Scott Hanselman

Tips for Preparing for a Technical Presentation

November 4, '08 Comments [12] Posted in PDC
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I felt pretty good about my presentation at PDC last week. They are WAY more uptight about presentations at PDC than at TechEd. You have to go through dry-runs and slide reviews and all sorts of things that I was dodging at every turn.

The talk is available, as are all PDC talks, up at http://sessions.microsoftpdc.com. You can get them in these formats WMV-HQ, WMV, Zune, MP4 which is cool. I like the WMV-HQ version, over the WMV version, because it includes picture-in-picture video. My talk is no fun if you can't see me being silly. You can also watch it streaming in the browser via Silverlight and download my PPTX. If you saw it live, don't forget to evaluate the session as I have to Crush Anders in the scores. (Note to self, register CrushAnders.com and .net)

Anyway, someone was asking how I prepare for a talk, so I figured this would be as good enough time as any for a post on the topic.

imageThese basic tips from a few years back still stand - 11 Top Tips for a Successful Technical Presentation, but this post is about the actual preparation process and some tips and techniques that might help.

I thought I did a good job, with 72 slides and 8 demos in 75 minutes and only one person said it felt rushed in the comments. ;) Of course, I had about 9 hours of content, but I did prepare in specific ways in order to pull it off.

Know Where Things Are - Beforehand

You can easily waste 2 to 5 minutes over an hour long talk looking for crap. Seriously, I don't need to see how slow you are with Explorer. If you want to have your audience rush the stage, be slow in finding stuff. ;)

Make a folder of links that is specific to your talk. I made one and numbered each link in the order I was going to use them. That includes links to folders, files, browsers, batch files, reset scripts, whatever.

My talk also included a lot of websites that I knew I'd be visiting. I made a Links toolbar in IE and setup links to everything I'd visit, in order.

image

My tiny head is on those links not because of my huge ego, but because those links are inside my domain and IE used my favicon.ico. ;)

"Sync to Paper" and Know Your Timing

I'm a gadget guy, sure, and I've got the same todo.txt file on my desktop that the rest of you do, but there's really something about "syncing to paper." before every talk I write a few things down. I do it on a Moleskine notebook that I wrote about in my Personal Systems of Organization post.

Over the years I've come up with a few techniques on paper that have helped me greatly. Scanned below is the notes I used in my PDC talk.

On the left-hand side you'll see 5 sections, numbered from top to bottom. I make one section per 15 minute segment. This was a 75 minute talk, so there's 5 sections. Sometimes I'll take the FIRST and LAST section and split them into 5/10 and 10/5 respectively. Regardless of how you do it, the point here is to know these things:

  • Know Where You Are Supposed to Be
    • I use the segments to let me know where I'm supposed to be at 15 min, 30 min, etc. Looking at the notes, if I'm on the PLINQ demo and it's only 20 minutes in, I'm going WAY too fast for example.
  • Know Where You Are Going
    • It's nice to be free of knowing what's next. The mind can free associate better if it isn't saddled with where it's headed. That's the paper's job. I glance down just to see that I'm on track.
  • Know Your Pacing and Know What You Can Drop
    • On the left side I've numbered the demos 1 or 2. The #2's I can drop if I need to save time. The #1's can't be dropped or it'll ruin everything. Have enough demos to fill the time, but also know ahead of time which demos to drop if need be.

BabySmash Presentatio nNotes

Know Your Narrative and Where to "Pivot"

If you've ever been unfortunate enough to come upon me freaking out before a talk at a conference, I've likely accosted you and run through the narrative or the "story arc." I keep doing this until it really resonates with me and the half-dozen folks I abuse regularly, like Phil Haack and Rob Conery.

It's all the same basic middle-school speech stuff we've all learned before, but I'm constantly reminding myself of these questions:

  • Why is the audience there?
  • Who is the audience?
  • How can I avoid wasting their time?
  • What's the one thing they should get out of the talk?

I also try to focus on a story arc that looks like:

  1. What is this?
  2. This is it.
  3. What was that?

The .NET Framework UniverseSeems silly, but it works. You'll see that I repeat myself four or five times to make sure important points get hit and pounded in. This style of arc works in most technical talks, but others are more complex so I use what I call a "pivot point."

I call it that because in basketball once you've planted your feet you have to pivot on one foot. You can move all over as long as you keep that one foot planted. If the basketball analogy doesn't work for you, then think of holding your finger on a chess piece while you think of your next move.

