Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Delivering a better presentation / training course. No. 18. Record your demos.

This is the eighteenth in a series of posts where I plan to discuss my ideas, tips and best practices for delivering a great presentation / training course. Record your demos.

I have already talked about recording sessions and some reasons why it's a good idea to do so.

Yesterday, Bryan talked about the value of pre-recorded demos especially when you want to mitigate against hardware problems.

There have been several cases where I have been glad of my pre-recorded demos.

I employ a number of contrived demos that if I miss a single step, the whole thing falls apart. If I know that I have such a demo coming up, I will often speed view the demo on my machine over a coffee break, just to remind myself of the key points and flow.

For courses such as Maintaining a SQL Server 2008 R2 Database where you are expected to install the product and point out important installation options, delegates will find the part where we sit back and watch a green bar advance across the screen very tedious. Having a video of this would allow you to skip or speed up the dull bits.

Although you could achieve the same result with a series of screen shots in a Powerpoint deck, seeing a real installation take place feels more 'real' and believable.

By the way. I haven't actually delivered the Maintaining a SQL Server 2008 R2 Database course and so cannot be sure if the trainer actually has to demonstrate the installation. However, I did deliver the SQL Server 2000 equivalent and back then you had to perform just such a demo.

As Bryan  says, sometimes the hardware cannot cope. Either the wrong equipment has been provided for an on-site course or there are technical difficulties in the training room. No one wants to sit there and watch a desperate trainer try (for the fifth time) to get a demo to work.

You can tell them that "it usually works perfectly" all you like, but they will still find the experience frustrating. So if you know that the demo will be impossible or it has failed once for whatever reason, you can paraphrase Blue Peter and say "here's one that I recorded earlier".

One last specific. A couple of years ago, I delivered a lot of Silverlight readiness training on behalf of Microsoft. As you might imagine, there was a need to demonstrate live Silverlight applications which in turn required an internet connection.

I couldn't always rely on the venue being able (or willing) to supply an internet connection. Also, sometimes there would be a mismatch between the Silverlight plug-in on my (or provided) machine and the version required by the example site. For example. I would sometimes have the developer plug-in installed and would then get prompted to download the 'correct' plug-in for the application.

Sometimes the application that I wanted to demonstrate would have a short shelf life and I could not count on it being available in future.

Time to roll out the recorded demo. Now the "done thing" here is not to start the video playing and then nip off for a brew while the delegates watch it (although I was taught by a guy once who would do just that). Instead, set the video playing with the sound turned off and then narrate it yourself (pausing or skipping as required).

A particular favourite of mine (Silverlight application) was an application built to demonstrate the use of data encoded into videos by Expression Encoder and processed in a Silverlight media player by handling the MarkerReached event.

The application was called the Contoso Bike club and it involved you watching a video recorded by a cyclist on his bike cam. Whilst cycling around London, the cyclist had used a GPS device to record his position at various points along the route. This data was then added into the video so that when the video was being played back, an image of a Bicycle could be moved around a Virtual Earth map.

Very clever.
My favourite point (50 seconds in) was where the cyclist approaches a busy junction and instead of sitting at the red lights, elects to cut across traffic, almost mow down three pedestrians and then cuts across traffic again to cross the Thames. Crazy! And they (Microsoft) used to show this one at the PDC and MIX!
If you do not currently record your demos, you had better get started. One day, you will be glad that you did.
So. Tip # 18? Record your demos.

See you soon

Phil Stirpé
"I don't do average!"

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Delivering a better presentation / training course. No. 17. Challenge Yourself.

This is the seventeenth in a series of posts where I plan to discuss my ideas, tips and best practices for delivering a great presentation / training course. Challenge yourself.

Some days you are just not in the mood.

Perhaps you are not looking forward to the course? (We all have a least favourite course).

Perhaps it's your least favourite topic?

Sometimes a course or topic is our least favourite because we don't know it as well as the others that we teach or perhaps we don't feel it's as interesting as the other subjects that we teach.

Well the delegates are on the course for a reason and they certainly don't need to know that "all things considered you'd rather be in Philadelphia", or delivering that new funky Windows 8 Developer course. Though not the Javascript and HTML one because I'm a .NET guy!

You owe it to your delegates to make the subject matter interesting.

Well why not set yourself a challenge to make the course more interesting to you?

