Don Box – Giving a great talk/demo


I spent some time this morning talking with Don Box about giving a great *technical* talk and/or demo – I captured the discussion on my handy camcorder and will edit/upload to MSDN Channel9. This is a fascinating discussion, and I will try to make sure that all the embedded/mobile presenters watch this before heading out to the next developers conference!

Which leads nicely into a question for you, the viewer of this blog.

  • What do you *hate* about watching/listening to presentations at conferences
  • How would you describe a good talk/demo

It will be interesting to get your insights/thoughts and then compare these with the Channel9 video when this goes live.

– Mike


Comments (5)

  1. Aaron says:

    I doubt anything I’ll say here is groundbreaking, but it’s stuff that I’ve seen accomplished speakers still make the same mistakes with over and over:

    – butt-ugly color schemes for slides

    – text too small to read from the back of the room

    – getting off onto a tangent, which causes part of the original presentation to be skipped due to time constraints

    What’s good? Involving the audience in a discussion, not a lecture. Give away random swag things even if it’s just tossing candy at folks. Have all the sample code available either on CD/DVD at the event (good) or for download (ok).

  2. Things I don’t like:

    1.) Allowing those one or two attendees vacuum up loads of time with questions that only relate to a very particular topic at that attendee’s place of business. I’ve seen presenters go both ways with this – some get sucked into the vacuum and others "offline" the question. The latter is preferred for the greater good of all attendees.

    2.) Demos that don’t work. They’re still around there. Every MS presenter should have the demo tested at least 5 times before putting it on the screen. Take lead from the Windows 95 launch fumble back in the day…

    3.) Equipment that doesn’t work. Sound check before the event. Disable power save/power down. Tape down power cords. If possible, have backup options (wireless mic packs, demo laptop, projector, etc).

    Things I like:

    1.) Having an absolute expert on the topic giving the presentation. I like those guys that know a little bit about everything and everything about the topic at hand. Bonus points for being able to break it down in layman’s [tech] terms.

  3. Mark Wan says:

    Well there are bad talks, good talks and really great talks. Don’s talks are mostly of the great variety. I would characterize great talks with the ones you can actually internalize some information. For example a couple of things still stick in my head from the Don Box PDC 2001 talk on COM/CLR:

    – the Matrix red pill/blue pill analogy of Win32 and CLR

    – the XML at the edges vs XML as a processing model.

    May be it is about punchlines, images and analogies that stick, you name it. But that’s why attending a great speaker on a not-so-relevant-to-me topic always beat attending a talk on a technology that is very relevant but from a not-so-great speaker.

  4. Mike says:

    yes, exactly.

    – Mike