Fair warning: This isn’t a technical post. This is my opinion, and not Microsoft’s.
I’ve been a public speaker at events since 1980. Interestingly, even though I’ve done this, it’s never been my paid job. I’ve spoken on technical topics at groups as small as 5 people to over 10,000, in
local and global events. I’ve been on TV, radio, on stage and on webcasts. I teach at college as well.
In all of that time, I’ve come to realize that speaking is the easy part. To be sure, I put an extraordinary amount of work into my presentations. I learn the topic, research speaking styles and communication
methods, fret over my demos and practice relentlessly. But I reiterate that this is the easy part.
The hard part is putting the events together.
Most folks have no idea how hard it is to create, advertise, pay for, staff, run and tear down a technical event. Even small ones. And the folks that do it get none of the glory, none of the praise, and usually all of
the criticism. These folks deserve way more respect than they get.
And the worst offenders in not offering this respect are the speakers.
Let me say that again – some speakers are rude, arrogant and disrespectful of the event planning groups that run their sessions. They have unrealistic expectations, and I’ve seen some actively fight the requirements these teams impose. From not delivering slides on time, to not following the rules the event planners lay out, to not even calling when they don’t show up. Showing up and saying "I'm still working on my slides" with a smirk doesn't impress me as a listener at all - it just makes me think you're dismissing my time as unimportant as a listener. Your content should be nailed way before the event, not the day of. Practicing on the day of presentation is expected - changing it indicates unprofessionalism. Sorry, but there it is.
I don’t bring up problems without suggesting some solutions – that’s my military training coming through. :) Here’s what can fix this issue:
- All speakers should have to demonstrate they have assisted in the logistics of an event somewhere. Or you don’t speak.
- All speakers should follow the rules. Don’t get your slides in, don’t follow the rules? You don’t present. There are LOTS of people wanting
- All speakers should follow the golden rule. Sure, you’re special, just like everyone else. Understand that the event planners are there – with you – to make the event a success. Treat them like you want to be treated.
No, I’m not pointing anyone out. No, no one asked me to write this post. I’ve just been on both sides of the fence, and you really have no idea how difficult the logistics of an event are until you put one on. Want to find out if I’m right? Volunteer at a local even like SQL Saturday, ask to help out at PASS, TechEd, whatever. The point is, walk a mile in the shoes of the event planner. It will make you a better presenter.