  • Get through that backup demo without making the cock-up that you always make.
  • Come up with a better analogy to explain Object Oriented Programming. (Although you can't beat my Age of Empires analogy)
  • Aim for a higher score for presentation style in the end of course evaluation.
  • Try using a different vocabulary (odd one this). It could be something like saying "new/spin up" rather than "instantiate" when defining an object.
  • If you must, you could always play Word of the Day although I have known that one to get out of hand. It can also irritate the audience if it's a poor choice of word.  For example, my local MP - Gordon Birtwistle writes a piece for the Burnley Express each week. Two weeks ago, I suspected him of playing Word of the Day. He used the word "Exceedingly" five times in four paragraphs. I wonder if he won the bet?


Challenges are motivating.

Yesterday, I discovered that one of my posts had been removed from my work blog as it was felt by some that it was a little 'edgy' and could have upset some customers. (That is why I have now begun publishing posts on this blog first and then putting abridged copies on the work blog).

Now on reflection, it was a little edgy and it could well have upset some people and so removing it was the right thing to do (for them). However, no-one, especially me likes to receive criticism. And so I was feeling pretty low and frustrated yesterday evening.

I had pretty much grown up again by this morning but felt that I would probably leave off blogging for a while because my heart had gone out of it.

No sooner had I sat down to master Contracts in Metro style apps than Dave Walker threw down the "Who can write the most blog posts in a week?" gauntlet and what do you know?  I'm back in the game!

By the way, Dave published the first two posts of the competition (it runs midday today until midday Thursday 28th June 2012) whilst I was spell checking this one. Well he's got to sleep some time.

So if you're having a bad day or not looking forward to the course topic, set yourself a challenge to help make it more enjoyable.

I expect there will be a flurry of posts over the next seven days. The four likely contenders are Dave Walker , Andrew Mallett, Bryan O'Connor and yours truly but who knows?

Lianne Mease is kindly supporting the challenge by agreeing to bake a cake for the winner and as it will probably be baked with fresh eggs from MY chickens , I have more than a vested interest.

Now I don't know who will have the most opportunity. Andrew Mallett is writing a book on the side and I am working on my Masters dissertation. Perhaps it will be Dave Walker unless he's busy down the pub playing Carcassonne. ( Oops. Almost said Cyvasse). We had better watch out for Bryan O'Connor then.


So. Tip # 17? Make it more challenging/stimulating.

See you soon

Phil Stirpé
"I don't do average!"


Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Delivering a better presentation / training course. No. 16. Learn from other presenters.

This is the sixteenth in a series of posts where I plan to discuss my ideas, tips and best practices for delivering a great presentation / training course. Learn from other presenters.

This one is so simple.

If you have the opportunity to sit in on another presenter's course/presentation, do so. Even if the subject is not one that you need to learn about.

I have already spoken (and will again) about learning what it is you want to present.

Today I want to focus on presentation. i.e. how you present the content and not the content itself.

There are many aspects to a great presentation. For example, use of visual aids, pace, knowledge, engaging the audience etc.

A great way to pick up great techniques is to watch others present and if whilst watching you are impressed/inspired by something that the presenter did or said, then you are likely to try and emulate that in your future presentations.

Perhaps they advanced the slide right on cue whilst maintaining eye contact with the audience mid sentence and stood 10 feet away from their computer. Now doesn't that make a change from having to walk back to the keyboard so that you can press Enter?

Now they are obviously using some form of remote control device. Who would have believed it in this day and age? Why not give it a try? Go find the remote and don't forget the batteries.

Perhaps the thing that inspired you was the way the presenter smoothly increased the font size in Visual Studio without the faff(technical term) of opening up Tools / Options (whilst the audience looked on)?

There is no shortage of presentations to watch online if you are minded to.

I tend to watch several presentations per week. Some of them I watch because I want to learn about something specific. Other times, I might simply want to watch inspirational presenters at work.

If you have some time to spare, I have selected two videos for you to watch.

One presentation is aimed at developers whilst the other is about user experience - UX.

I have picked up one or two techniques from these presenters in the past but what these two presentations reveal to me the most is their passion!

Many of you will have heard of Scott Hanselman. Here is a presentation he gave at DevDays in the Netherlands last year (2011). If you don't speak dutch, perhaps you would like to follow the second link to the moment when he walks on stage. Then again, you might for comedy value sit through 9 minutes of Dutch warm up.