For the PDC talk, we had these nice posters to pass out. They look nice as placemats or on the wall, but they look busy on a slide, so I covered them with bright colored shapes. The Core shape was my pivot point. I'd start there, go to Client, then come back to Core. I'd go to Data, then back to Core. Just like that, Rinse, Repeat.

If you've got a meandering talk, like I did, finding a place to keep coming back to can really help. It helps me.

Have a Pre-Talk Checklist and Demo Reset

Make a complete list of everything that you need to do before your talk. If that means find a Diet Coke and use the bathroom, fine, put it on the list. Here's mine for this talk, unedited.

reset the database
resize and prep the browser
cache the font list
remove my son's face from the xaml
* Pick up the Samsung SilverLight Phone
Test the Phone remote viewing software
prep the mac, test the mac's video output (1280)
*dvi-vga adapter for the mac
check all font sizes in all apps
run zoomin
shutdown services, and the mesh
Warn orcsweb that traffic is coming

I had a bunch of stuff that could have gone wrong if I hadn't checked ahead of time. The Mac I used for the Surface demo only output at 1280x1024. I checked that with the tech guy at 8am. I didn't have a DVI-VGA adapter, so I got one at Radio Shack. I went into every app I was going to run and made sure the fonts were at a visible size (I like Consolas 15pt). I also shutdown all non-essential services. ALL of them. I go from 107 programs running to less than 50. I shutdown piles of stuff in Services.msc like "Infrared Service" and all that crap. I called my ISP, Orcsweb, and warned them I was doing a demo so they'd babysit the box and not think there was an attack.

Preparations like this, and batch files that reset your demos, drop and recreate your database, clear caches, prime caches or whatever administrivia you need, just take a few minutes to do, but they make a presentation look much more professional.

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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Tiny Victories Inside Microsoft - SmallestDotNet makes headway

November 4, '08 Comments [23] Posted in Musings
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GET .NETSometimes there's little victories, tiny victories that make me happy. It's a big*ss company, Microsoft is, and sometimes it's hard to get stuff done. But sometimes I get something small done that might make a larger difference.

Remember SmallestDotNet.com (blog post) from August? Well, that kicked off a number of discussions about how it was hard to find and install the .NET Framework. It was hard for end users and it was hard for developers to get it.

We put together to small "swat teams" and fixed two small things.

First, the brouchureware. The site http://www.microsoft.com/net/ has a nice URL, non-threatening clipart dude, and some marketing stuff, but had no way to get the .NET Framework it was talking about. Now it also has an unambiguous button that links directly to the small 2.6 meg .NET Framework bootstrapper. Directly. No download interstitial page. Magical. Duh.

Screenshot of the .NET Framework page on MSDNSecond, the .NET Framework page on MSDN. It's at http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/netframework, is linked to all over and gets a lot of traffic.

However, when you visited it before it had a bunch of generated links like "Popular Downloads" that were either old or stupid and would point folks to .NET 2.0 redists that were old. It was hard to find nearly everything.

We redesigned it to include (as above) a giant and unambiguous Install It Now button. However, if you click More Info you get a nice list of other versions to download. Madness!

I say some of this with some slight sarcasm because I've learned that there are tens of thousands of pages out there in Microsoft-world and like any garden, you'd be surprised that some sections just aren't tended to as often as they should. Pages that you look at all the time might not be looked at as often as they should from the inside.

It also includes a link to the Full Package just under the link to the bootstrapper. It's generally a lot tidier, IMHO. There's also some talk about taking my SmallestDotNet.com detection code, or code like it, and putting it on these sites to make everything as easy as possible.

I believe there's talk of tending to a lot of these gardens in the coming months and I'm hoping to stick my nose in get involved with those layouts as well.

Anyway, this was a tiny victory and it made me smile. I hope it helps you, as there were a lot of people involved in what appears to be small changes.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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PDC 2008: BabySmash Preparations

October 26, '08 Comments [16] Posted in BabySmash | PDC
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As I've mentioned before, I've got a talk at PDC this year, it's "TL49" and it's called "Microsoft .NET Framework: Overview and Applications for Babies." It's on Monday at 5:15pm in Room 411.

The baby aspect is really secondary, mostly because BabySmash (and what I do with it in the talk) is Not Northwind. This was the strangest Microsoft talk I could sneak past the bosses without them noticing. It also crosses over into other talks and many other products that I'll mention as the week goes on.

