Microsoft Evangelism Academy – Day 2

Day 2 of the Microsoft Evangelism Academy has wrapped up and all the attendees are feeling a bit mentally worse for wear, having ingested a massive cocktail of excellent tips and tricks.  But, no rest for any of us, as Day 3 will be the culmination of everything we’ve learned thus far as we present in front of the group, trainers AND Andrew Coates!

But what was on the menu today?

  • The art of story-telling – having a good, relevant and interesting story will help your presentation considerably, but you will need a few up your sleeve AND know how to link them back to the point you’re making
  • Props and visuals – take control of your environment and own the space, rearrange things if needs be and carry a “presenter’s kit” with all the things you assume will be provided (but which may not be)
  • Linking concepts – being able to think fast on your feet when delivering unprepared content, just…keep…talking
  • “Handling” questions – you don’t always have to answer them, especially when you’re on the receiving end of a tirade from a “look at me!” audience member

I was also pleased to discover that my mobile uploaded footage taken on the new Flip MinoHD to Vimeo at quite a brisk pace, so I was able to get content out during the sessions.

Video 1 – 3 Tips For Gestures

Gestures are really important for presenting well – here are 3 which will come in useful:

Video 2 – Anecdotes

Wasn’t expecting to be on the spot like this, but here’s my presentation anecdote along with group feedback and a second shot at nailing it:

Video 3 – Concepts

Get two words thrown at you and create a link – my two were “Italy” and “kangaroos”

That’s a wrap for Day 2 – stay tuned for all the heady excitement (and palm-sweating stress) of Day 3!

Microsoft Evangelism Academy – Day 1

Thrown straight out of our comfort zones and straight into the world of critical feedback and strict self-analysis, today at Microsoft’s offices in Melbourne the eight members of the newly-formed Microsoft Evangelism Academy (including yours truly) had their horizons thoroughly and expertly expanded.  Sound painful?  Well it was…just a bit.

So what is the Microsoft Evangelism Academy?  The brainchild of the Microsoft Australia DPE team (particularly Andrew Coates and Sarah Vaughan), this project is taking eight non-Microsoft IT professionals and developers and providing some intense training to improve our presentation skills.  The training is being run by NRG Solutions (big shout-out to Steve and Mel) who will be following up on our progress throughout 2011 in the lead-up to the ultimate event – presenting a session at Microsoft TechEd Australia 2011 on the Gold Coast.

It’s not just a fabulous opportunity for us all to improve our skills – Microsoft wants us to be even more active in the IT community, promoting technology, engaging colleagues and businesses, providing solutions and presenting on all the latest and greatest.

Australia is a big place, and it’s not always easy to get the techie love out to the people who need it most, but in a short space of time there will be a new influx of up-skilled presenters ready to share the joy hitting the user groups, blogs, Twitter and all your other favourite vectors of communication :-)

So who’s involved?  Apart from myself:

  • Jeremy Thake (Perth) – @jthake
  • Jake Ginnivan (Perth) – @JakeGinnivan
  • John O’Brien (QLD) – @soulsolutions
  • Bronwen Zande (QLD) – @BronwenZ
  • Steven Nagy – (Brisbane) – @snagy
  • Mark Rhodes (Brisbane) – @mrhodes
  • Chris Walsh (Melbourne) – @ChrisWalshie

We have self-branded ourselves as EvangelOz, and you can follow the #EvangelOz hashtag on Twitter.

Day 1 concentrated strongly on the physical art of presenting:

  • Using your allocated presenting space wisely – making use of “space anchoring” to tie concepts to physical locations in the room, which serves to give your audience visual cues and memory hints to give your content more impact and permanence
  • Eye contact – how and why eye contact is used, why it’s dangerous to over-use it and what the likely outcomes are when it’s under-utilised
  • Posture and movement – a good presenter is in charge of their physical presence, knows when to use movement and how to prevent tics and absent-minded idiosyncrasies which only serve as distractions
  • Voice – how to be more aware of the effect your voice is having on your audience, how to modulate your tone accordingly and how to avoid situations which can negatively impact your ability to speak clearly (the copious consumption of cold’n’flu medication was advocated…in the appropriate situation, of course)
  • Content – just being on top of your content technically isn’t enough. Rather, a good presenter can change the tone and complexity of the same content to suit a variety of audiences, and is familiar enough with the actual content (not just the technology) to be able to deal with setbacks, mishaps and difficult audience members without having the presentation derailed

Of course, these concepts will be familiar to anyone who has done presentation training, but we also backed up the theory with plenty of practical sessions (and LOTS of feedback, which thankfully wasn’t too quick-cuttingly honest).  Here are my efforts:

Video 1 – 3 Things You Didn’t Know About Me (And One Of Them Isn’t True)

With a couple of minutes’ warning we were asked to present on the topic “3 things you didn’t know about me, and one of them isn’t true”. Here’s my effort.

