Aug 092012
 
 August 9, 2012  Posted by at 10:22 pm Not So Stupid Questions  Add comments

[To celebrate my first year of programming I will ask a ‘stupid’ questions daily on my blog for a year, to make sure I learn at least 365 new things during my second year as a developer]
This question is more to the readers. I’m really curious! I have been doing a lot of speaking and I have been on the stage a lot since I was little, everything from dancing, reading poems, theater and modeling, and the last few years teaching. Feedback was always very important, and I learned early that you are there to give something to the audience. But what does the audience want, what is this something?

Carl and Richard from .Net Rocks sure knows how to capture an audience. I'm trying very hard to look cool 😀 From NDC 2012

With so many conferences coming up, and trying to decide where to go, I started thinking about what is important for me when it comes to sessions. What I want to get out of a session, what are my expectations and what would be the WOW-factor? I am also very curious if attendants at developer conferences have other expectations than attendants at for example shows (‘pure’ entertainment) or other types of educational sessions.

Here is my wish list:

I want a session that is intriguing from the first time I hear/read about it. I want to look forward to this one, and I want my friends to feel the same way.

The session should be unique – I hate repetitions. The content can be the same, but not the presentation itself.

It has to be entertaining; I need something that will grab my attention. I love it when props are involved and there is movement on the stage.

It has to be funny. Laughing makes me feel welcome and makes me feel good. Good feelings help me remember what the session was about and the information given.

I would love practical tips. This means I won’t go empty handed! I want to get nice tips that I can share with others, so I can basically show that it was worth going there. Doesn’t everybody love giveaways?

The person holding the session should be genuine and feel real, like somebody I know (and that I like). I want eye contact and involvement and a conversational style to the session. I listen to my friends, so if it feels like a friend it is more likely I’ll remember what was said.

Bite-size chunks of information. Information overload makes me feel like I not smart enough to be there and I withdraw from the session mentally as it feels hopeless to absorb everything.

Good theatrical skills! Use of voice, body language etc. is important so I stay awake. I’m so used to movies with skilled actors that watching an unskilled person on stage makes that person fade in comparison.

It has to give a lasting impression. I want to want to tell all my friends, re-tell stories, tips or whatever. This will be conversation material at the next dinner.

And the content has to be good. Great would be awesome, but with the above wishes met ‘good’ would be perceived as great.

So please tell me, what you want out of a session, what would be the WOW-factor, and what would be the WTF’s you would hate to see?

  5 Responses to “‘Stupid’ Question 19: What is important in a conference session?”

  1. short demos, showing off something , and if possible with full solution in code , to rip apart , Doesn’t even have to be rocket science , do YET ANOTHER “List of books in my library” . Its Interesting to see how someone else approaches a problem. 500 coders = 500 solutions 🙂

  2. You may be asking a lot from the presenters at dev conferences, don’t forget that those presenters are mainly devs and this industry favours introverted types who aren’t going to give you the type of “performance” that you want to see.

    For me I want:

    – interesting subject
    – if technical a demonstration of how it works and an idea of how to use in real world not demoland
    – humor is a bonus but I don’t always expect it

    • That is true Nathan, that is why I referred to it as my wish-list 🙂 A ‘would be nice’, but I’ll take what I can get 🙂

  3. For me I want the presenter to the be passionate about what they do and then talk to the audience and not to the powerpoint deck. Your deck should be a prop and not what you read to me.. I can read faster than you can talk and to be honest, I want to hear what you have to say.

    I am a big fan of chatting with the audience, engaging with them (firing stuff at them on ocassion see http://shawtyds.wordpress.com/2011/10/10/ddd-north/). Funny doesnt always work especially across languages as I have found. But love what you are talking about, people will get that energy frin you and react..

    What I hate.. ahhh ..ummmms … oohhh … the word basically! (if it is basic, you dont need to use basically)

    I dont like unpolished sessions, where the person is stumbling through their session. I understand nerves but being unprepped annoys me. Your demos should work, there should always be a fallback..

    I hate monotone, be expressive.

    • What’s important in a presentation, well as a newcomer to presenting I’m slowly finding out what does and doesn’t work.

      My feed back for the last session I did, really only had one negative point, and that was that I kept drifting off topic, after replaying the session back in my head I can see where I was doing this but more importantly why.

      The why was because I was letting the audiences questions steer the presentation, when what I should have done is answered the questions as direct as possible, and left the long winded ones until after.

      The point I’m trying to make is that a great presenter always keeps on track and more importantly keeps to his script and / or timings, but with out dismissing or making any of his / her audience feel as though they are being ignored.

      Moment and animation is also critical, one thing I discovered early in the game was to keep moving, give the audience something to follow. If your presenting from a laptop, keep your laptop off to one side so you have a reason to walk back and forth, presenters that use there hands, arms and express their points physically will engage more and faster than a presenter that doesn’t.

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