Archive for September, 2006


Kevin Ragsdale posted about the nightmares he is experiencing before his conference debut at FoxForward next week. At the end of his post he is wondering if anyone else has these experiences.

Nope, Kevin you are a freak of nature on this one (…holding my breath, keeping a straight face, trying not to laugh…), HA, HA, HA, HA. Sorry.

Yes Kevin, I cannot tell you how many times I had the dream of showing up in Milwaukee, knee deep in snow (because Whil always said it was sunny and 70F in Milwaukee no matter when the conference was), without my laptop, and wondering what sessions I was going to give. I’d wake up in a cold sweat swearing I would not forget my laptop (and not worrying about the weather or the topics).

So I am at the opening keynote of the GLGDW 2000 and I was sitting next to Toni Feltman. She asks me if I am nervous. I was not. Not even a little. I had done close to a hundred presentations to user groups, presented in front of General Motors and GMAC Financial Vice-Presidents, and countless other presentations to large groups including the Microsoft DevDays back when VFP 6.0 was released. I had rehearsed my sessions numerous times to the dog, and at the Detroit Area Fox User Group, and all went well. I had the sessions down cold.

She proceeds to tell me how her first conference presentation she “blanked out” for a moment and forgot the topic she was presenting. Seconds tick along and it all hit her and she presented the session without a problem. So we laugh and listen to the keynote.

Guess what happened when I went to present my Fishing with a Projecthook session? Yep, my brain fried. I forgot my name and the topic I was presenting. Fortunately, I had the first slide up on the screen and both the topic and my name where there to jog the memory and the session went fine. I only have Toni to blame for the glitch. {g}

So here is my sage advice:

  1. Rehearse over and over. Present to the dog, the spouse, the kids, the neighbors, or the walls. Run through the presentation at 1024×768 and make sure you have SET RESOURCE ON and bump all the fonts to 14point bold. Make sure every demo works when disconnected from the network. Rehearse to others at least once, more if possible. Know the time you should be at and be able to adjust the speed of the presentation at any point in the presentation. I keep the timings on my slide notes (more on those notes later). I have seen some presenters who mail it in. You know they are doing the session for the first time live in front of the paying public. Those sessions usually stink.

  2. Make sure you have hyperlinks to examples. Nothing worse than spending time navigating through a File Open dialog looking in folder X which is ten node up and down the tree.
  3. Have someone spell check and grammer check your slides and read your whitepaper. This bit Alan Griver at Advisor DevCon last month and even one of my samples in a live installation routine had a typo during my Real World Deployment session at the same conference. So it happens to everyone, but the more you can minimize it, the better.
  4. Back every thing you need for the session to two CD-ROMs, thumb drive, and load it on a Web server. Print off your slides and keep them in a binder with your white papers. If something happens to you machine (I hate hardware) you can ask to use someone else’s. This happened to Doug Hennig at GLGDW 2006 in April and Doug was able to borrow my machine and still do his presentation when his laptop refused to cooperate with the projector. Years ago at Essential Fox, Toni Feltman has a projector blow a bulb in her session, but she was able to use her printed off slides to keep moving while the technicians fixed the problem. I also use the paper slides to keep notes in case I forget something. I also use them on the plane to review my sessions. I ship one CD in my checked luggage and one in my carry on. I keep the thumb drive in the computer bag. Naturally, the Web server copy is in case everything is lost and stolen. Disaster recovery covered!
  5. Relax. All of the people attending your session are nice people and pretty much forgive a mistake. Speakers make them all the time. Speakers are human. The key is to not let people see you sweat. The easiest way to avoid this is to eliminate the nerves, but keep the adrenaline because it will help with your enthusiasm. Have fun.
  6. Oh, and go to the bathroom just before your session. You will be a better presenter on an empty bladder (sorry for being a little graphic here). Also, make sure there is water for you to drink during the session. It is natural you for your mouth to feel like you are chewing on cotton when you are speaking. Water is a perfect solution to this.
  7. Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know” when someone asks you a question during the session when you don’t know the answer. Nobody knows everything. I lose respect for people who answer with a bunch of baloney to sound like they are an expert. Offer to do some research after the session if it makes sense in the context of the question.
  8. If something goes wrong in a session with a demo, apologize only once, discuss what they should have seen, and move on. You might try one fix, but I guarantee you the odds it will work in front of everyone are slim. If you fumble for 10 minutes you will lose 10 minutes of content and people’s minds will wander to the food they are hoping to get after your session. You will lose them. Keep them engaged with what you hoped to show, and only apologize once. Remember, the people in the seats are very forgiving.

So it sounds like you are pretty normal Kevin. I hope this little post helps you (and others) next weekend.

Wish I could be there to throw tomatoes, I mean write up a great review in a blog, but FoxForward is on a bad weekend for me as you know. Good luck to all the speakers, both in Prague and Atlanta next week.


Rainer informed me yesterday that I will be returning to Germany this year to speak at the 13th German DevCon. Lucky 13 – and I feel very fortunate to be asked back. It was a terrific conference last year, and is always highly rated by the attendees. I am really looking forward to this trip and this conference. I guess I did not upset Rainer too much by hogging the pages in the whitepaper book last year {g}.

I will be presenting four sessions:

  1. Debugging Essentials
  2. Error Handling Best Practices
  3. Professional Developers Toolkit
  4. Using and Extending the Data Explorer

There will be some terrific speakers presenting English VFP sessions this year including: Marcia Akins, Craig Berntson, Y. Alan Griver, Doug Hennig, Venelina Jordanova, Andy Kramek, Beth Massi, and Lisa Slater Nicholls.

German VFP session speakers include: Andreas Flohr, Sebastian Flucke, Uwe Habermann, Kirsten Hinrichs, Jochen Kirstätter, Armin Neudert, Michael Niethammer, Patrick Schaerer, Torsten Weggen, Markus Winhard, Christof Wollenhaupt, and Jürgen “wOOdy” Wondzinski.

There is a SQL Server and .NET conference going on at the same time.

If you want to read more about this conference head to the conference Web site which will be updated next week, or to the Great Things About DevCon Germany Fox Wiki entry with more specifics.