The Art of Speaking: Scott Hanselman

After giving my latest talk last night on the Windows 8 XAML story, I thought I would do a little review of the Scott Hanselman’s TekPub video on The Art of Speaking.  Why?  Truthfully, so that I would have a baseline to come back and review further down the road and I thought a few people might be interested as well.

Setting the Stage

Before I get into the review itself, let me set the stage a bit first.  I have been giving technical presentations for the last two years.  I don’t really get the opportunity to present as often as I would like, but I give about a dozen presentations a year.  I have had the opportunity to speak at some great conferences, like VS Live, and am looking forward to future opportunities.  Not being a naturally gifted speaker, I still remember my first presentation and what a train wreck it was (it was bad…).

However things have gotten better over the last two years and my presentations continue to improve. I have learned a ton of things over the this time, mostly what not to do, and have received a lot of tips from some very accomplished speakers.  When Scott released the new TekPub video I decided to give a look.  I watched it a few weeks ago and tried to put some of the things I learned into practice last night.  So how did it go?  Well…

I don’t really want to give out too much of the video, but I started off with a bang.  Scott talks about his need to make sure he knows the exact setup of the room, hardware, connectivity, etc.  That point got beat into my head last night with a sledge hammer.

I had given a presentation at this user group a few months back and the projector had a HDMI port.  So I thought nothing off it last night and showed up with my fancy new ultrabook to present my Windows 8 talk on.  I even had a backup machine in case I needed it.  However, it was the Build tablet and guess what, only HDMI.  So imagine how happy I was when a room change put us in a room with no HDMI port.   After running through several attempts to get a work around, we were finally successful.  Now you geeks out there will probably like this.  We had to create an Ad-Hoc network on another laptop (one with a VGA port) and remote desktop into my box.  It killed my one demo that needed internet access, but it got me up and running.  Boys and girls, anyone care to guess what the lesson we learned here was?

After getting off to a very shaky start, the presentation went well enough.  Ok, no one fell asleep so I figure that has to be a win, right?  On the way home I was reviewing the talk and decided it would be a good idea to write this review.

Finally, the Video Review…

Hopefully that gives you a better idea of where I am coming from on this review.  I started off as most technical presenters do and am still working my way to becoming a better speaker.  So that brought me to Scott’s video. 

To sum it up, the video itself is excellent and has probably been the most I have learned about giving presentations in a single shot.  In the video Rob Conery presents Scott with a topic and asks him to prepare and give a 15 minute presentation on it.  That is where the value of this video comes in.  Scott has written several posts over the years on tips to becoming a better speaker and there are several other great resources out there as well.  However, being able to watch an accomplish speaker prep for a talk has a ton of value that you can not get from a list of tips.  It gives you a chance to see how he dissects the topic, preps the demos, and how it all comes together in the final presentation.  Of course the process is scaled back so that it will all fit in a reasonable length video, but you still are able to get a sense of the his process.

So I put some of the things I learned in the video to the test.  First off, preparing for my talk was much easier and I felt much more comfortable with what I had going into my presentation (that is before the HDMI fiasco).  As for the talk itself, I honestly didn’t see a lot of changes though.  Which, at first, was a bit disappointing.  However, when I was reviewing the talk on my way home I started making several connections.  Instead of simply thinking that the talk could have gone better, I began to map specific things that I did or did not do to some of the things I saw in the video.  It gave me a better understanding of what needed to be changed and an example of how I could change it.  To me, that is a win.  It is always easier to improve something when you have an idea of what to improve and how to improve it.

Would I recommend this video? Without a doubt I would.  I believe you can purchase the video by itself for $18.  I went for the annual subscription to TekPub instead.  I honestly think Scott’s video alone would be worth the price of the annual subscription but now I get access to all of TekPub’s other great material as well. 

Scott has some more information about the video and links to his other posts on speaking at  Scott and Rob also have a podcast that is quite interesting called This Developer’s Life.  Of course they both have very active twitter accounts (@shanselman and @robconery).

For any of the speakers out there, especially the ones just starting or thinking about starting, I wish you all the best.  While speaking is something that I forced myself to start doing, I have really began to enjoy it and hope others do as well.


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