Building the session

In my last blog i wrote about getting selected for New Stars of Data and my mentor. But that wasn’t the end of it. Because i had an idea of what i wanted to talk about, but that was it.

Meeting the mentor

First up, my mentor Jess Pomfret ( t | b ) made an appointment to get to know each other. This made sure we had some kind of match and we would be able to work together. It was new for both of us so we decided to see how things went. If i got quiet for too long, she would check up on me.
I had seen Jess perform last year at Data Grillen and i liked her sense of humour. To me, that’s very important. After this meeting, i got to work.

Getting the basics

Now, to present a session online, you need a few things. I suck at building Powerpoint so i asked my marketing coworker if i could use the company one. I could, so that was easy. I also got the company background to hide my real background (doors etc). That integrated nicely. And i dug up my presentation clicker.

But the most important part are the demos. Because what do you do with those. You can use your own machine, run them in a virtual environment or in Azure. Or, as this discussion revealed, record them. All i can say is try everyone of the options. In the end i went for Azure as my main demo and a local environment as backup. Simply because my local laptop couldn’t keep up for some reason.

It’s your session

One piece of advice i got from a number of people is, make it your session. Make sure you’re comfortable presenting your knowledge. And the easiest way is to be yourself. Don’t try and imitate someone you look up to. Because playing a role for over an hour is hard. Just be yourself. And let it shine through in your slides. If you like to make a joke, you can do that in your slide. It’s not a do-or-die presentation to your board of directors ;).

Another great piece of advice i got was to create a coherent story. Let your story flow through your session, take the audience on a small trip. Your trip, told your way.

Test your session

If you’re lucky enough to have a mentor, you can ask them for try-outs. I did and it really helped me out with a lot of details. But before i did a live test, i practiced online. Microsoft offers an online service with powerpoint where you can present your session and you get some feedback. Things like your speaking pace, if your voice is going monotone and whether or not your just reading your slides. That really helps with the easy things you can fix. It had more problems with detecting filler words but in any case it’s a good reminder what to use or not.

my first rehearsal report

The big day

After testing your session, trying things out and getting ready (and if you’re lucky, a technical test to see if everything is working), it’s time to do it. After all your preparation, things can’t go wrong. But they still can. And that’s ok. Really, everyone understands that it won’t be perfect. I’ve seen very experienced presenters make mistakes or run into problems. That doesn’t matter.

What matters is, what will you do. Are you prepared for issues on your demo environment. Are you prepared for things breaking. Like my clicker that broke on the eve of my presentation. No problem, i’ll just use my mouse and keyboard. Rehearse the session again with those and stop worrying.

During my session, i made the mistake of pressing F5 instead of F8 in my powershell script. I knew it could happen, but i didn’t build in a catch for that (something like a break in the top of the demoscript that stops the script from running. And the large script didn’t stop. But i had a second window open where i could run the last part of my demo. Now this is not to tell you how awesome i am that i was able to figure this out, but to show you how you might handle a mistake.


I had so much fun building the session and creating some content. That was the fuel that kept me going. But in the end, the goal is to share knowledge and help people out. That’s the scary part when you start reading the feedback, both in the session chat and from the official feedback form. I was so lucky that there wasn’t any nasty feedback. Just people telling me the enjoyed the session, learned some new things or enjoyed my style of presenting. Not only did i learn a lot (and lifted my spirits) but i got the chance to educate other people as well!

All i can say is that this has been an awesome journey that might lead me to other places. But i’ll keep submitting my first session, and maybe new ones, to other conferences as well. I hope to see YOU there as well. As a presenter sharing knowledge with the community.

Thank you so much for reading.

Before your go, you can check out all the sessions here. And you can keep providing feedback to the sessions via youtube or twitter or whatever you like.

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