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How NOT to present November 30, 2010

Posted by mwidlake in Meeting notes.
Tags: , ,

I’m at the UKOUOG this week and, as ever, the presentations vary in quality. Most are excellent {or even better than that}, some are not. I was in one first thing this morning and, I have to say, it was rushed, garbled, unclear and there was a definite air of unease and panic. I’m not even sure the guy got to his big point and I could think of at least three major things he did not mention at all.

I think his main problem was just starting off in a rush and never settling down. You see, I was stuck on the top floor of my Hotel and had to run to the venue. Yes, the poor presentation was by me :-(.

I usually present well {modesty forbids me from saying I am a very good presenter – but modesty can take a hike, my ego knows I am capable of giving great presentations}. I am one of those lucky people for whom presenting has never been particularly frightening and, in fact, I find it easier to present to a group of people than talk with them.

But not today. I was already worried about the session, have been for weeks, as I was doing interactive demos. But last night I ran through it, wrote down the names of the scripts and the slide numbers so I could just bang through them and timed it all. 50 mins, I would skip one unneeded section. Calm. I got a reasonable night’s sleep, got up early and ran through it all one more time, making sure my Big Point demo worked. And it did. Yes.

Went down to breakfast, had breakfast and back to the room to pick up my stuff. And realised I was late. Less than 10 minutes to do the 5 minutes over to the venue. So I fled the room, stuffing my laptop in my bag. But not my notes. Or my conference pass. I did not think of this as I stood on the top floor of the hotel, I just thought “where are the lifts?”. They were all below me, ferrying hungry people to and from breakfast. After what seemed like an hour and was only 4 or 5 minutes I decided 16 flights of stairs was OK to go down and, to give me credit, I managed those stairs and the few hundred yards to the venue in pretty good time. I did pause for a few seconds at floor 7, I think, when I remembered my notes. Too late.

But I was now panicked and arrived as a dash. I had to mess about with the Audio Visual guy to get going and started 2 mins past my slot start – and then did the 5 minutes of non-relevant stuff I had decided to drop. It was game over from there, I was failing to find the correct scripts, I was skipping relevant sections and I was blathering instead of just taking a few seconds to calm down and concentrate.

Oh well, my first time in a large room at the UKOUG and I messed up. At least I had the key lesson drummed into me. TURN UP EARLY!!!!


1. Neil Chandler - November 30, 2010

Never mind. That’s what happens when you get the first slot of the day. Still, it’s better than the last slot. I would have been doing it with a terrible hangover :o)

2. Mike Cox - November 30, 2010


Don’t be so hard in yourself, its worked well, you got the key points across and gave us plenty to think about.

mwidlake - December 1, 2010

Hi MIke,

At long last, a comment by your good self!. OK, I’ll not beat myself up too much. I know I could gve it a much better airing a second time around, but I said some reasonable stiff.

3. David Harper - December 1, 2010

I’ve always thought that any presentation ends well if the audience haven’t started throwing furniture at you by the end of it 🙂

And look on the bright side, at least you didn’t get upstaged by Monty Widenius presenting his talk in a parallel session, which has happened to some of us in the past!

4. Kyle Hailey - December 2, 2010

The last class I taught, I was in my hotel room in the early morning, made sure all my demos worked, then hesitated whether to shutdown or just walk downstairs with the live computer. I felt wary of walking around with a live laptop and spinning disks so I opted to to shutdown the laptop and then headed down stairs to present. I started up my laptop before the class room and the Oracle listener wouldn’t start. I couldn’t get it to start for the life of me – cryptic error with very few references on google. Tried creating a new new listener, same error. Murphy’s law.
Over the lunch break I re-installed Oracle 11gR2 and all went well,was able to give my demos and the database and listener are still working fine to this day.
Luckily it wasn’t a one hour presentation or I would have be completely out of luck !

Can completely empathize with your experience !

Best Wishes
Kyle Hailey

mwidlake - December 2, 2010

Hi Kyle

Thank you for that, I appreciate the support. I’ve had a similar experience to yours on a training course as well (oracle 9 to 10 actually and a new server that made my “performance” scripts a bit of a mockery) and over a few days you can get over the first-3-hour shock – but on a 45-minute presentation, I just could not get my act together. I thought I could, but I can’t 🙂

Interestingly, since blogging about my thoughts on the topic, I got a serious telling-off by a friend at the conference who told me “Do NOT critisise your talk! If you say it often enough that you are a bad presenter, people will believe you. And then we might get (person not mentioned) on the agenda!”. So, for the record, I am a brilliant presenter. Just not on that day 😉

5. Tony Webb - December 2, 2010

It wasn’t as bad as you seem to think Martin and I’m sure that a lot of the audience, like me, got something out of the presentation (the optimizer’s different behaviour on outliers in Oracle 10 vs 11 was interesting and the accompanying diagram for it was spot on) for example. The actual demo did work too, don’t forget.

Not your best ever presentation, true, but believe me I’ve seen many worse (including one or two of my own).



6. kurt van meerbeeck - December 4, 2010

So that oaktable joke wasn’t really a success hey ;-))

mwidlake - December 4, 2010

About how you guys have stripped me of my oak leaf and thrown me off the table, as shown by my not being on the list of members at present? Yeah, I forgot to mention that. Although I did suggest I was on the table as more of a mascot than anything 🙂

But thanks for reminding me that I must do my biography again.

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