Presenting Epiphanies


I Love Teaching

As I mentioned earlier this week, I really enjoyed Consona Connect 2010. I had two very important epiphanies while presenting at this event.

I know a LOT more about SQL Server than I did 3 years ago.

Don Rudo introduced me as a SQL server expert, and actually said, “Dave probably knows more about SQL Server than I do.” For those of you who don’t know Don, he’s the “old master” of SQL Server for Made2Manage, and I have yet to think of myself as an expert in anything SQL Server related. However, as the class went on, around 10 hours of SQL Server training, I realized just how much I actually knew. People had questions, and I found that I knew almost all of the answers from memory. Wow, I’m used to going to SQL events and feeling like the dumbest guy in the room.

Why didn’t I realize how much my skills with the Force (SQL) had grown? As I’ve been learning and volunteering, I’ve been comparing my skills with masters like Brent Ozar, Sean McCown, Brian Knight, Tim Mitchell, and Mike Hotek. These guys have vast experience and to a man are brilliant so compared to them I’m a Padawan learner. However, this was a wake up call for me, that yes my skills are getting much more formidable.

I was born to teach.

I have been a teacher for most of my adult life. I taught high school before moving into computers. I taught Aikido for nearly a decade and have always been successful with it.

The feedback I received on my Consona Connect presentations was that I did a very good job. I was funny, informative, and completely at ease in front of the groups some of which were quite large. Several people came up to me and asked, “How come you don’t get nervous?”

Well dear friends, let me tell you what was really happening inside me…. The nervousness that hits me before I begin… the worry that I haven’t prepared well enough… how could that PowerPivot file die on me? Ugh. I’m tingling in my arms and legs… the feeling like I have no weight and could bounce around like a pinball… (well maybe that was the caffeine)

Waiting for the session to start… greeting some old M2M friends trying to pass the time before I begin… trying to breathe… checking the computer for the thousandth time to make sure everything is ready…

Suddenly everyone stops talking and looks at me expectantly… it’s time… I pause and hold my breath for a moment and steady myself before I begin… as I begin my voice catches in my throat for a moment… makes me afraid that I’m about to blow the whole thing because I’m afraid my voice won’t work…

Hoping to God that I won’t forget the presentation… having notes at hand just in case I do… Starting with a famous quote by Stephen Few… Hoping that it sounds dramatic rather than rehearsed and silly….

Finishing the introduction with what we’re going to talk about… introducing myself… telling my embarrassing Vegas story… hoping they’ll laugh and not lose all respect for me… the story takes a few minutes to tell and makes me relax… I think its much better when I tell it rather than write it… at one point in the story I pause… to make sure they’re still with me… not knowing what I’ll do if all I hear is crickets chirping… the room is silent for what seems like forever…

And They Laugh…. Relief floods my body, yes this IS going to work… those old feelings take hold of me again at Consona Connect… I am back in my element… for this short time this is my class… my little world for them to enjoy and learn in…

I stop thinking about eye contact… making sure I don’t pace… paying attention to my volume… whether they have any questions…

I give up the stress… the nerves… the worry… simply let go… I flow naturally… let things happen…

It’s at this moment that I’ve reached some form of transcendence… and I feel like I can do anything…

I hope all of that made sense to you, it does to me. I urge every one of you to try it, see if presenting and teaching is right for you. I was reminded again, that it was one of the things I was meant to do.

Anyway, somebody from my company actually asked me at lunch after my presentation, “Dave, that was great, but how can you tell that embarrassing story in public?” I stopped, and looked at him and asked:

  • Did it get your attention?
  • Did you enjoy it?
  • Did you learn something?

He answered yes to all three. Then I answered, “Does anything else matter?”

I’ll be Presenting at SQL Saturday Dallas BI Edition

I’ll be presenting two topics on Saturday at this event.

  • Creating Interactive Dashboards with PowerPivot. Slicing Your Way to Data Nirvana
  • Who, What, Where. The Power of SSRS Parameters

Let’s just hope that everything goes well and I have the same warm glow Saturday night.

Wish me luck!

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