DevDays Netherlands 2011

DevDays Netherlands 2011 (the bit where Scott Hanselman walks on stage)


The second presenter is Bill Buxton who I saw give this talk a couple of years ago at Mix. Now I am not a designer but that didn't matter. I was more interested in his presentation style. However, I found him so informative, that thanks to him I know a great deal more about design and user experience.

Mix Las Vegas 2009


I love what I do.

I love learning about new technologies and how they work.

I love designing and developing new training courses.

What I love the most though (family and farm aside), am passionate about in fact, is delivering my courses to audiences who go away at the end knowing more about the technology than they did when they walked in and have perhaps been inspired to implement their skills upon their return to work.

When I lose the passion for presenting then it will be time for me to retire behind the farm gate and concentrate on getting Harley (my horse) to jump just a little bit higher without me falling off.



So. Tip # 16? Learn from and be inspired by other presenters.

See you soon

Phil Stirpé
"I don't do average!"


Monday, 18 June 2012

Delivering a better presentation / training course. No. 15. Get your facts straight.

This is the fifteenth in a series of posts where I plan to discuss my ideas, tips and best practices for delivering a great presentation / training course. Get your facts straight.

It takes a lot of time to 'learn' a course.

Let's say that you are a Subject Matter Expert - SME. You know your stuff right?

How much stuff is that exactly?

After a while it gets to be a lot of stuff.

Take me as an example. There was a time when I was a C guy. Then it was C and C++. Then it was C, C++ and Visual Basic. Then it was C, C++, Visual Basic, .NET.

Before you know it, the blog post morphs in to an alternative 'Court of King Caractacus'.  Did I ever tell you that I'd seen Rolf Harris perform live at the Sydney Opera House? Superb!

So let's assume that I know several languages. That still leaves ASPNET Webforms, ASPNET MVC, Silverlight, Visual Studio, Expression Studio, Windows Communication Foundation - WCF, Windows Presentation Foundation - WPF, SQL Server, Windows 8 Metro application development and a couple of others that I might be called upon to deliver training on at short notice.

For each of these topics, we at QA Training have a number of courses to offer. Some of them are authored in house by one of our SME's, and the rest are supplied by vendors such as Microsoft.

When a course is released in 'my space' then I take some time out to learn it and in time I will then begin delivering it.

The problem is that no sooner have you learned the course that some aspects of it are out of date.

It is important that you the trainer are up to date. At least as far as the material is concerned for the course that you are delivering.

So if I know that I am to deliver a course that I haven't delivered for a while, I spend a little time the week before double checking certain facts.

I now I am not talking about re-reading the entire course. Although if you are that rusty then perhaps you should? Most of the content will still be correct. E.g. screen shots, or descriptions of tasks etc.

The areas to concentrate on are things like best practices, statistics and links.

A lot of courses will round up a chapter with a list of best practices which always go down well. Times change though and what was considered a best practice at the time the course was written might no longer be the case. Where statistics are quoted, they too might be out of date. As for links? You can pretty much guarantee that several of the hyperlinks referenced in a course will no longer be valid.

It is these things that I quickly focus on. I make sure that my facts are up to date and where the links provided are no longer valid, I find suitable alternatives.

I recall a period where I was delivering a lot of Silverlight courses on behalf of Microsoft for early adopters  and would show delegates various prescribed example applications. Not a week went by where at least one of the links ceased to work. I would have to repeatedly go in search of an alternative that would demonstrate the equivalent feature.

Here is an example of someone who got it spectacularly wrong:

Last week, my wife and I attended a special Parents Evening hosted by my son's college (Burnley College) designed to help first year students to determine and select their university choices for next year - 2013 (they will need to apply this autumn).

The purpose of the evening was to deliver two (count them, two) messages. The first was to reassure parents and students that the tuition fees will not need to be paid up front and we were told about the terms for paying back the 'loans'. I am pretty sure they stressed that the debt was 'written off after thirty years' at least ten times. So far so good.

The second and just as important (if not more so) was guidance on how to decide what course(s) to apply for. Very few students in the room had firm ideas about where they wanted to go and so this part of the evening was very important. They were advised (in the presentations and attractive glossy hand outs) that 'the best thing for them to do' would be to use the Stamford Test on the UCAS website. As this test would ask the student a series of questions and then make a number of recommendations.

With the list of courses on offer thus narrowed from fifty five thousand to approximately twenty, the task of narrowing the choices down to one or two would be much easier.

Two different presenters (one was the Vice Principal) repeatedly mentioned the Stamford Test and how students were 'strongly urged' to attempt it a 'couple of times' in order to draw up a short list.

