Posted in Speaking, SQL Server

Speaker Idol 2019 – The Advice

This should be my final post about Speaker Idol 2019. I’ve said Thank You’s, I’ve told you how I put the presentation together, and now it’s time to give back. Here’s my advice for anyone who wants to do this in the future. Some of these apply regardless of whether you’re competing so I’m breaking these out in general.


General Tips:

Edit. You’re not going to be able to say everything you want to say or show everything you want to show so make sure you edit accordingly. Choosing what to keep or what should go won’t be easy. I have enough problems editing a simple blog post so you can imagine how hard it was for me to edit the presentation.

Speak slower than you would normally. This was one of the biggest reminders I needed before I went up. I have done enough theater and public speaking in the past to know that this is one of the first things they teach you. It helps you enunciate your words so everyone can understand what you’re saying. It can also help with your pacing. But it also helped me remember what I wanted to say next.

Make sure your slides are readable for the “cheap seats,” i.e. those sitting in the back. This means making sure your images are clear and your fonts are large enough. Your computer monitor is going to be too small to really give you the same experience as the room you’re presenting in. Here are a couple of extra tips:

hotel room practice
Practicing in the hotel room

* Most TVs have HDMI slots or some other external connector these days so connect your laptop to your larger screen TV when you practice. It’s not perfect but it does give you an idea of how your presentation visually scales to a larger screen. I actually used the HDMI connection for the TV in the hotel room at Summit when I practiced and made changes. I do this at home for my regular presentations as well.

* I also used the larger screen to make my images larger and then took the screenshots so when I shrunk them for the smaller scale in the presentation, I had a better resolution of the image.

Practice. Practice. Practice. I may have been a bit obsessive for Speaker Idol but I spent a lot of time rehearsing my presentation. I didn’t practice every day of Summit but I built in time. I didn’t want to give my nerves a chance to take over to the point where I couldn’t remember what I wanted to say next. But if you know what you’re saying well enough, you can recover easily if you find yourself not saying the exact words you practiced.

Record yourself presenting. I do a lot of things that require listening to myself talk or sing or watching myself on stage. After all this time, I can confidently say that I still hate it every single time. But it does make me aware of how I’m presenting myself and helps me find the little things that I can tweak to make myself better. And I may see things that someone may not notice about myself. As hard as it, watching recordings of yourself will make you better.

Speaker Idol Specific Tips:

Do your homework. Look at the videos of past Speaker Idols and get an idea of what the judges look for. This year was a bit harder because only one judge was returning. Those who competed in the first group were probably at the biggest disadvantage for this. But if you do your homework, you know what past judges look for and you can still use those as guidelines. A lot of the feedback followed the same lines of critique.

Time yourself. They did tell us they weren’t going to be as strict with time as they had in the past but to keep it at 5 minutes. And length seemed to be the biggest critique I heard this year. I know that I was a couple of seconds over in the first round. I don’t know what my time was for the final; I’m curious to go back and find out. But the rules say 5 minutes, so plan for 5 minutes. Build in time for laughs – especially the big ones. If this were a general presentation, I would recommend that you build in time for questions you may get from your attendees. Whatever the situation is, just plan your presentation to fit in time limits.

Ask other people for feedback. I made a lot of changes based on the feedback I got. People saw mistakes that I made that needed to be fixed that I didn’t even notice. I got a feel of what worked and what didn’t. Presenting in front of other people also gives you a chance to see what they react to or don’t react to since it may not be what you were expecting. 

Think of this as a master class on speaking. Even if you don’t win, you will be a better speaker and presenter for having gone through the process. 

Breathe. What’s the worse that can happen – you win?

Good luck if you choose to compete next year. And if you find that you need help or want advice – whether it’s for this or any other presentation, please feel free to reach out to me. I’m happy to help.



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