Video 2 – 3 Tips On Being A Better Presenter

After some morning sessions and loads of information on the physical art of presenting, we were asked to put what we’d learnt into practise. Looking back, something I need to learn is to not step out of the recording range of a fixed camera :-) D’oh. But apart from that, it COULD have been worse.

Video 3 – Day 1 Summary

We each had to give a quick wrap-up of the top 3 things we took from the day’s sessions, and the most important thing which we want to work on.

That’s it for Day 1 – more to come over the next couple of days, and much, much more into 2011!

Microsoft Evangelism Academy – Day 3

Big presentations, feedback, spruiking from an impromptu soapbox and getting moved on by security…Day 3 of the Evangelism Academy had it all!

Phew. Well, a most amazing and anjoyable three days has wrapped up, and my head feels like it’s been pummeled with a bag of frozen peas.

The first big thing for the day was, of course, the presentation. Each of had the previous evening to prepare our big presentation to the group, whether that included slides or a tech demo, or something else entirely. I don’t have much experience as a presenter so I don’t have any pre-existing demos or slide decks to draw upon. As a result, I had to write up everything from scratch but at least I managed to get first billing for the day. I was too nervous to go later – wanted to get the nerves out of the way and then be able to relax and enjoy everyone else’s presentation.

So here it is. The topic was “PowerShell for System Administrators”.

Video 1 – Day 3 Presentation

I got group feedback instantly, as did everyone else. Each member of the group was assigned the task of assessing each presentation from a different angle – structure of the presentation, audience engagement, hand gestures and so on. Overall I was pretty happy with the presentation given my lack of experience and the nerves, but there was still plenty in the feedback for me to work on.

Video 2 – Presentation Feedback

And we breathe a sigh of relief as a major hurdle is overcome 🙂

All the presentations were really good – you could see that everyone had learned a lot during the course. Interestingly, some experienced presenters didn’t do as well as they normally would, simply because they were trying out new ideas and concepts to see what did/didn’t work. One of the key aims of the course was to improve us as presenters, not simply reinforce what we already do, so it represented a great opportunity to present outside our comfort zones.

And speaking of comfort zones, as we went into lunch we were told what the “special assignment” was – public addressing. We had to stand up, outside, and present for three minutes to an otherwise indifferent public on a topic of our choice. Prep time was approximately thirty minutes. I have to admit, I hate drawing attention to myself like that, so I was feeling distinctly uncomfortable. Also, in my naivete I assumed that as I’d been first up for the main presentation, there was surely NO WAY I’d be up first for this exercise as well. Silly me. We spoke in turn based on our birthdays, and as mine is in early January, it was a case of “Right James…up you get”. Sigh. Here’s the result.

Video 3 – Soapboxing on Democracy

Phew! No frothing at the mouth, at least. We managed to get through three presentations before security turned up and informed us that without consent from building management, we couldn’t use that space (that outdoor, publicly-accessible space) for that particular purpose. Oh well. Rather than link arms and sing “We Shall Not Be Moved”, we politely submitted and wandered out onto the Southbank promenade where there was just a teensy bit more passing traffic.

Again, everyone did really well, but the surprise speaker was Andrew Coates, who didn’t know that we were going to inflict the same treatment on him. As it was, we were totally schooled in the art of public speaking 🙂

Video 4 – Coatsy’s Soapbox

It turns out that passers-by are unwilling to engage with a person standing on an elevated platform and speaking very loudly. Who’d have thought it possible?

Anyway – what an amazing finale to a great three days. There will be follow-up meetings and lots of presenting to be done in the lead-up to TechEd Australia 2011 on the Gold Coast. Keep an eye out for more information about what the members of EvangelOz are up to.

Talking IT – John Pritchard

Welcome to the first video in the Talking IT with James Bannan series, where I catch up with various movers and shakers in the IT industry and talk about geek stuff for a while.

This video is with John Pritchard, Optimised Desktop Specialist with Microsoft Australia. John ran the Perth and Adelaide sessions of Microsoft latest round of free workshops for IT professionals. The first round occurred earlier this year and revolved around Microsoft’s virtualisation technologies – specifically Hyper-V and SCVMM. The latest round is all about Application Compatibility.

Microsoft are seeing customers expressing plenty of reservations about their existing suite of applications which need to be supported on Windows 7, and are looking for as many resources and as much guidance as possible to overcome and lingering issues and migrate to Windows 7.

There are two sessions left – one in Melbourne and the other in Canberra. Jeff Alexander has blogged about the details, and you use the details on his site to register. For any IT professional involved in deploying Windows 7, these workshops are a great resource and well worth the time (especially as they don’t cost anything!).

For those of you who couldn’t make the sessions but who are interested in the content, Microsoft will be making the slide decks available online (and potentially an audio recording too) and I’ll link to them as well once they are available.

In the meantime, enjoy the conversation with John Pritchard, where we chat about the current state of Windows 7 deployment and what resources are available to customers looking to speed up their deployment projects.