Stressful times...I'm nervous because:

  • I've never tried to do some many complex and intertwining demos at once.
  • I've never had so many people help out to make it all happen.
  • It may suck.
  • I've got like 7 hours of content to fit in 75 minutes.
  • I've forgotten completely what I'm talking about. ;)

I hope enough people show up. Starting to get the pre-show jitters!

Here's a teaser of what we were able to accomplish at Tim Huckaby's Party tonight in San Diego. More soon!

852494

(That's Clemens Vaster's daughter and yes that's what you think it is. Tim has one at his house. Crazy.)

See you at PDC!

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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Happy Eighth Anniversary

October 25, '08 Comments [47] Posted in Musings
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Eight years ago, I got married three times. Er, I've been married three times. No, that's not right, we've had three weddings. Where to start?

Eight years and a few months ago a friend of mine was graduating from school and somehow my house became the central gathering place. One of her friends, a mutual friend, was moving to the East Coast after finishing her MBA. I was working for a company that still gave sabbaticals, and I'd been there 5 years, so I was going to take the month of July off. I'm not sure why, but it seemed like a good idea at time, but I offered to go along with her on a trip across the country.

We knew each other, but only peripherally, in that FoaF (Friend of a Friend) way. We each knew the other was harmless.

She agreed, and we set off, as friends, on a Planes, Trains and Automobiles trip across the country. We went to Arizona, Oklahoma, Detroit, Philadelphia, New York. We looked at the Grand Canyon and said "that's a hole." We flew in a friend's tiny plane over Wrigley Field. We rode train's in Penn Station.

Somewhere in Detroit we fell in love. Not sure how, but it happened, and it was awesome. By the way, neither of us would recommend dating for 3 months then getting married. Still, success is a good metric, as we like to say.

Three months later we got married in a park in Wilmington, Delaware, then walked across the street and had chicken fingers at Friendly's. When we got to the park the judge had asked where our witnesses were? Oops. Didn't have any. I ran after two joggers and somehow got them to sign their names two our Marriage Certificate and bear witness in their jogging sweats. Their names are still on the certificate that hangs in our living room.

We debated which coast to live on, and ultimately it came down to who liked their job more. She moved back to the West Coast and we started preparing for Wedding #2. There was a tiny footnote at the bottom of the wedding program that said something like "Scott and Mo were married in a civil ceremony earlier..." It was like 4 point font.

Then we started preparing for Wedding #3, back home in Zimbabwe. First, I had to start negotiations with her parents for lobola. Sometimes this is called a bride price, but modern folks usually call it a bride gift. Wikipedia has a decent description:

Lobolo or Lobola (Mahadi in Sesotho; sometimes translated as bride price) is a traditional southern African dowry custom whereby the man pays the family of his fiancée for her hand in marriage. The custom is aimed at bringing the two families together, fostering mutual respect, and indicating that the man is capable of supporting his wife financially and emotionally.

Traditionally the lobola payment was in cattle as cattle were the primary source of wealth in African society. However, most modern urban couples have switched to using cash. The process of lobola negotiations can be long and complex, and involves many members from both the bride's and the groom's extended families.

I ended up smuggling $20s into the country strapped to my legs under my clothes and her dad bought a number of cattle and a small shop. I could write a book, not a blog post, about the experience. Suffice it to say, there was a goat in a bathtub at some point, then we ate his liver. Long story.

Since we were married, we've been to five Africa countries over four trips, driven our first son around France and Spain, had her hair pulled by strangers in Malaysia, taken my parents to Tanzania for a month (their first international trip), had a second son, bought and sold a few houses, and had more fun that you can know in the process. We fight fair and make up. We respect each other.

As she (we?) is/are fond of saying:

"Eight years? Feels like twelve!"

To which I always reply, "What were we THINKING?!"

"We weren't!"

"Madness!"

Madness indeed, my love. Happy Anniversary. I hope you renew me for another eight.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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PDC 2008: New .NET Logo

October 25, '08 Comments [25] Posted in PDC
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It's official. There's a new .NET logo. It's 'the wave' and it's a nice refresh of the now 8-year old original .NET logo. Here's the logo on a light background and a dark background, oriented both horizontally and vertically.

newdotnetlogo

I liked the new logo so much that even though it's not available on our internal ordering system yet, I had a batch of custom business cards printed with it. If you see me around PDC this week, I'll be happy to give you one! :)

Just one of the new things that are coming up this week at PDC.

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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.