So the message was very clear. So clear in fact that we gave it a try today.

What a shame that it NO LONGER EXISTS!

In fact, the Stamford Test was removed from the UCAS web site in November 2011!

Burnley College spent a lot of money preparing this once per year event. There were information packs, three presentations and lots of nice biscuits. Approximately 300 people made the effort to attend what was perhaps the most important evening of the year from the perspective of their child's further education prospects. And Burnley College couldn't take the effort to check one of the two key pieces of information that they wished to impart.

As Terry Thomas would have said. "What an absolute shower!".

And we are certainly Not Satisfied!


So. Tip # 15? Get your facts straight.

See you soon

Phil Stirpé
"I don't do average!"


Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Delivering a better presentation / training course. No. 14. Keep a course diary.

This is the fourteenth in a series of posts where I plan to discuss my ideas, tips and best practices for delivering a great presentation / training course. Keep a course diary.

Can you remember the last time that you were in a training room and a delegate called you over with a problem? Was it something unusual? Did you have a faint recollection of having seen  a similar error before? Did you then spend several minutes trying to rediscover the solution?

Did you ever come up with / hear a brilliant analogy or anecdote to illustrate a point? Did you ever try to use it again? Did it come out right this time or did you miss some of the detail?

Wait. That's the name of my autobiography right there. "Phil Stirpe - Analogies and Anecdotes". I might need a chin shot on the sleeve. I'll register it later. Don't you dare steal it or I'll tell my mum.

With so many subjects, technologies, demos, tools etc. it can be difficult to remember everything. Particularly as you get older.

Not only am I losing brain cells at an alarming rate, just imagine how many facts I have stored away? Assume I learn 5 technology and training related things a day (and I think that is on the low side).

If I guestimate the number of work days to be around 235 per year, then over 25 years I must have stored away at least 29375 technology and training related facts. That's a lot.

So that's the pub maths over with.

When I write a course, I start a diary. It is set out by day and lists the topics that I intend to cover, the demos that I plan to deliver and my approximate timings.

During the first couple of teaches of the course, I update the diary with the actual timings and any issues that were discovered with the material or software (both of which I correct immediately). I also make a note of any mistakes made by the delegates and the errors that were caused. Furthermore, I make a note of the solution.

I share this diary along with my recordings with other trainers as part of my Train the Trainer materials.

In this way, I can be sure that they have a good understanding of the timing and flow of the course along with the typical errors encountered by the delegates.

I also make a note of any unusual questions as well as those that were more common. That way, other trainers can be ready with their answers.

So what is the benefit of a diary for me?

Remember I mentioned earlier that it can be quite difficult to keep everything in your head?

When I was a boy, I used watch a television programme called Joe 90. Just before he went on a mission, Joe would sit in a special chair situated in a giant egg whisk thing which spun around accompanied by flashing lights and cool funky (for the 60's) music.

In a very short time, he absorbed all of the information (names, places, diagrams, floor plans etc.) that he needed to complete his mission.

Just before I begin a training session, I quickly speed read my diary entries for that session. It only takes a minute or two and I'm good to go.

I can also take another look as the delegates begin their exercise so that I am ready with solutions to problems that they haven't encountered yet. Furthermore I can also warn them of the most common mistakes such as placing a database connection string in the wrong web.config file of their ASPNET MVC3 project (there are two you know!) before they start the lab.

Imagine how relieved the delegates will be if you (cool as a cucumber) stroll over to their machine and straight away identify the error? How smart are you? Careful though, not too cocky!


So. Tip # 14? Keep a course diary.


And if you are feeling nostalgic for high tech 60's egg whisks. Here you go.

See you soon

Phil Stirpé
"I don't do average!"

Delivering a better presentation / training course. No. 13. Keep recordings of your sessions on hand to give to delegates who miss them.

This is the thirteenth in a series of posts where I plan to discuss my ideas, tips and best practices for delivering a great presentation / training course. Keep recordings of your sessions on hand to give to delegates who miss them.

Here is another reason to record your training sessions.

How many times has a delegate had to nip off early because of a doctor's appointment or a catastrophe at work?

Well, I give them a copy of the lesson that they are about to miss on a USB stick and suggest that they watch it later that evening so that they are up to speed by morning.

Obviously, this also comes in handy for those who have arrived late thanks to problems with "leaves on the line".

Works like a charm!

