Speaking, Follow Up, and Improving

Recently I did a series of talks focused around building Kubernetes Clusters. In these I demoed how Terraform can be used to build out a Kubernetes cluster and then ideas for working with that Kubernetes cluster or building out other infrastructure with Terraform around the Kubernetes cluster. I’ve posted the first of several posts that I’m putting together related to the configuration, code, and work I did for those talks.

On this topic there are several additional things I try to do for and after every presentation I give. This adds value for me, the people who attend the presentation, but also for others that did not attend after the talk. At least, that’s my intent and hope in this and related follow up material. Here’s the breakdown of what I try to do with every presentation. Below I’ll also have links to presentations I have succeeded in accomplishing this mission.

Mission Goals

The mission goals involves getting the presentation posted along with other key goals upon notification of date, time, and related details to several key places:

  1. Calendar — Post to my speaking and meetup calendar here.
  2. RSVP Site — Next I ensure it is listed on meetup or whatever site the organizers are using.
  3. Composite Code Blog Listing — Next I create a page where I will put all of the collateral for the presentation and list it on this page. Often this starts out merely as a listing and then a link to the page where I’ll simply write “Content are TBD but actively being developed! Stay tuned!
  4. Presentation Page — Then for each presentation I give I create a singular page to post and collect all the collateral elements. This is the page that the listing in #3 points to. Some examples include; “Elasticsearch with Terraform, Packer, and Immutability Magic” or “Terraform, Packer, Atlas @ The Orange Retailer”.
  5. Code, Slide Deck, Collateral — Other elements I make ever effort to include code repositories (usually on Github), image or slide deck files, and anything else I used to demonstrate during the presentation.

Presentations That Accomplish This Mission

There are a few of these presentations I’ve given that have had every mission criteria met. Here I’ve linked a few just to point out what a finished presentation and follow up looks like. At least, these are examples of what I aim for, there are always ways to improve on this.

  1. Managing (or not) The Data in Immutable Infrastructure — includes slides, a short write up, video, and related collateral.
  1. Organizing Infrastructure Config & Workflow— includes slides, and very thorough write up, video, etc.
  1. Visual Studio AWS Tooling & SDK — Even though this is a presentation from a different era of technology, it still represents all the pieces collected for a successful mission. Video, write up, and collateral repo and such. I’d be curious, since it has been such a long time, if the code still runs.

That’s that, and onward and forward to the next code challenge. I’ll be publishing that shortly on my blog, at https://compositecode.blog/.

Where Am I?

That title sounds like a Dream Theater song or something. But alas, I’m going to try and answer the question for the next few weeks per my calendar of logistics.

  • September 10th (Monday) – September 14th (Friday) I’ll be in Seattle for networking, work and a few rounds. Maybe a geek lunch or two too, who’s up for it?
  • September 20th (Thursday) I’ll be in Seattle for the Software Craftsman’s Meetup at Getty Images.
  • September 22nd (Saturday) I’ll be at the Portland Streetcar eastside Loop Party. Yeah yeah, it doesn’t really have anything to do with tech, but I’m a transit nerd, so gotta go see the new streetcar line.
  • October 8th (Monday) – October 17th (Wednesday) I’ll be in San Francisco for the RICON (A Distributed System Conference for Developers) and the HTML 5 Dev Conf (js, html5 and all that developer conference).

Thor & Cloud Foundry Hackathon & Installfest

Curious if anyone is up for meeting and doing an installfest or hacking on Cloud Foundry, Iron Foundry or checking out Thor this coming week in Seattle? Any takers? Leave a comment and I’ll also ping the people of the Twitterverse and App.net. I’m up for meeting at a coffee shop or other space and would be happy to come to an office or other environment if anyone is interested.

Why Your Presentations Might Just Suck!

Ok, so everybody’s presentations don’t suck. But the vast majority of them do. I know I’m not the first person to make this statement. I’d include a list of others who have said it but it would take more space than my entire blog does. Take this example slide deck from a presentation I saw recently. This is the actual color background theme that was chosen, with the wording changed slightly to protect the guilty – for now.

First, let’s tackle this wording. I rephrased it so it has almost the exactly same spacing and word style usage. The initial thing I’ve noticed is how long it takes one to read this. Is the presenter pausing while everyone reads the novel he wrote up on the slide? Nope, he’s blabbering on while everyone is looking at this slide reading it, pondering the huge words that are stuck in the slide. Not until the 4th or 5th sentence the presenter makes does the audience start to re-focus on the presenter. Already, everyone is rather lost in regards to the main topic. This is a major problem.

