Paired Presentations

May 15, 2011

Often when people talk about public speaking, they are typically referring to an individual speaker. You don’t see much advice for people who present in pairs. When it works out, it is a beautiful thing where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. When it fails, usually one speaker or the other takes the brunt of the damage. Here are some things that I recommend doing to insure a paired speaking engagement is successful:

  1. Keep it simple and let each speaker own a portion of the presentation on his or her own. This avoids a situation where one person does all the talking and the other just chimes in from time to time. I feel that both speakers need to be perceived by the audience as experts in their own right. It doesn’t even have to be a large section of the presentation that you own – just some section that is all yours. I feel like this works well with people who are new to presenting – I can include them for whatever period they feel most comfortable. The anti-pattern here is where a second speaker in a pair only chimes in from time to time. This leaves them only offering the occasional comment. This can leave a perception of that second person as interrupting the first speaker.
  2. Rehearse together – I know it’s hard to do, but you will both find weak areas in each other’s material. When I’m working on speaking material, I tend to get these ideas that I think are totally brilliant. We’re talking about genius stuff here. I can’t tell you how often I have shared this brilliant material with my partner only to discover that it falls completely flat. It must be an echo chamber in my skull (it is empty anyhow). Better to have a lame idea shot down by my partner than some poor unsuspecting audience. Often, the idea just needs refinement.
  3. The 3 secrets to a good presentation with a partner? Support. Support. Support. Focus on the other person in your presentation. If they rock, then you both are very likely going to look brilliant. If they suck, you haven’t got a chance. Be there to encourage them when the practice doesn’t go well. Be there to provide ideas and alternatives. Be patient when they are struggling and time is running short. Make them feel welcome and like a key contributor.
  4. Have a victory celebration afterward! It’s not often that I get to share a presentation with someone. Two people qualify as a party in my book, so go for it! Celebrate the accomplishment! It’s a big deal when two people can collaborate together successfully to provide a rich experience for an audience. Not many people can do it well.

I’m sure there is a lot of good advice for people who are co-presenting and I’d love to hear it. These are just a few things that I’ve learned by trial and error (a lot of the latter).


XP2011 Evaluations

May 14, 2011

If there is one thing that I would add to XP2011 I think it would be some sort of speaker evaluation system. Right now there is nothing and I think the conference organizers are missing a great opportunity for some feedback for the speakers that they invite to the conference. Of course in the absence of any conference organized feedback system, there are still some reasonable alternatives:

  1. Each speaker can gather feedback on their own in their session. That’s what we did in our Silo Busting tutorial this year and we got some constructive ideas out of it. By collecting the feedback myself, I get useful information for improvement, but the conference organizers don’t.
  2. Speakers can use an online evaluation service like SpeakerRate. I noticed at least one speaker using this service and requesting feedback via twitter. I’m going to have to give this a try.
  3. You can try to use social media like twitter to collect tweets about your session.
So why do I care? First, I want that feedback for my own use, and I want it from a source that is relatively unbiased. That unbiased part is a little tricky when you are the one soliciting the feedback – in my experience people often won’t say the really useful stuff to your face (although there have been some exceptions). Now, I’m tempted to say that conference organizers could also use the information for evaluating speakers future conferences but…I’m not so sure about that for the following reasons:
  1. I don’t know of any conference where historical data on speaker performance is used. That’s not to say that it isn’t used anywhere, just not at the few conferences that I speak at (as far as I know).
  2. I’m not sure that a rating that is only updated once a year or less is really going to have any relevance. Sometimes you blow a presentation. The jetlag gets you, your suitcase gets lost, you have a family crisis and aren’t as prepared as usual. Any number of things can happen that really have no bearing on your ability as a speaker on a given subject. Other times you rock the house. Let’s face it: audiences are fickle beasts.
The most well organized conferences that I have spoken at have made some sort of attempt to capture session feedback from the attendees. Regardless, there are things that we can do as speakers to own the responsibility for obtaining this feedback. Perhaps doing it ourselves is most within the spirit of XP. What do you think?

I’ll be speaking at Agile Roots 2009!

May 5, 2009


agilerootsspeaker

I’ll be giving a tutorial, “Impediment Hunting” at Agile Roots 2009! This is a fantastic tutorial and I’m really excited to have been selected as a presenter for this conference. They have done a great job lining up some terrific speakers for this conference – hey, they got me, right? But in all seriousness, I’m really looking forward to seeing this group of speakers in action.


I’ll be doing a tutorial at Agile2009!

April 23, 2009

Agile2009_WebBadges_SpeakerMy proposal “What Nature Can Teach Us About Building Great Teams” Has been accepted! I’m really looking forward to this. I did a similar session last year and it was very well received. Lots of great ideas came out of it.