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People pay to listen to speakers…

So it is just about time to leave for the SQLPASS Summit and I wanted to air a couple pet peeves that I sometimes see at such events as an audience member. The pet peeves center around the fact above. Yes, I enjoy the networking, chance to help give back through volunteering, interaction with vendors and Microsoft and MVPs, colleagues. The main reason the Summit exists, though, is to provide excellent SQL Server content to attendees (at a price. A good deal, for sure, but still a substantial price for most IT shops and personal budgets these days). These people are going to hear the speaker speak about a topic they have expertise, passion or some combination of each in.

I could stop there but when have you known me to end a post with 120 words? A few quick thoughts for how we can all be better attendees ( Paul Randal’s post is really all you need to read now that I recall him writing this awhile back)

So here we go with a few thoughts on what really irks me when trying to absorb knowledge from the person behind the podium.. Paul touches on some of these as well so read his post, too.

  1. I trust the person behind the podium. Well at least I default to a trust but verify unless I know the speaker and already trust them. I don’t know you. I didn’t come to hear you ask a “Question” that is designed to show everyone what you know. Please – ask questions but don’t go off on random tangents or long winded statements designed to impress. It doesn’t work and you are taking away from the content I paid to go see.
  2. Take a Hint! If the speaker has an agenda and they are covering your burning question later. WAIT. Don’t ask it now when it does’t make sense. Don’t ask the questions on the agenda slides. Understand how these things flow and wait for them to actually be talking about something that sparks a question. I really want to hear your question because maybe it will segue into a great tangent that will help us all. Just wait for a relevant time.
  3. “We are running short on time, so let me get to..” That is another hint to take. Hold your question. Speakers hang around afterwards as folks mob them with questions. Ask then. Let them get through their material.
  4. Heckling works a little bit – Sure it is fun to watch Buck Woody get heckled and give it right back. I enjoy that and sometimes it helps break the ice, relax the presenter and make for a fun time. Just don’t let it take minutes off of the clock. Not everyone in that audience follows our madness on twitter. Not everyone appreciates the inside jokes. Some people actually paid to take knowledge back. Now with Buck’s sessions, people still left with reams of things to do and check in their environments at each of his sessions last year. We also got the bonus of having a fun time, staying awake and laughing. So it works. Just keep it moderated, eh?
  5. I didn’t choose my seat next to you because I wanted to hear what you know. It was the only seat available, I like meeting new people. I will talk to you and exchange business cards before and after. I’ll answer questions about the Summit or give some random fact about me (I can play the Didgeridu and can do circular breathiner… neither well but I can). But. I don’t like the loud Amen type responses from the person sitting next to me. I don’t want to engage in a side discussion about that time you implemented something with what the speaker just talked about on the last slide. I actually want to listen to the content on the current slide and take some notes on Evernote and concentrate on how it applies to a problem I may have to solve some day.
  6. You can sleep but don’t snore.
  7. Turn your phone off.
  8. There with a group of friends?  That is great. But why did you pay the money? To sit in a session and laugh and chat back and forth the entire time or to watch the sessions and learn something? Yeah a quick knowing smile when they talk about a worst practice you just implemented, a laugh or even some quick whispers about the content is fine but the hallways are normally very empty during presentations. Feel free to have as loud and as involved a conversation as you want out there.

That’s it…

No I’m not on my soap box. I probably make these same mistakes from time to time but I really try not to and I was bothered by some of it (not the heckling of Buck. that was enjoyable because he handled it so well and made it a great time for all) in sessions last year and at SQL Saturdays as an attendee.

Mike Walsh
Article by Mike Walsh
Mike loves mentoring clients on the right Systems or High Availability architectures because he enjoys those lightbulb moments and loves watching the right design and setup come together for a client. He started Straight Path in 2010 when he decided that after over a decade working with SQL Server in various roles, it was time to try and take his experience, passion, and knowledge to help clients of all shapes and sizes. Mike is a husband, father to four great children, and a Christian. He’s a volunteer Firefighter and EMT in his small town in New Hampshire, and when he isn’t playing with his family, solving SQL Server issues, or talking shop, it seems like he has plenty to do with his family running a small farm in NH raising Beef Cattle, Chickens, Pigs, Sheep, Goats, Honeybees and who knows what other animals have been added!

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6 thoughts on “People pay to listen to speakers…”

  1. Agreed.

    What should we do when we know that the instructor is wrong or did not have proper facts in order to express something? For example, in the SAN Storage presentation last year, the instructor said that it was impossible to fire up 2 clustered nodes using DAS. Clustering only worked with SAN. And he repeated it 2 times.

    • Two schools of thought, I suppose –

      I would say if you can phrase it politely and not in a rude and challenging mannter and the timing works, then maybe a clarification question would be in order. If you just want to prove the speaker wrong and enjoy that aspect then I say don’t bother. Also if it is something complex and could deteroriate into an argument, I would say hold it for the end. Others may not understand the issue, may get annoyed, etc. Yeah.. they are potentially leaving with bad information but hopefully everyone will see for themselves and try things out in non prod environments after a session, just like when it comes to scripts from bloggers, etc.

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