I did four sessions at this past SQLbits – so how’d I do?
Watch Brent Tune Queries
The content of this session is as self-explanatory as it gets. I start with a handful of slides explaining my thought process when I approach a slow query, and then I go into SQL Server Management Studio, show a slow query, and gradually make it go faster.
The title alone breaks common conference rules – you’re not supposed to have your name in the abstract, for example – but I’m vain enough to think it makes sense here. If you like the title, you’re going to like the session, and the attendees did:
Woohoo! Kicked ass there. But you have to read between the lines – with the title, I’ve actually pushed some people OUT of the room. If people don’t like me and my presentation style, they won’t attend. I’m all about the raving fans philosophy – you don’t want to be the cheese pizza that vaguely appeals to everyone, but rather you want to be the incredible Chicago stuffed pizza that brings raving fans in time and again.
Here’s a few comments to help explain how the session works:
“Liked the presentation style and great to see depth of knowledge dealing with questions.”
Time management is one of the toughest things about presenting. In this particular session, I’ve solved it by building about 2 hours worth of material into one long demo script. I know which parts of the query tuning I can skip, and I know how to explain them faster or go into more detail. As a result, when people ask questions, I can jump into more details on them without worrying about finishing the session.
“Fantastic session – The delivery was engaging and interesting and it was obvious that a great deal of thought and effort had been put into the presentation.”
I wrote the first version of this in a day. I fired open a new SSMS, found a few slow queries on data.stackexchange.com, and just started tuning them, taking notes as I went. Since then, I’ve probably delivered it 15 times in front of user groups, training classes, and webcasts, and after each one, I go back and spend another few hours tweaking it. I’ve got probably 40 hours of work in it at this point, and it’s one of my favorite sessions. I’m positive it’s worth the effort because I’ll be giving this session for the rest of my presenting career. But that does have a drawback:
“This was one I’ve already watched on line. I was expecting may be something else.”
“I’d seen the demos before, and I would’ve loved to see new demos, or a variety in demos”
Totally fair – if you’ve watched “Watch Brent Tune Queries” and then you come to the session again, odds are you’re not going to see something different every time. (The 2015 version does indeed switch to different queries.) However, I’ll happily note those folks still gave me high ratings, heh.
“Brent is an amazing presenter. Probably the best I’ve ever seen.”
“Not only very informative but I’ve been to stand-up comedy not nearly as funny as this.”
On the day of a presentation, I sit in the session prior to mine in the same room. By watching someone else present in the same room, I learn how the room works, where I can stand so that the audience will see me clearly, where I can walk around, and how the sound works. Halfway through their session, I step through my own slides & demos again, remembering how the flow works, and becoming really confident.
When the other presenter finishes, I immediately go straight up to the podium and start setting up. I’m not pushy, but I do help the presenter get their equipment packed, making sure they don’t leave anything behind, and they can stand up front and take questions as long as they want to. However, I’ve gotta get my computer plugged in and get the projector working. Then I turn on a playlist with upbeat music I love – not loud enough for the whole room to hear, just loud enough for me to hear and get psyched up.
That preparation makes all the difference. I’m relaxed, I’m confident in my equipment, and I know my material. It’s way easier to be amazing and funny at that point.
How to Pick SQL Server Hardware
This was the first time I’d given this combination of material. This session was several 10-15 minute chunks taken from several of my other presentations, and I wasn’t sure how the flow was going to work.
Before the session started, I put a copy of my RPO and RTO Planning Worksheet on every chair in the room. One of my big takeaways from attending Edward Tufte‘s seminars was to give the audience something to put in their hands that they could work from during the session. It really helps anchor the session – when I talk about a particular architecture, I can refer people back to the worksheet they’re holding – rather than jumping back and forth in the slide deck.
The handouts paid off!
“Love the worksheet – to work out the RTO and RPO and convert that roughly to money 🙂 Management team does need to get real about the budget they are willing to pay….”
“Quality session from Brent Ozar. Really great at busting myths and preconceptions and providing a clear understanding of how to prioritise your hardware needs.”
The priorities were a big part of the handout. Sure, we all want a failover cluster with AlwaysOn Availability Groups and SAN replication for perfect uptime, but we have a limited amount of budget to accomplish both uptime and performance.
“Another top sesh for Brent. I needed this session to help me decide what servers to buy for my clients, and wasn’t disappointed. Brent gave some great insight, particularly regarding to the number of sockets and how much memory to get.”
Since I’m a consultant, it might seem odd for me to run a session that helps other consultants do their jobs, but I’m not naive enough to think I’ll have all the clients in the world. I don’t actively pursue European clients (I have some, but the time differences make it tough) and I just want to help other people do their jobs better. Holding the information to myself doesn’t make me look better – I gotta let my dim light shine. Heck, for that matter, anytime I teach anybody anything, I’m working myself out of a job. I’m cool with that, because:
“Excellent session by Brent – will be seeking out future pre-cons from Brent.”
That’s Great Feedback for Conference Organizers, Too
I’m not the only one reading my feedback – the conference organizers pay close attention to pre-con feedback too. When they organize their next conference, they need to make tough decisions about who gets a pre-con.
Conferences can only have a limited number of pre-conference sessions. When organizers pick their lineup, they’re taking an expensive gamble. They want to bring in pre-cons that appeal to as many people as possible so the conference can bring in as much money as possible. I ran the biggest pre-con at SQLbits, and I’d like to think my contributions helped bring the steampunk party to life.
By consistently doing top-rated sessions that attendees rave about, I’m making it more likely that conference organizers will invite me back for another pre-con. That makes them money, it makes me money, and it makes attendees happy.
Feedback matters to everybody. Read it carefully, and polish your work.