It’s the second Tuesday of the month, and you know what that means: it’s T-SQL Tuesday! This is a monthly blog series with a different topic each time. This month, our host, Bob Pusateri (blog | twitter), wants to know more about presenting.

Standing up in front of a room of people and talking, especially on a technical topic, can induce nightmares. Think about everything that could go wrong. Your laptop could stop working. Your demos could fail. You could forget everything you were going to say. You could fall off the stage. (Oh, no, that’s just me.)

But once you get past the fear, you’ll realize that presenting is pure joy. You get to teach other people. You get to share your knowledge. You get to see people’s eyes light up when they “get it”. It’s very rewarding.

The best way to deal with the nerves and the fears is to follow the Boy Scout motto: Be Prepared. Presenting is about more than the 60 or 75 minutes you are on stage. It takes preparation.

We’ll take a look at some of the important steps that I take to help me be successful in speaking.  Some tips, if you will, on the pure joy of speaking.

Craft the Presentation

Take time to carefully craft your presentation. You will have a better end product, and will be less frustrated, if you sit down and write out the goals of the presentation – before you write the first slide or demo. You’ll know what you want to talk about, and can refer back to them.  After writing a few of these, you’ll find how much easier it makes writing the presentation altogether.

Build your slides and demos thoroughly and test them every way you can imagine. Be aware of how to create good presentations, and make sure your demos are technically accurate.  Imagine your demos are running in production.  Make them as stable and solid as possible.

Make sure you have a good opening and closing. An opening will draw the audience in and encourage them to stay for the entire presentation. A good closing will wrap up everything you talked about and give the audience a call to action.

Practice, Practice, Practice

I am not saying you have to know every word. If your presentation sounds canned or rote, it won’t interest people either. But you need to know how your presentation will flow.  There is nothing worse than a presenter reading the next slide word for word before saying anything, because she doesn’t know what she’s talking about. (I’ve seen it happen.)

I try to have the first five minutes of every presentation down flat. That helps with nerves. (Yes, I still get nervous every time I present. I consider that a good thing.) But if I can get through the first few minutes, where I introduce myself and my topic, and find out more about the audience, I am calm enough to get through the rest.

You need to know your demos, and know them well. Have them prepared, and tested. As both a presenter and an attendee, I can’t stand unexpected errors. As a presenter, if a demo fails, you have to be able to let go. Don’t hang on to that thought, trying to fix what’s wrong. Move on. For the sanity of your audience, don’t try to fix it then and there.

How I Practice

When I’m preparing a presentation, after I’ve written the slides and demos, I run through it, start to finish. I have a text document open on my computer and I note what I think was rough, where I might need to adjust a script, what needs to be thrown out, and what can be added in. I time myself. Then I go through, make the adjustments, and practice again. I’ll do this until I’m satisfied it’s a good presentation. The day before or day of, I open the slides and demos and take a quick peek at them so they are fresh in my mind.

The more technical a topic is, the more time I’ll spend on those tasks. However, I give the same attention to every presentation, because every one is important. People come to learn from me. I want to teach them, and I want to present myself well. It takes practice and there is an acquired amount of skill to it.  But that skill can be achieved with work.


If you’ve prepared your presentation by giving careful thought to the flow, practicing and timing, and writing good demos, you’ll be successful. Simply, be prepared.

Now get your ass out there, write a session, and deliver it at a user group, SQL Saturday or go for the mountain peak and submit to PASS Summit!

What are you waiting for?