Nerd Guru

Because technical people need good soft skills to get ahead.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Running Diary: The trade show presentation, Part 2

In Part 1 of this Running Diary, I discussed how I hoped not to repeat a failed trade show presentation from 8 years ago and what the process was for my coworker Slawek and I went through to get our submission accepted was like. While contemplating how to pronounce "Slawek" (you say the "w" almost as a "v", but not quite), you've likely been on pins and needles wondering how it all turned out.

Good thing for you, that's exactly what this entry is about.

The actual presentation

Once at the conference, I borrowed an old trick I learned from high school football: case out the venue first. The first thing we used to do when we got off the bus at a road game was go walk around on the field. The idea is that you want to get a feel for the environment before you have to perform in it and there's a ton of people starring at you.

Not only did I look around the empty room between sessions, I attended a session I wasn't really interested in so I could get a better feel for the acoustics. That may be going to far, but at the very least this tactic helps calm the butterflies that come up whenever I do something like this.

As our time slot came up, I was pleasantly surprised that the room that held about 75 people filled up quickly. So quickly, in fact, that with about 5 minutes before the start of the session, there weren't any seats left. While it was nice to have that many people, it was awkward because it wasn't quite time to get going yet.

So, I worked the crowd. Since it was a conference, everybody had name tags on that listed what company they worked for and where they were from. I wasn't exactly David Letterman, but by chit chatting with people it at the very least warmed me up.

Unfortunately, that can be taken literally. I have a history of sweating a lot. Yeah, I said it, I sweat a lot. I was smart enough to wear an appropriate shirt to disguise this (the darker the better and a high tech fabric golf polo shirt just to be safe), but by the time the session began, I had already downed a glass and a half of ice water. No, that didn't cause the obvious bladder-related side effect during my little spiel, fortunately.

My portion went pretty well, but not perfect. That is, nobody left and only 2 people fell asleep by my count. I was careless with my time, though, and went over by 5 minutes, putting Slawek at a disadvantage for his longer portion.

Then came the cool part: so many people lined up afterward to come up and ask us questions, the room police had to come in and kick us out! I handed out about a dozen business cards but Slawek forgot his. One person almost was brought to tears at the thought of having to remember his email address given that his last name is Polish and contains a sequence that reads "chc" in the middle, so that's a mistake he'll recover from for next time. Heck, I even got stopped in the parking lot on my way to the airport by somebody who enjoyed the talk. You can't get much more fulfilling than that.

Final score: 4 people left early, 5 visibly fell asleep, and we generated lots of interest judging by the questions.

If I had to do it over again, I'd press more for a pre-lunch session. I really think that would have cut the snoozers in half. Other than watching my time better and Slawek forgetting his business cards, it went about as well as it could have.


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posted by Pete Johnson @ 10:28 AM   0 comments

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