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Author's profile photo Jim Spath

A Day, An Hour, A Speaking Challenge

Glad it’s over. I thought I had an interesting topic.  Dam it Jim, I’m an engineer not a marketeer.


I presented at the Sapphire/ASUG conference today on enterprise output management.  The crowd was on the meager side, which I had expected given the niche topic area (printing is ubiquitous yet not as interesting as new software).  I created the usual slide deck, using standard fonts and too much clip art, practiced the talk a few times, then edited the slides. A few times.  Uploaded by the deadline, fixed per feedback, and tweaked again.  I proofed the content for typos and acronymns and the other style guides I’ve offered to many others.


I tried to compress a year-long project (more, counting the pilot) into a one-hour narrative.  I knew I had too much material, yet I thought it better than not enough (for example, one session today ran out of content in 30 minutes).  Better to skip a less interesting slide than to curtly say, that’s all folks curtl.



The dilemma we’ve faced as track leaders is people who know technical subjects in depth may not be the best presenters, and good speakers may not be conversant with the technology.  I was selected to speak, I assume, because the topic was interesting (in the abstract, so to speak).


Getting mentally prepared to speak in front of a crowd, for me, is not usually strenuous but this year I fretted more than in the past.  The people who put me on the schedule did me a great favor, as I would not have wanted to have the tension for more days than this.

I’ve dealt with audience who had one-sided questions – interesting to them, and maybe to me, but off-topic and distracting to the crowd.  Ive had the sinking feeling of failure when people got up and left way before the end thinking Ive not engaged them, though it’s probably, hopefully, more the topic is less interesting than that I was babbling.

I’ve had comments that I read the slides.  That was a fair criticsm I suppose yet what else does one have but the material on the screen?  This time I tried to make the content not exactly match what I was going to say.  One save was the latest PowerPoint display mode had a preview screen and a note display that allowed me to have memory joggers on what I wanted to say so it wasn’t a conversation one could follow just from the slides.  The risk there was not having coherent slides that would cause someone to not attend, though I know in my experience the pithy title on the session agenda either draws an audience or it doesn’t.


Next step, I think, is rework the content into a webcast.  It may have a larger turnout.

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      Author's profile photo Jelena Perfiljeva
      Jelena Perfiljeva

      Personally, I'm very interested in the subject of output management. But then I don't go to SAPPHIRE and rumors have it you don't go to TechEd in Vegas, so we end up like two ships in the ocean that never meet. 🙂

      At large events it's not unusual for the people to walk out of the session for the reasons that have nothing to do with the quality of presentation. Sometimes you have to leave early to go to another session or a meeting. Few times I settled in a front row but then got an urgent phone call and had to rush out. Sometimes it's just not what you expected and then you see a better session going on next door, so you pretend to have gotten an urgent phone call. 🙂

      "Reading the slides" is my pet peeve. I've pointed out the same issue in a recent openSAP course and was told back that it's because the slides are later used as reference material. I fall into the same trap myself sometimes.

      On the other end of spectrum, I hate the session slides that go like this: title, legal stuff, about me, abstract, "Demo" (without a single screenshot from the said demo), "Questions?", "thank you for attending!". Ugh.

      Too much material is definitely better than running out. If it's a meeting at work then everyone is glad to get their time back. But at the event where people literally pay to see your session it's just unprofessional, I believe, to not prepare enough material.

      Looking forward to a webcast!