Delegates really appreciate the effort and you don't have to worry about them struggling with later sessions the following day.


So. Tip # 13? Keep recordings of your sessions on hand to give to delegates who miss them.

See you soon

Phil Stirpé
"I don't do average!"

Delivering a better presentation / training course. No. 12. Know your colleagues.

This is the twelfth in a series of posts where I plan to discuss my ideas, tips and best practices for delivering a great presentation / training course. Know your colleagues.

How often do you meet a colleague or someone that you know vaguely and because you can't remember their name and are too embarrassed to ask, you simply nod politely and walk past them?

I do it too often.

Now what are they thinking?

Are they thinking, "I bet he's forgotten my name and is a bit embarrassed and doesn't want to admit it so he is simply nodding politely and walking past me."

Or are they thinking "How rude?".

QA have a lot of training centres. I haven't been to them all yet.

It would be good if we could issue training centre stickers or badges to collect and stick in a collectors album or on our laptops.

As I haven't been to all of the centres, it follows that I haven't met all of the Training Centre Administrators - TCAs or Classroom Support Engineers.

How many of you turn up to a training centre and don't know/can't remember/never asked the name of TCA or their equivalent?

A discrete call to someone who knows should secure you the names. Why not even email them to let them know you're coming on Monday?

Ask the TCA what time you can get in and ask Classroom Support Engineer if all is well with setup and do you need to bring anything.

Ask anything really but just engage. That way on Monday, you can get re-acquainted.

Furthermore, if there any problems with the room when you arrive, you don't have to ask the person whose name you don't know and who you only just recently nodded to where you might find the "Classroom Support person" who's name you also don't know.

By the way, if anyone is heading to Swindon for the first time (as I did last month), the TCA is Rebbeca Palmer and the Classroom Support Engineer is Justin Timbrell.

By the way. If I am going on site I will always contact the client in advance and ask the name of the person on reception and the name of the person that I should ask for.

I ask about the time that I can get on site and any do's or don'ts such as restrictions on bringing devices on site. If I feel I have developed a rapport with the client during the call, I might even ask if they have tea making facilities.

Is there a person I should contact if I need anything when on site? Are there any events planned? fire alarm, team meetings, etc.

I like to feel and appear to be in control when I arrive.

So. Tip # 12? Know your colleagues.

See you soon

Phil Stirpé
"I don't do average!"

Monday, 11 June 2012

Delivering a better presentation / training course. No. 11. Respect your delegates.

This is the eleventh in a series of posts where I plan to discuss my ideas, tips and best practices for delivering a great presentation / training course.  Respect your delegates.

Have you ever sat across from a jaded teacher in a bar or restaurant. After listening to half an hour of whining and slagging off (it's in the Oxford Dictionary - I checked) pupils, I want to say to them "Get another job!".

On my travels, I have met many trainers and presenters. Some of them enjoy sharing anecdotes about delegates who said this or did that. I have noticed their attitude when responding to a dumb (in their opinion) question.

Trainers should show as much respect to their delegates as teachers should to their pupils. I would hate to think that any of my delegates from the past 25 years went away with (or possibly still harbour) feelings of resentment to me due to my manner towards them in the training room. There are certainly teachers that I can recall from over 40 years ago that deserve a place on my dart board.

Actually, I needn't look that far back. For the past three years, I have been studying part time for my Masters degree in Agile Software projects at the University of Central Lancashire - UCLAN.

The way some of the academics behave (i.e. treat students) is a disgrace.

Now granted, some delegates do come out and say or do the 'dumbest' things sometimes. But then again, so do you.

It's like the time I went to America on business with some colleagues and we (in a very superior way) decided to award points for "Dumb things an American has said to me". It was all great fun and kept us entertained all week.

In fact. I was awarded an unthinkable 100 points for the following exchange:

American: "So when do you head back to England?"

Me: "On Saturday"

American: "Oh no. That will mean you'll miss the 4th!" (The Saturday was to be 4th July)

Me: "Not to worry."

American: "Well hey. I guess you guys can celebrate it when you get back huh?"

Me: "No. I don't think so. We wouldn't would we?"

American: "Why not?"

Me: "Well we lost."

Now let's see if you can guess what the American said to me?

Are you ready?
Did you guess?
American: "Lost what?"
Priceless. And yes we loved it. It was perhaps the funniest thing I had heard in ages.

It wasn't a fair game though. If you spend long enough in anyone's company, they are eventually going to say something that you think is dumb.

