I went to the free DDDSW developer conference on Saturday in Bristol which was excellent. Kudos to all the organisers and speakers and sponsors who made it happen.
One of the sessions I attended though stood out because the speaker, although apparently experienced, had a pretty tough time, especially with some of the comments submitted to an audience feedback web app being used by attendees at the conference. But actually I found myself agreeing with many of the sentiments of these comments (as did the person I sat next to) and felt the session didn't go well, although it actually contained some great content. Here’s my take on it.
Starting a session by saying how tired you are and how you haven’t slept for days is effectively saying: “sorry, this might be a bit shit”. You may feel justified in saying this because you are delivering the session for no fee and indeed may have incurred substantial expense in traveling to the conference. Nobody cares. It rubs your audience up the wrong way because they also may have incurred considerable expense in getting there too. In fact it’s their free time you’re saying you may be about to waste. They may start to feel their time would have been better spent in another session. Also, consider that your slot at the conference may have been at the expense of someone else, maybe a newbie who would have loved their first opportunity in the spotlight.
Doing too many “hands up if you...” audience questions can get tedious quickly. Indeed, don’t continually ask people to put their hands up if you’re going to say they’re wrong. It might be OK once, but more than that and people are going to feel uncomfortable and antagonised.
If someone walks out, ignore it. Making a point of it makes you look petty. Just maybe they actually had valid reasons for leaving, or indeed, maybe they weren’t enjoying the session. Just let it go.
Finally, there’s a distinction between being “passionate and opinionated” and coming across as a blowhard.