Some Things I Learned While Traveling

I’ve learned a few funny things this last week:

  1. All that Spanish that I took in high school and college was a complete waste of time. I should have taken wood shop, metal shop, home economics, anything other than Spanish! At least I would have gotten a cheese board out of it.
  2. When a conference is over, I need to get the hell out of town! There are few things more depressing that lingering for a few days in the conference venue after a conference is over. All the cool kids are gone, and the playground is empty.
  3. Apparently, you really can’t prepare enough for a talk. I kept track of the number of times that I practiced the presentation that I gave and I had done it more than 10 times. For a four-hour tutorial that seems like a lot of practice – nearly 40 hours of explicit practice over many weeks (and yes, I have a day job…and a family). The presentation was pretty good (In my own humble opinion, OK?), but I still feel like I had major flaws in the delivery.
  4. When pairing on a presentation, being a good partner is everything. You can’t make any changes without informing your partner – you need to keep it predictable. You need to update your plans together. I learned this from Mike Sutton at XP2010. Improvising well means that you are a good partner – you don’t do wildly unexpected things – at least without giving your partner some sort of cues. The more you work together, the easier this gets. If the landscape of the presentation is well known, then my partner has an easier time seeing where I’m going.

Actually, let me refine that last bit: perhaps every partnership is different. I have been unpredictable with partners on presentations in the past and completely thrown them off. That usually hasn’t ended well. If you are going into a presentation with someone that you are not very familiar with, you would be well advised to avoid last minute changes and stick to the plan.

However, there are those who feed off each other’s creativity. I’m guessing this works best for those who have worked together fairly often. In that case, a partnership can take a presentation to interesting places, and if they get into trouble, they can pull it out together.

One Response to Some Things I Learned While Traveling

  1. YvesHanoulle says:

    hi Tom,

    I think presentations or workshops become at their best after doing it at least 3 times life. No matter how uch you prepare, no matter how many dry-runs you do for your family. etc…
    Isn’t it possible to do a presentation at your work?

    I try to do new presentations at my clients the week before. I do that during lunch break. They get something for free and I get valuable feedback.

    I agree that pairing is about helping your partner to be succesfull. However, how you help her, depends on your partner. Some needs predictability, some needs freshness.
    Most of all you need trust.

    I think it’s a lot like musicians playing together. Most bands rehearse songs over and over. Especially to know what they should do when things go wrong.
    And then you have jazz bands, well they rehearse on stage…

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