It is only now as I write some 18 years later after, having told that anecdote (in a superior way) countless times, that whilst searching for a nice self-deprecating counterpoint that I realised that I need look no further than two days earlier.

The four of us arrived in Austin - Texas on a Saturday evening and asked the cab driver who picked us up to take us to a hotel. It hadn't occurred to us to book one. We were going to be staying with an American colleague from the Monday but we had two days to kill.

The taxi driver said that all of the hotels would be full as it was Saturday Night! but drove around several to make sure. After the fourth hotel, she said that we could sleep on her floor for $50. We said "Sure!".

We soon discovered that she was quite the one for taking in strays. Three cats, two homeless drug addicts, and now four stupid Englishmen who didn't think to organise a hotel room before leaving home.

Did I mention the two drug addicts? So there we were sitting on the floor of her apartment trying to make polite conversation with addict #1 who is totally freaked out because he is convinced that it is Wednesday (because Scooby Doo is always on the TV on Wednesday) but these four strange Brits keep saying that it's Saturday. Suggesting that he might be viewing a channel that shows Scooby Doo on a Saturday didn't help.

So anyway, after half an hour we thought we would go out and find a bar in town. We took our money (because we were not completely stupid) and left our bags, cameras, video camera and PASSPORTS in the apartment with the drug addict.

Luckily addict #1 was too busy watching Scooby Doo to notice that we had left our valuables behind.  It was when addict #2 (the scary one) came in at about 5am that we thought it best to grab our bags and go wander the streets until the sun came up.

Now, I could regale you with several hilarious things that delegates have done or said in the past but I won't. I don't talk about it with colleagues and so I'm not about to tell you.

That's not I route I want to go down and nor should you. If you keep amassing these anecdotes you will begin to develop a low level contempt for your delegates and the look on your face when they eventually say or do something (that you think is) dumb  will tell them all they need to know about you. They are likely to be quite uncomfortable for the remainder of the course. And if you were really obvious, so will the rest of the delegates. They can really get quite partisan you know!

Now it's only a theory but it's MY theory. And what's more, it is MY blog post so that makes it valid.
So. Tip # 11? Develop a healthy respect for delegates.

See you soon

Phil Stirpé
"I don't do average!"


Delivering a better presentation / training course. No. 10. Record your sessions.

This is the tenth in a series of posts where I plan to discuss my ideas, tips and best practices for delivering a great presentation / training course. Record your sessions.

There are a number of screen recorders available now although I have settled on Camtasia. It helps that it is given away free to MCTs

I initially began using it to record all my sessions when delivering a new course that I had written for Train The Trainer - TTT material.  i.e. to pass on to other trainers hoping to pick up the course.

I then continued to use it in later teaches in case I delivered a better session the next time or if I had ironed out any issues that occurred during the first couple of teaches.

Even after recording my TTT videos, I still continue to record my sessions.

Benefits include, a wealth of videos featuring you delivering demos so that you could quickly edit them and upload them to your own YouTube channel like my colleague Andrew Mallet.

I find it a good quality check. As I am conscious that I am recording, I then find myself evaluating my performance. i.e. at the end of the session, I quickly think about whether I should publish the recording to my TTT library or reject it because of something that I did or didn't do and am unhappy with (I usually know if I am unhappy with my performance and do not need to play back the session in order to decide).

If I am conscious of a poorly delivered topic/demo/explanation, I note it in my course diary (now there's another post right there!) and then resolve to do a better job of it next time. I also note at that time what it is I am to do differently next time rather than wait for next time and hope it's better.

I also note anything that worked particularly well in my diary in addition to those that didn't. I quickly review my diary before my next teach. Usually just before each session.

Another great benefit of recording is to play it back and self critique. This is important to help identify where you might have gone off topic or answered a question badly.

It is important not to focus/obsess too much about your voice here. No one likes the sound of their own voice. Don't worry about it.

What you should focus on it what the delegate can see. Imagine you are a delegate listening to/watching your presentation.

Do you do keep moving your mouse across the slide? Can you actually read the text on the slide? Can you understand the diagram as it is being discussed?

Thought not.

What about when you are delivering a demo? Can you read the code in Visual Studio 2010? Did you see where you clicked?

Thought not.

With a screen resolution of 1366 by 768, there are 1049088 pixels to which your mouse could be pointing at any given time. If you hadn't been delivering the demo, would you know where it was you were supposed to be looking?

