Good Session vs. Great Session ?

I’m interested in your feedback – I seem to be spending more and more time presenting at conferences, and less time sitting through other peoples sessions – when I attended conferences like the PDC, TechEd, Windows CE Developers Conference (now the Windows Embedded Developers Conference now that we have CE and XPE) I attended a number of excellent sessions, and a number of really terrible sessions – there are some really, really good speakers out there, people like Don Box, Martin Gudgin, Marcus Perryman, and others not so great – so here’s the question, what makes for a great session, is it ton’s of demos, humor and relaxed speaking style, audience participation, small number of powerpoint slides, and more code samples, or all of the above…. ?

I’d be interested in your comments.

– Mike

Comments (4)

  1. Rick Strahl says:

    In my experience it’s a combination of things. A good speaker will make even a mediocre topic work well and interesting, but ultimately good topics drive a great session. If you walk out and were just entertained I wouldn’t consider that a great session by any means. I went to several sessions at TechEd like that and it’s disappointing at a technical conference.

    I was pretty disappointed by a lot of sessions at TechEd this year – which mostly was due to bad organization of topics and bad presentation more so than the content. But I also saw a number of topics by great speakers that weren’t all that great. Good presentation but light on content. Some topics were toned down so much all the meat of hte session seemed to be misisng. Others were drowned out by crowd pleasing tactics. Some were too much of a dog and pony show – way too prepared and obviously so to hide problems (.Next sessions).

    A great session should above all give you what you came for (follow the session abstract/title), flow and keep you interested. This totally varies for topics. Some sessions work well with slides, others work well with more code. Personally, I like to see code, so if I go to a technical session I want to see the presenter show me a glimpse of what’s going on but without going overly deep to loose me in the details. Key points, so when you walk out you remember the key points.

  2. Mike says:

    Thanks, that’s interesting… I’d agree that I (being a developer) want to see code, I don’t want a presenter to simply stand and read the bullet points from a slide – I don’t get anything from that, I might as well have a printout of the slides – I want the presenter to ‘add value’ to the session by including comments from their experience from using a set of tools or technologies, warts and all, this may help me avoid problems in the future.

    I’m working on content for the Windows Embedded Developers Conference, I write slides and demos thinking about me in the audience, what would I be interested in seeing or hearing about – if I attended my own session would I find the content useful, entertaining, and would I be interested enough in the content to want to play with the tools and technologies afterwards.

    – Mike

  3. Duncan Lamb says:

    Many great tips. I’ve had it bookmarked for a couple of years.

  4. Mike says:

    Thanks Duncan, that makes interesting reading – I had an e-mail from Don Box a while back that talked about his top tips for presentations, I will see if I can dig that out and post on the blog.

    – Mike