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UKOUG 2011 - My Presentations

Writing long blog posts about your own presentations is pretty narcisstic but it also allows me to rectify certain mistakes afterwards so, to make an existing private joke with friends public yet again (a theme that will be repeated later), I'll start off by saying I'm sorry.

What am I sorry about? Well, I broke one of the cardinal rules of presenting which I have berated others for in the past and promised myself (never mind anyone else) that I wouldn't do. In my first full-length presentation on Monday night I spent far too much time doing what I call 'Talking to my Mates'. There were so many asides to people I knew in the audience that it excluded other people who are listening and is a distraction from the point of the presentation. In all seriousness, I am sorry to anyone who was there who felt excluded as a result. Although there are no valid excuses, I can let you into a few of the reasons.
  • To start off with a hopefully funny one, I really need new glasses. I've spent months telling people I need new glasses though, so I've no excuse, but the truth is that I can't see the audience properly any more! With one exception. I can make out the silouhettes and body language of people I already know well and so I tend to be looking towards them even more than usual for the reassurance and familiarity that I need to present properly. When I presented to a smaller audience later in the week, I felt more connected with the entire audience because I could actually see them! LOL
  • I've always had a particular weakness when I know there is someone in the room who knows the subject far better than I do, which in this case included people like Maria Colgan of Oracle (now known forever as The Optimiser Lady) and Wolfgang Breitling (now known as the corrector of Doug's errors). If the slightest moment of doubt ariises, I'm always tempted to defer to them. I'm also conscious of the fact that Maria had given me lots of help and background advice on stats and SPM so tend to want to draw attention to people like that.
  • I like having fun when I present, so if there's an opportunity to have a laugh at someone's expense then I like to do so and Maria is a fun woman who can take it, but I over-did that one. (I also over-did it later in the week, but I'll talk about that later.) I was talking to another presenter the next day who spent some of his presentation poking fun at me and when he pointed out he did it to feel more relaxed when he was actually pretty nervous presenting, I suddenly realised how true this was of what I'd probably been doing.

Regardless of the reasons, I still don't like it in me or others, so need to stop doing it or at least do it a lot less.

My next apology is for saying something wrong. I implied that Wolfgang Breitling might be the source of some of the optimizer_index_cost_adj settings at my current site when that's not true at all. He hasn't written anything recommending people set it, even in the Oracle 8i time-frame! But I'm much less concerned about this mistake because I am now deliberately inserting one error into every single presentation so that Wolfgang will keep attending my presentations to keep an eye out for them and correct them ;-) By this stage, his correction to Wednesday morning's presentation and the thanks for spotting it were already in place!
I meant to do this apology personally and face-to-face but ran out of time at the end of the conference. Despite doing a much better job of not Talking to my Mates in Wednesday morning's presentation (at least I hope I did), it was still a massive distraction to have Connor McDonald in the front row of a small room! Because Connor is such an ace presenter and a good bloke, I felt it was pretty safe to make fun of his presentation style here and there, again, probably just to relax myself. I think it was ok, but I'm still not 100% sure. For the record (and he hardly needs someone else to say it!), Connor is such a fantastic presenter that I think most people aspire to get anywhere near his levels. But he lived and worked in Scotland for a while, so I reckon he's used to some knock-about humour too!
See, maybe it's just the way I work, but now I've got all the apologising and grovelling out of the way, I can cheer myself up with the good stuff! Because, make no mistake, I thoroughly enjoyed both of the full-length presentations I gave and was pretty happy with the results. Both went much better than I expected, in fact - just not perfect.

I was extremely concerned about Monday night's SQL Plan Management presentation being far too lightweight but took the advice of others who'd seen it and decided not to change it. I had massive fun with that ridiculous camera and giant screen, made a few points that might be useful to others who are planning to use SPM (which I plan to blog about soon) and hopefully didn't bore people to tears at the end of a long day! I certainly had tons of positive feedback from good friends (who are also pretty honest; that's why they're friends) which I was very flattered by. This kind of stuff .... Cary, Roel, Neil

As for Wednesday's presentation on Partitioned Object Statistics, I probably enjoyed it more because it was a little more technical and was to a smaller group (which was still impressively big for 9am on Wednesday). Yes, I did get my timings and content flow wrong, which was hilarious seeing as I was the one who'd drawn attention to the number of slides, but I decided to go with a flow that I thought was working because some of the important early messages seemed to be getting absorbed well. It was an audience full of friends, too, and yet I managed not to make it seem like an Oak Table Love-in!

With such a navel-gazing post, it might seem that I've forgotten what I was supposed to be doing which is informing and entertaining people so, just on the off-chance this isn't clear, I love speaking to people and as long as they get something good from it then it's still worth doing. Rabbiting on about myself is because I can get a little down when I haven't done it as well as I should have and I feel I've let people down, but thanks loads to those who did turn up and I hope it worked out ok for you anyway.

I bought this month's British GQ to read on the way home and noticed this closing paragraph in an interview with Daniel Craig which described why I can seem so nervous and self-critical to other people ....

"I'm definitely not satisifed about my career. I don't know how you can be; it's the very nature of things. I'm always trying to figure it out and I'm kind of unsatisfied constantly. I always want to get it right and I don't know what the answer to it is. But I do know that it's out there and I do know it's worth looking for."

Replace the word 'career' with presentations (or just about anything else I do, to be honest) and the feeling is similar.

Usual disclosure: My travel and accommodation expenses were covered
by the Oracle ACE Director