There’s a Moon Over Bourbon Street Tonight
If you are an ABAP Developer then September / October / November is carnival time, both for virtual and in-person events. Let us have a recap of what has been going on and what is yet to come.
They say that with buses you wait forever and then four turn up at once. It is a bit like that with conferences of interest to ABAP developers – there are loads of them at this time of the year.
DEVTOBERFEST – Sep 18 – Oct 13 2023
This is all over now but have a look at the website so you can get involved next year.
ABAPCONF – 7 December 2023
This is a virtual event with two tracks running in English and in German. It describes itself as “ABAP, ABAP and even more ABAP” which is just fine with me. I have never been able to get a slot speaking at that event in the past – there are just so many speakers applying – but one day….
Anyway, this is virtual, so it is free, so please check this out…..
Virtual / India – November 2-3 / 2023
Before COVID there used to be three SAP TechED events a year – one in Las Vegas, one in Barcelona, and one In Bangalore. During COVID of course the whole event became virtual.
Now COVID is over in-person events are back and SAP TechED still is available virtually but there is also an in-person event in Bangalore, India. A lot of people are upset the other two are not there, more on that later.
In any event there are always half a ton of sessions to choose from at such events, the SAP Mentors were asked which ones to recommended, here is a URL saying who chose what.
Australia (and elsewhere) – November 3 / 2023
They say that the USA and the UK are two countries separated by a common language. As an example, they cannot even agree how to spell the word “standardize” (USA spelling here). You may have heard of the Australian soap opera NEIGHBOURS which propelled Kylie Minogue to fame in the 1980’s. She is the same age as me, but the way, but I have never been in a soap opera, I have been too busy doing SAP type things. The point is that NEIGHBOURS has the letter “U” in it, which I presume it would not have in the USA.
In any event on November the 3rd there are some one day in-person events in Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne, which is a mixture of watching the SAP TechED keynote plus “code jams” and the like.
This is not just happening in Australia but all around the world.
ASUG New Orleans – November 7-9 / 2023
Because there is no real SAP TechED in the USA this year, the American SAP User Group (ASUG) has stepped into the void and organised their own in-person event called ASUG TECHCONNECT.
I have to admit I am speaking at that event on the second day, all about the future of ABAP programming. When I went into work the other day, I found one of my colleagues had left a book about New Orleans on my desk, which was nice. History is fascinating. For example:
- The French guy who “discovered” and named Louisiana could not find it again on his second trip to the USA, spent two years looking for it, could not find it, and was eventually brutally murdered by one of his own men who had enough of this fruitless search.
- When the USA bought Louisiana from the French in 1803 or whenever Napoleon did not have the legal right to sell it under French law, and the USA president did not have the legal right to buy it under the USA constitution as it was then, but the deal went ahead anyway.
- Napoleon was paid in USA bonds, but he needed ready cash, so he sold the bonds to two British banks at an 18% discount, as a result got a load of ready cash from Britain, which he used to finance a new war with the British.
I have been to the USA loads of times, but never New Orleans, so I am really looking forward to it. I wonder what the dustbins are like. And will Stevie Winwood be there? And I must do a food review. I hear they have something called “Jambalaya” which is rice plus about twenty billion other things mixed in with it.
This next bit is the most important. Historically a lot of attendees have been quite disappointed with the content of the presentations at both in-person and virtual events, often no matter how relevant or technically correct the content is, the whole audience is asleep ten minutes after the speaker begins. What I want is to get to the stage where every single presentation is a delight to attend – and this is not an impossible goal.
I have done this before, and I will do this again. Here are some tips for anyone presenting at any of the events I have listed here, or any public speaking event of any sort.
- Go to a few Toastmasters meetings. They have branches all over the world. You will be amazed how scientific the art of public speaking is. Just like programming it is an art and a science both at the same time. Which is presumably why I like them both.
- At the start you have 30 seconds to grab the attention of the audience, otherwise they will lose interest and spend the rest of the time asleep / playing with their phone / having elaborate fantasies. “Hello, thank you for coming” just does not cut the mustard. You have to do something dramatic and/or unusual.
- Don’t make more than three points in your presentation. It is physically impossible for the human brain to take in more than three things at once. If you make five points, only three will get through. Moreover, the three points have to be logically related, and you need to be able to express the whole concept in one sentence of ten words or less.
- Generally, the three points are why things are bad now (A), how they could be wonderful (B), and how to get from A to B, though of course the three points could be anything, if they are logically related.
- Each slide should have one point it is trying to make – just like a method in OO should have one purpose only. In both cases if you say “what is this trying to achieve” and the answer contains the word AND then a split is needed.
- Don’t read out your slides. Just don’t. The audience can read – honestly they can.
- The human brain can do one thing at a time. That would be either reading your slides or listening to you. If you have a slide full or words, then the audience will start reading the slides and will not listen to anything at all you are saying whilst they are reading them. So, the more words you have the less attention people will pay to you. The ultimate example is the SAP “roadmap” slides which I really don’t think should ever be shown in front of an audience, they are for reading at your leisure.
- See if you can use stories rather than facts. People struggles to remember facts, but they can remember stories easily. For example, at one SAP conference a guy from an electricity producing company told a story about the SAP go-live day and they had a power cut which stopped everything and was very ironic considering the nature of their business.
- Q&A – that is traditionally at the end. I would say don’t have Q&A at all, just tell people how to contact you afterwards. That is because each question is of interest to 5% of the audience and the rest are desperate to get out of the room.
- But if you really do feel the urge to have a Q&A then do not do this at the end of the talk, but say you are going to take a few questions and then wrap up. The reason being that people generally only remember the first bit of a presentation and the last bit. So, you would want the last bit to be a re-iteration of your three points and not some stupid question like “Does ABAP have IF statements?” (an actual question).
- End with a call to action. If I talk about TDD I ask the audience to try out TDD. If I talk about the RAP I ask the audience to try out the RAP. If I was SAP the call to action would be to but whatever it was I was trying tos ell in the presentation. If you can’t think of any sort of call to action then question why you are talking in the first place.
You might say “OK then smarty pants, if you have all the answers – what do I do instead?”
It’s not me who has all the answers, it is Toastmasters, and even then, it is a life-long journey.
As an example, I was a Toastmasters event in Burwood, Australia, and they had a special guest star, Darren LeCroix from Las Vegas, a former world speaking champion.
In Toastmasters at every event several people give four-minute speeches and then get evaluated, as constructive criticism is valued just as highly as being able to give a good speech. So, they asked Darren if he would do the evaluation.
He said OK if they all understand I am going to be brutal. Everyone agreed, they gave their speeches, and he took them apart. I was sitting in the audience, and I thought I wish it was me up there getting lambasted, because all the criticism was constructive, and I probably really need that sort of feedback whenever I speak.
To end this section here is an example Toastmasters tip – film yourself giving a speech, then play it back with the volume off at ten times normal speed. That way, if you have a mannerism, like touching your ear every so often when you are nervous, it will show up right away.
The title of this blog is from a song by Sting in 1985 from the album “The Dream of the Blue Turtles”. That song in turn was based on the novel “Interview with the Vampire” by Anne Rice which was set in New Orleans several hundred years ago.
There’s a moon over bourbon street tonight
I see faces as they pass beneath the pale lamplight
I’ve no choice but to follow that call
The bright lights the people and the moon and all
I pray everyday to be strong
For I know what I do must be wrong
Oh you’ll never see my shade or hear the sound of my feet
While there’s a moon over bourbon street