Your talk, or someone else’s?

June 30, 2022

Having withdrawn from my speaker spot at the PASS Data Community Summit 2022, the organisers have asked me to suggest people who might be able to deliver my session. I’m not convinced this is ideal…

I had submitted a 60-minute talk called “A ton of reasons to like APPLY”, which I figured would teach the APPLY construct in T-SQL through a series of practical uses for it. I find that APPLY is a lot deeper and way more practical that most T-SQL programmers realise, and I wanted to immerse the attendees deeper and deeper, figuring that at first we’d be looking at the things they know, then we’d be covering ideas that flow on from that but might be unfamiliar, and towards the end they’d be seeing stuff that was challenging the way they approach queries – with each attendee hitting those stages at different times across the hour, according to their prior experience. I’ve taught this kind of thing before. It would have been almost entirely demo-based, and I’d have been telling jokes from time to time because that’s what I do.

PASS chose this session, and they would still like it, despite the fact that I’ve withdrawn and asked to be replaced by someone from a more diverse demographic than myself. I’ve also offered to help mentor someone who wants/needs help with presenting.

I have to admit that I didn’t expect them to ask me to find someone who could give the presentation that I had submitted.

This brings me to something which I consider a very important aspect of any kind of public speaking. Something which I have explained when mentoring presenters and which I have described in previous sessions about presenting, particularly when talking about connecting with the audience.

That is – to see the audience, and to be seen. I drew a eye on my screen to convey this. Let the audience see your passion for the content. Let them see that you are invested in what you’re saying. Another of my points in this talk was about having passion, which should be obvious to the audience.

Letting the audience see you is part of the vulnerability of being there on stage, exhorting the listener to learn and then act on what they have learned. It’s part of what turns a purely technical talk into something that contains passion. The audience needs to realise that you believe your message. That you are invested in it. That you’re evangelising something which is important to you.

And really – if what you’re presenting isn’t important to you in some way, what are you doing?

Ok, you might be needing to give some notices at an Annual General Meeting of something, and you’re only really doing it because you have a legal requirement. Sure. But apart from situations like that, you should be teaching stuff that you believe in. Not stuff that you don’t believe in.

You should let your emotions be shown, whether it’s excitement or disappointment or enthusiasm or frustration. An important part of your audience’s learning process is to understand how you feel about your points. To see your emotion coming through.

So if someone really wants to give my session about APPLY, that’s fine. I’m happy to help make that happen. Let me know (email me, or DM me via the Twitter link below). But we would need to start by having me helping you see the significance of APPLY first. Because we would need to make it YOUR content, not my content. You would have to be passionate about APPLY.

The best scenario is for you to have your own talk. PASS wants to replace my T-SQL development session with another T-SQL development session, and I’m going to guess they’ve got a variety of topics already. But in case no one can be found who would be able to deliver my session, I’m happy to suggest that you deliver your session. That would be great. You could deliver my APPLY session, but I’d rather you deliver your session about whatever you are interested in right now.

I don’t need you to be able to explain every aspect of some complex thing. But if you have a session and are interested in presenting it at the PASS Summit this year, I can recommend you. If you don’t have a session and are interested in presenting it at the PASS Summit this year, I can still recommend you. And if you don’t want to speak at the PASS Summit but would like me to see if we can lift your presenting game, let’s do that. I’ve helped quite a lot of people over the years (I don’t list names, but if you’ve had me help you, you know who you are), and I think I might be able to help you. No charge. (Time permitting, you understand. But I’ll try.)

If I do start mentoring you, I will help you feel comfortable being vulnerable on stage, letting your feelings show, and being seen by your audience. A woman I’ve been helping over the last year has had her career transformed through the mentoring I’ve been giving. It’s all her – I’ve just been encouraging her to change her style, overcome her fears, and let herself be seen. Now her career has taken off because she’s getting noticed. She’s more valuable to her employer, and is even getting job offers from other companies, being selected for opportunities that normally go to people with good degrees from strong universities. Because she’s let herself be seen. People have seen her and decided they want her in their companies. It’s great.

I think it’s important that you present on something that you’re passionate about. And I’m happy to be part of your journey, even figuring out what your topics can be. And if you want to give a presentation about APPLY, because you’re passionate about it too, then sure – let’s make that happen. But I would really rather help you with presentations to which you already have an emotional attachment.


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