something to focus my nervous energy on.

When I stepped into the session room I was more nervous than usual – the sessions are recorded and the room looked like it had seating for about 300 people! This is larger than most events and I assumed the room would be mostly empty. Replication is a niche subject/feature and I have had between 20 and 50 attendees in this session at other events. You can imagine my surprise when I saw about 60 people already in the room. I immediately took some photo evidence Smile

OMG_1OMG_2

Please bear in mind that this was 20 minutes before my session should start, so I made sure that my title slide was visible to the entire room.

replication

This didn’t scare anyone off, on the contrary, the room continued to fill. I was officially shocked/concerned and took more photos to prove to myself after the session, that I wasn’t dreaming. I went out of the main entrance to check that the signage for the room was right (it was) and the room attendant told me she had counted 220 people into the room with 5 minutes before kick-of!

ZOMG1ZOMG2

I proceeded to deliver the session to a packed room, only a few seats remained empty with a number of people standing at the back of the room too. The session went great, with some fantastic questions from the audience – directing my explanations deeper where possible and ensuring people took the information they needed. I ended my session on time and fielded questions from about 20-30 people at the edge of the stage and then in the hallway afterwards. There are a lot of people using replication in ways that neither I nor (I’m sure) Microsoft had ever dreamed of. It was also great to hear that the SQLClinic, run by Microsoft, had a chalk-talk about replication and there were mentions of replication potentially receiving some more attention by the dev team in Redmond (about time if you ask me!).

The next few hours after my session were a blur of adrenaline. Even a week later, it is hard to believe that my first session at PASS could go so well (as far as I could assess). Now I need to wait for the session feedback and see what I can do to improve. According to some of my attendees, a deeper dive or extended session on replication is something for me to think about submitting next year.

All in all I can say that my fifth PASS Summit was great fun – I saw some new things, met some new people and enjoyed Seattle (again).

As for my first PASS Summit: fantastic. I never expected this “old” session to be such fun to present, or to be so well attended. I look forward to next year to see if I will be able to present a new session.

PS: If you attended my session, please fill in the feedback (or write a comment here). That is what helps me to improve my sessions and my presenting in general.

Thanks for reading and see you around.

Your presentation design matters more than you think

….. So give the design the attention it deserves!

I have been speaking/presenting at events around Europe for a few years now and have learned a lot about the art of speaking: Repeating questions back to the audience, surpressing “um” and “err” sounds, making eye contact with the audience etc. These are all well communicated best-practices across all industries when it comes to presenting information to both small and large audiences.

Something that is less written and talked about is the style or design of the supporting content.

Many people think of a presentation and the dreaded

  • Death
  • by
  • Bulletpoint
  • presentation

We’ve all been in one of those presentations before, unfortunately this happens more often than it should. The most regular (ab)users of this presentation method are our bosses/managers, who may be great managers but can be the worst presenters out there! Basically throwing up walls of text in PowerPoint and reading the words back to the audience.

After initially falling into this trap (though not quite as text-book fail as just outlined), I have tried to change my presentation style to engage the audience more and use PowerPoint for what it should be used; a support tool for the ideas I am trying to communicate, rather than a display for the content itself. The idea being, the viewer should see the slide and listen to me speaking and merge the two sources of input into their own understanding of the topic. When the audience member reviews the slides at a later date, they should be able to recall the topic and their ideas and continue to benefit from the session.

While trying out these ideas, I have searched online for inspiration and spoke with friends/colleagues about how they approach their presentations. This included some great discussions with Boris Hristov ( b | t ) and Cathrine Wilhelmsen ( b | t ) at the SQLKonferenz 2015 in Darmstadt, Germany. They gave me some ideas to help simplify my slide content and generally improve my presentations and make them more useful for the audience.

After these discussions, Boris obviously saw an opportunity to explore the area of presentation design as a service (I claim the trademark on PDaaS!). If you have ever seen Boris present, you will agree with me that Boris is the perfect person to tackle this idea. His presentations are so clear and to the point, that it seems obvious that he should offer his skills to people and companies that want to stand out from the crowd when presenting. He has proved this with his excellent Pluralsight course on the topic of presentation design.

Boris’ new venture is called 356labs and is focused purely on designing top-notch presentations and training people in presentation design, so that they can produce their own high quality content. Go and take a look at the portfolio page and you will see what I’m talking about. Boris has an eye for presentation design, which takes some complex topics and provides simplistic supporting slides that allow the viewer to concentrate on the topic at hand. So if you are looking for mentoring or training on presentation skills, be sure that 356labs with its top rated international speakers will be able to help you out.

I’m looking forward to what Boris has in store with 356labs and am sure that a lot of people will benefit from the service and advice he has to offer.

Good luck Boris!

SQLSaturday Exeter – Third time a charm!

sqlsat372_web

SQLSaturday Exeter

SQLSaturday Exeter 2015 – I’m there!

I have the great pleasure of announcing that I will be presenting at SQLSaturday Exeter 2015 in April 2015.

SQLSaturday Exeter is an extra special event for me. Not only is it a fantastically well run event, it is also the first conference that I ever presented at, way back in 2013. I had never spoken to a larger audience before and was a little nervous of speaking. However, once my session was over, I had found a new area for me to improve on and now love presenting on SQL Server. Since then, I have spoken at a variety of conferences and user groups around Europe and (hopefully) improved my presentation skills.