In other words, do your demos resemble a game of "Find the lady"?

Think about the tools that you are demonstrating. Do they have any features that would make them easier to read? e.g. font size etc. Why don't you change your mouse pointer?

By the way. Don't do this during the demo, you are just wasting time. Don't even make a show of it. "Look guys, look at what I am doing in Visual Studio 2010 to make it easier for you to follow what I am doing.". Shut up! Get it ready before you start!

Here are a couple of things that you can try:

Why not use a tool such as Zoomit and zoom in on key areas of the screen as you are presenting the demo.

Try all of those things and then record the demo a second time. I bet you will be impressed with the difference.

Now have a think of all those killer demos that you reckon to have presented  over the months and years. Then think of the many delegates who sat there and tried to follow what you were doing for days on end and failed. Doesn't feel too good does it?

Incidentally, Camtasia can be used a couple of ways. i.e. have it launch as soon as you start a presentation (F5). However, you are then prompted to stop recording if ever you press Esc in Powerpoint.  E.g. if you are about to switch to Visual Studio 2010 for a quick demo.

I do that a lot. So I start Camtasia recording independently of Powerpoint then start my session.

I also experienced some other problems with Camtasia when launched automatically by Powerpoint. I.e. it crashes from time to time. The key here is to experiment with it.

Finally. I have mentioned before that I do not sit down throughout my presentations except when I am delivering a demo. Therefore, an integral microphone is of limited use. I have found best results with a simple desktop microphone stand which I point to cover an arc that I am most likely to occupy whilst stood up. It also helps to raise your voice!

Good luck.

See you soon

Phil Stirpé
"I don't do average!"

Friday, 8 June 2012

Delivering a better presentation / training course. No. 9. Dress code.

This is the ninth in a series of posts where I plan to discuss my ideas, tips and best practices for delivering a great presentation / training course. Dress smartly.

Third one today (any one would think I had time on my hands).

If you are delivering a training course, then you should act professionally and dress in smart attire. (I am talking about delivering a professional or technical training course and not dry stone walling. That would require a different dress code entirely).

The rules are slightly different for presenting at conventions. Speakers are often given a conference polo shirt and encouraged to wear them. I stuff mine into my bag to wear when I'm doing the gardening or horse riding when I get back home.

I can't help feeling that I look like a gas fitter when I'm wearing one.

By the way, this isn't a gas fitter thing. My plumber wears a branded polo shirt too!

Perhaps it's passive aggression? That is the fuel for many blogs after all.

Companies (and that includes training companies) have their own standards when it comes to attire. Many would suggest something like "Smart casual".

I have noticed a trend amongst some trainers turning up to deliver training courses wearing convention or technology branded polo shirts.

My son likes to wear his Download 2010 T-shirt. He likes people to know that he's into his music and that he went to Download 2010 (ACDC were headlining) and that his wardrobe extends beyond his collection of Iron Maiden T-shirts.

So what does a Windows 8 Metro or Techdays 2011 (Helsinki) shirt say about me?

That I attended or presented at the show or that I chose not to wear anything smarter?

Am I trying to be cool?

Am I trying to say that a 'real developer' wouldn't wear a suit and tie(optional) at work?

News flash! I am not a 'real developer'!

I am a professional trainer who has worked as a real developer on an off for 25 years and who incidentally much prefers training.

Am I afraid that if I wear a suit, people will think like George Bernard Shaw? "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach.".

There is a world of difference between a Build 2011 sticker on your laptop and a polo shirt!

For those people who expect others to dress smartly for work, then a branded polo shirt (even if it's signed by Bill Gates himself) is unlikely to impress.


See you soon

Phil Stirpé
"I don't do average!"

Delivering a better presentation / training course. No.8. Don’t criticise the sales person, equipment or person who set up the room!

This is the eighth in a series of posts where I plan to discuss my ideas, tips and best practices for delivering a great presentation / training course. Don’t criticise the equipment, sales person, or person who set up the room!

Time for another quickie.

Never criticise equipment , the sales person who didn't check the pre-requisites, or person who set up the room in front of the delegates.

If there is a problem, don't externalise.

Remember, it's your gig. You deal with it.

Don't turn it into a drama in order to curry sympathy. You won't get any.

You are either worrying or annoying the delegates not to mention those whom you are blaming.

There are no Purple Hearts (or Iron Crosses) for trouble shooting courses.

Save your war stories for evenings out with fellow trainers.

Spare the delegates.

