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Conference Evaluations

Tuesday, March 7, 2006 - 15:16 by Wayne Beaton

I just got a stack of evaluations from a conference I spoke at last year. I delivered three separate talks at this conference, so the stack is pretty tall. Most of the evaluations are good, containing comments like “All presenters should be this good”, “Superb as usual”, and “Very good speaker. Knows his stuff” (I’d like to thank my Mom, Dad, and brother for attending the talks). However, there are a few that are not so complimentary. There are a few that offer comments along the lines of “The presenter allowed too many questions during the session” and “The material was not covered fully due to constant questions”. Then there was the perplexing, “Breath mints and toothpicks, please”. I know that I tend to judge the value of a conference based on quality of the mints and toothpicks…

Still, I think I rated high enough to be invited back again next year.

I do tend to put too much information in presentations. But I normally do this on purpose and let folks know when I start that I’m not going to cover all the information. In my opinion, if you want hear what’s on the slides, you should read the slides. I suppose that’s why some conference organizers kill so many trees: so you can read your printouts on the plane ride home. In my opinion, it’s what the speaker says around the slides that gives me reason to actually attend the talk.

I don’t think that I’ve ever delivered the same talk the same way twice. Every time its a different experience. Every time, I try to add different value. The way this happens is through audience participation. I need the audience to ask questions so that I can figure out what they really need to know and change directions as appropriate. I do control the questions to make sure that we don’t go too far off track and do scan the rest of the audience while questions are being asked to watch their reactions and gauge how much time I’ll dedicate to the answers (and figure out what should be taken offline). I guess you just can’t please everyone.

I had a heck of a time doing the Eclipse RCP webinar last fall because there was no audience to react to. I’m running in to this again as I put together a collection of ScreenCam Demos for the evangelism site. I thrive on feedback.

Anyway, if you want to see what’s on my slides, read ’em. If you want to learn a bunch of good stuff in addition to the slides, attend the talk and ask questions.