One of the worst slide decks EVAR!
One of the worst slide decks EVAR! (Click for full size image)

Don’t even get me started on the horrible decision to use this color scheme on the background. That can’t possibly be something that would allow people to pay attention to the speaker, WHO THE AUDIENCE IS SUPPORT TO BE PAYING ATTENTION TO!!!

Oh dear, another absolutely horrible slide.
Oh dear, another absolutely horrible slide. (Click for full size image)

In this second slide, it brings up one of the other things that happen way too often in a slide during a presentation. Keep in mind presenters, this is NOT a hand out, it is a slide. It is presented on the wall, behind the speaker usually. Try to read the words on that and imagine listening to someone speak while that is on the wall! Seriously, it makes me ponder buying tomatoes to bring the tradition of throwing tomatoes at bad performers.

What is a Presentation?

Just for a moment let’s talk about what a presentation is. First the technical definition of what a presentation is:

transitive verb
1 a (1) : to bring or introduce into the presence of someone especially of superior rank or status (2) : to introduce socially b : to bring (as a play) before the public
2: to make a gift to
3: to give or bestow formally
4a : to lay (as a charge) before a court as an object of inquiry b : to bring a formal public charge, indictment, presentment against
5: to nominate to a benefice
6 a : to offer to view : show b : to bring to one’s attention 
7: to act the part of : perform
8: to aim, point, or direct (as a weapon) so as to face something or in a particular direction

This gets us a little closer to exactly what it is, but really there is a lot more to presenting and getting to present then this simple definition implies.

Being able to present in front of a group is a chance to provide leadership. It is a chance to provide a vision of an idea, an opportunity to transfer knowledge and passion of a subject, and above all it is a chance to inspire progress and change in a positive way.

It doesn’t matter if the presentation is for a few corporate suits or an audience of revolutionaries. Having a chance to present to people is a chance to do well, to do good for people, and to step above and change things for the better. Presenting is a chance to change some small part of the world for the better, and in some cases maybe change a big part of the world!

Enough Griping and Such, How Does One Present Well?

The question that is left is, how do you put together a good presentation? It’s easier than you might imagine! I’ve actually seen a few recently that were great. The speaker captivated the audience, brought them into the topic, was inclusive and conversational and really left people wanting to know more. One of the first things that leads to a good presentation is one question.

Who cares and why should they?

If that question is not answered, or for some odd reason can’t be answered during the presentation then the presentation is a failure. When putting together a presentation ask yourself the question over and over and over again. Keep the audience in mind too, think about what the audience would ask or answer in regards to the topic.

Zen Aesthetic

This one I do NOT kid about. Don’t stick a bunch of stuff all over your slides. If anything, try to do a lot of presenting WITHOUT slides to really make an impact. If you want a prime example of average presentation skills versus good presentation skills, look no further then Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.

This video of Steve Jobs shows why he is a master presenter. Building the audience for the three devices they released in 2007 that changed the world…

Not many business leaders, or leaders for that matter, are very good at this. Note his slides. They’re simple, they have a few images or just one or two points each. The idea is, the audience is focusing on him, on what he is discussing, on what he is bringing forth to the world.

Learning to Present

Check out Gary's blog at http://www.presentationzen.com/
Check out Gary’s blog at http://www.presentationzen.com/ or click on the image to navigate to his twitter account.

I could go on about great presentations, I could detail every single little point. Maybe I’ll continue this in another blog entry. But for now, I’m going to list a few masterful books on learning how and in which way to make great presentations.

There are more, but these two things will get you started toward good presentations, toward capturing and entertaining your audience. So get material, think and learn about how to be a better presenter! Before you know it you’ll be rocking the audience!

…as an aside. If you’re ever at a user group, conference, or other event that I’m presenting at please call me out on any of these things I fail at. If I lose your attention or have a slow part in my presentation or if my story does not come across clearly. Lay into me, tell me I’ve slipped, messed up, goofed, or butchered the story. I want to know. I want to make sure, whenever I’m presenting that I’m laying out the story, the vision that I’m trying to get across. I want the vision to be there no matter how technical of a deep dive it might be that I’m presenting. So yes, just know I’ve got a thick skin and I want to know!

Thanks, I’m looking forward to seeing you at my next preso!