See you soon

Phil Stirpé
"I don't do average!"


Delivering a better presentation / training course. No.7. Don’t use Powerpoint Viewer!

This is the seventh in a series of posts where I plan to discuss my ideas, tips and best practices for delivering a great presentation / training course. Don’t use Powerpoint Viewer!

Quick one today.

Don't use Powerpoint Viewer. It is deeply irritating for the delegates.

If all you are doing is presenting a couple of slides then fine.

However, if like me you show a slide or two then press the Esc key so that you can nip into Visual Studio 2010 or Expression Blend 4 to do a quick demo, you will then have to start the slide deck at the beginning and then flick quickly forward through the slides that they have already seen to get to where you left off.

If you do that several times per presentation, the delegates will get wound up (technical term). I sat in on a course once where this happened and I was tearing my hair out by the end of the first day.

Now you might be thinking that all you have to is press Alt and Tab instead to switch from the presentation into whatever tool you are demonstrating then back again but trust me, you are bound to press Esc out of habit.

Just stick to full fat Powerpoint and leave the viewer alone.


See you soon

Phil Stirpé
"I don't do average!"


Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Delivering a better presentation / training course. No. 6. Be prepared!

This is the sixth in a series of posts where I plan to discuss my ideas, tips and best practices for delivering a great presentation / training course. Be prepared!

Those two words could fill a book. I can already visualise several future posts that expand on that theme so I will keep the focus very narrow here.

When I say "Be prepared!", I am not referring to preparing your material and understanding the course and exercises. I'll talk about that another time. I am actually referring to the fundamentals.

How often have you started a lesson/presentation and then reached for a board marker and not been able to find one or those that you do find on the desk are so weak that they are not worth using?

Quite often. Right?

Hang on. You know you are going to need a board marker to write on the board with because you do so every lesson. You have just acknowledged (I saw you nodding) that you often pick up a pen to write with only to find that it has run out. So why do you keep waiting until you have started the lesson with a room full of attentive faces staring at you to discover that the pen has run out?

Talk about getting off to a bad start and creating the wrong impression?

One of the first things I do when I walk into the room is locate all of the board markers. The second thing I do is test each one placing the defective ones to one side. The third thing I do is throw the defective ones into the bin. That way, I am not likely to keep picking up a dud throughout the lesson. Nor will the next trainer have to go through the same pantomime.

Why is it that no one before me has done the same? Are we afraid to throw away markers? Is it wasteful? They are no longer fit for purpose!

Incidentally the second step is particularly useful for identifying rogue flip chart (permanent) markers that have found their way into the pile of dry wipe markers. Hands up those of you who have picked up a random marker and drawn a diagram on the whiteboard only to realise a minute later (when you try and wipe it away) that you used a permanent marker? Nightmare!

I do not throw these away. I simply put them away in a drawer.

Now the board markers here are a metaphor for all those things that always happen that you need to deal with and react to.

But even metaphors need to work.

Incidentally, I keep a spare board marker in my laptop case because I never know if the Training Centre Administrator - TCA (good luck finding one of those when delivering an on-site course) will be available to point me to the stationary cupboard or indeed if they will actually have any spare board markers. Actually they will probably have plenty of Green markers but who would want to use Green?

So let's set aside the board markers metaphor and look at a checklist of those basic items that I check before I start the day:

Board markers.

Projector remote control. Where is projector remote control? Does it work? Are the batteries flat/missing (they often are). (I always carry a pair of AAA in my laptop case for this reason).

Air conditioning. Where is air conditioning control? Does it work? Is it currently set to 18 degrees? (they often are).

Computers. Power them up. Are there any obvious errors? Any mice or keyboards missing?

Chairs. Are there enough? Are any positioned at ridiculous angles or heights? You do not want delegates fiddling with the levers whilst you are trying to do the introductions.

Software. Do the delegate computers have the correct software and  files installed?

Courseware. Has the correct courseware been delivered?

Kitchen. Does  the venue have a kettle, tea bags, milk and mug? Very important this one. I don't do vending machines.


This is getting to be quite a list. That is why I always allow at least an hour on the first day of the course to get in early and make sure that all of these items have been checked off.

These are all things that can be easily fixed if broken before the delegates come in. However, they become very difficult to deal with if you only discover them once you have started the course.

The missing software and courseware items are worth another post and so I will expand on them another time.

Hope you had a great Jubilee!

See you soon

Phil Stirpé
"I don't do average!"