This time around, I have been asked to present a new topic: “Stories from the Trenches: Upgrading SQL with Minimal Downtime“, where I plan on showing how to use the high availability features of SQL Server to help perform upgrades whilst keeping downtime to a minimum.

But wait, there’s more!

As is the tradition of the organisers of SQLSaturday Exeter, they like to mix things up a bit and also try new speakers out (hence my chance back in 2013). This has lead them to also choose me to present a pre-conference training day session!

Check out the full list of speakers/sessions in this video created by the SQLSaturday Exeter team:

 

Being chosen for a pre-conference training day is another first for me and I am excited/scared/humbled/ecstatic to have been chosen to do this – many thanks to the SQLSaturday Exeter organisers, you brave fools!! 🙂

I will be presenting “SQL Server: An Introduction” and as the title suggests, this will be an introductory day, covering a set of basic information on SQL server. It is designed for accidental/occasional DBAs that have been using SQL Server for <12 months.

You can find a full description/abstract for my training day here: SQL Server: An Introduction

The training days are full day training sessions on one topic, priced at £150 per attendee (early bird rate).

The full list of available sessions is here: SQLSaturday Exeter Training Day – if you don’t fancy my session, there are 7 other sessions to choose from. I dare you to not find a session that could be useful to you! 🙂

See you in April!

I’m off to prepare my sessions and look forward to seeing you in Exeter in April.

SQLHangout #28: From DBA To Consultant

As usual, work/life got in the way, so I’m a little late blogging about this, but:

I recently had the pleasure of re-joining Boris Hristov (b | t) for one of his SQLHangouts together with Matan Yungman (b | t). We spoke for about half an hour on our experiences in moving from DBA work to Consulting.

All three of us made the move to consulting in the last year and we had a great time comparing notes on how our daily work has changed. There are some topics that surprised us all and some that we are seeing from the other side of the table.

Take a look at our episode and also check out the other Hangouts that Boris has hosted, there are some really interesting topics from a wide range of SQL Server professionals.

Speaking at SQLKonferenz, Darmstadt

sqlkonferenz_banner

Jump to English Version

Ich spreche auf das größte SQL Server Konferenz im deutschsprachigem Raum, SQL Konferenz in Darmstadt in Februar!

Obwohl ich seit 13 Jahren in Deutschland lebe ist das nur das zweite Mal, dass ich als Sprecher in Deutschland auftrete. Ich kann zwar Deutsch (fast) fließend sprechen, bin dennoch mehr aufgeregt als wenn ich auf Englisch vortragen muss.

Meine Session heißt “Real World SQL 2012 -> SQL 2014: Migration einer AlwaysOn FCI/AAG Umgebung” und soll anhand eines Kundenprojektes, die tatsächlichen Überlegungen, Schritte und Stolpersteine aufführen, die zu einer Systemmigration gehören.

SQL Konferenz ist ein Konferenz über zwei Tage mit einem “Pre-Conference” Tag davor, wo einzelnen Themen etwas tiefer erläutert werden können. Schaut einfach in die Agenda rein um alle Sessions zu sehen. Es sind wirklich erfahrene und sehr gute Deutsche wie auch internationale Sprecher angemeldet.

Zudem, gibt es ein “Early Bird” Rabatt. Damit kann man €150 sparen wenn man sich bis Heiligabend anmgeldet, also schenkt euch ein frühes Weihnachtsgeschenk und registriert euch heute!

Wir sehen uns dann in Darmstadt in Februar 🙂


English Version

I have been chosen to speak at the largest SQL Server conference in the German speaking world, SQL Konferenz!

Although I have been in Germany for 13 years now, this is only the second time that I have had the opportunity to speak at a conference here. It is also the first time that I have been listed to speak in German (eek)!! I am fluent in German, using it on a daily basis, but this is still making me more nervous than speaking in English.

I will be presenting a new session this time, based on a real customer implementation of a system migration/upgrade from SQL 2012 to SQL 2014, including the addition of AlwaysOn Availability Groups. I thought it would be nice to offer a look at how a real-world project of this kind has actually been done, rather than sticking to the theory.

SQL Konferenz is a two-day conference with an additional pre-conference day with deep-dive, day-long sessions on a few different subjects. Check out the agenda to see what sessions are on offer – there are 40 sessions on the two conference days, with plenty of extremely good national and international speakers.

Also, there is an “Early Bird” offer available which can save you €150 on the standard registration price. This offer is only available until Christmas Eve, so go and treat yourself to an early Christmas present and register now!

So if you are planning your training for next year and would like to visit Germany, combine the two and come and visit SQL Konferenz.

Wir sehen uns dort 🙂

Speaking at SQLSaturday 356 Slovenia

SQLSat Slovenia

I have been selected to speak at one of my favourite SQLSaturdays – in Ljubljana. I will be presenting my session “Replication: What, How, Why” which I have presented before at a few other events.

As I understand it, the event is actually full up. This means two things:

  1. You are registered and will be attending: Yay for you, please make sure you do attend. If you can’t attend, please make sure to de-register so that other people may have the chance to attend instead.
  2. You are not registered and would like to come: Put your name on the waiting list and hope that you can attend.

I’m really looking forward to coming to Ljubljana again, it is one of my favourite cities and is especially beautiful in the winter.

If you can make it to SQLSaturday Slovenia, come and say “Hi”. I’ll only be on a flying visit, landing in Slovenia on Saturday and leaving again on Sunday, but I intend to enjoy myself for the brief time I’m there.

See you in 9 days!