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Dirk Haun

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since May 23, 2013
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Recent posts by Dirk Haun

Bear Bibeault wrote:The issue is that one cannot download the ebook from ganyx without supplying one's email address and agreeing to be spammed at it.

I have a handy second email address for cases where I'm not sure if I'd like to trust them with the "good" one

Looking through my archives, I don't see a lot of emails from Ganxy (the last one's from April, actually) - and they all come with a handy unsubscribe link, which I trust would work if I'd use it.

I have no association with Ganxy other than that they carry my ebook. I can't vouch for them, but so far I don't see them doing anything objectionable.

Just trying to help. In the end, it is of course your call.
7 years ago

Bear Bibeault wrote:Please award my book to the next winner as the terms that must be agreed to in order to download this book are not acceptable to me.

Sorry to hear that. I have no idea or control over what is being offered to you but in case this is about DRM, the ebook is also available without DRM via Ganxy. Maybe there's a way to exchange whatever you've been offered for a free download from there?
7 years ago
Congrats to the winners. I hope you get something out of the book - please let me know what you think of it.

Thanks for all the great questions. I had a lot of fun answering them and I even had the occasional new insight. I'll stick around a little longer in case any more questions or interesting discussions come up. Otherwise, you know where to find me

Thanks also to JavaRanch for having me. You have a nice and friendly community here - keep up the good work.
7 years ago

Burk Hufnagel wrote:Almost forgot to ask, in the book, or elsewhere, do you recommend tools to make presenting easier?

There's a section about the benefits of using a remote. But now that you mention it, it doesn't include a packing or check list - a glaring omission (and a good topic for a future blog post).

I'm usually presenting with an iPad, unless the organisers require me to use their equipment. I always keep an adapter cable, a small stand, and my iPod (which I use as a remote) in the same bag that I also use to carry my iPad around. So when I have my iPad with me, I'm also ready to present (this did come in handy on one or two occasions).

I've never owned a remote long enough for the battery to go flat (don't ask ...), but bood point on checking the state of the battery and/or having spare ones.

Be careful with that laser pointer, btw. I found that it seems to be addictive to some people - once they start using it, they use it all the time, even when it isn't really necessary, which can be very distracting. There's a short post on my blog about that.
7 years ago
Jim, welcome to my world I, too, found that's it's really hard to get any feedback, let alone the usable variety. And apparently we're not alone (Scott Berkun has a few choice words on how "the feedback loop for speakers is broken" in his book, for example).

The direct approach, i.e. simply asking people, often doesn't work, as you found. They are too polite to tell you that you sucked - or they don't want to admit that they couldn't follow you. It seems the most usable feedback comes out of anonymous feedback forms where people don't have to worry about such things. So in your case, I think the forum could work.

Do I understand it correctly that you're teaching a class over several days? That's also something that can work in your favour since you can build up trust over time. There will always be a few people who are not afraid to ask questions and if the others see you interact with those, they will be more encouraged to ask themselves. That, however, takes time which you usually don't have in a normal presentation or a one-off workshop.

I remember a presentation I attended some years ago. It was by Andrei Alexandrescu, about some peculiarities of C++. Stuff that would have went over most of the audience's heads. But it soon became clear that it was more important to Andrei that people understood than that he was getting through his prepared content. He asked the audience questions and when he was met with silence, he went back and explained it again in a different way and then asked the question again. Soon, people were not afraid to shout out answers, even if they turned out to be wrong. He would patiently go back and explain things again. I've never seen something like this in a "regular" presentation (before or since) - it was really impressive.

Of course, that was with an audience that went there on their own free will. Not quite the same situation you're in with your students. Still, I think you could try and establish such an open atmosphere, at least for the in-class sessions.

Doing that online is even harder, of course. Will the classes be live or will the students work through them on their own pace?

Just throwing out ideas here, but I think the forum would again be a good starting point. Or maybe try some social media interaction? A Facebook page, for example, or Twitter. I followed Jennifer Widom's 2011 Stanford DB Class online for a while (didn't finish it due to time constraints), and they did a few things on Twitter. She also did what she called "screenside chats" where she answered student questions in a video podcast.

Hope this gives you some ideas.
7 years ago

Burk Hufnagel wrote:Is it aimed at just technical presentations for technical conferences, or is it wider than that?

It's wider than that (as wide as you can get on 60 or so pages ...). It does have a bit of a bias towards conference scenarios in general, though.
7 years ago

Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:I didn't realize we were limiting the discussion to conference talks.

I didn't intend to. Just pointed this out since my book isn't really covering the specifics of presentations in corporate environments.

I did have some interesting experiences in that environment myself (fun with CI, for example). Not enough for a book yet, though
7 years ago

Jeanne Boyarsky wrote:When very senior people in an organization have a question, sometimes you have to answer it...

Yep. But presentations in a corporate environment have their own rules and are quite different from giving a conference talk. Have a look at Joey Asher's book (see above) - I think his approach will work much better there.
7 years ago

Burk Hufnagel wrote:Don't think that you can't ask questions, just because you're presenting information to a group. You absolutely can - though I'd stay away from anything that sounds like a teacher calling on a student who hasn't been paying attention.

What Burk said - you can absolutely ask your audience questions. It's a great way to get them involved. Just don't ask those people who avoid eye contact directly, though. If they know the answer to one of your questions, they'll want to join in on their own eventually.
7 years ago

Burk Hufnagel wrote:Based on the excerpt on Amazon, and the answers you've given to people's questions, I think I'm going to be reading 'Presentinh for Geeks' in the near future

Thanks. When you do, please let me know what you think of it (leave a review or post on my blog). I'd be interested in your opinion.

Burk Hufnagel wrote:I do wonder though if you recommend displaying code when speaking to developers? One of the things I've noticed over the years, both as a presenter and as part of the audience, is that most developers start losing interest in most topics if they don't see some code every fifteen minutes or so. This is especially true if the topic is about some aspect of writing or testing code. Is that something you've seen as well?

Well, the audience comes first - if they expect code, you show them code. When it's a topic related to coding - a new framework, best practises, etc. - then I don't see how you could convincingly talk about it without showing some code. Don't make the mistake to think that the Presentation Zen approach is about "showing images". It's about giving the audience what they need.

When you talk about, say, the benefits of a framework, you can use images to better emphasize those benefits. This also helps the audience to remember things better. But eventually, they will want to see how to use that framework - and that's where you show them some code, of course.
7 years ago

Burk Hufnagel wrote:I was wondering about what motivated you to write the book, and who your target audience is?

I do go to a lot of tech conferences and what I usually see there is people who are very smart, experts in their field, enthusiastic about their topic - and then they present all that in the worst way possible: slides full of bullet points.

My motivation is very selfish, actually; I'd like us to get to a point where I can attend a presentation and do not have to expect to be bored to death by bullet points. The book is my attempt at a tiny contribution towards that goal.

As should be obvious, Garr Reynolds and his Presentation Zen approach is my main inspiration. I found that techies often reject that approach since they think it's "too esoteric" and "only works for keynotes". But I've used the approach successfully for technical presentations of all kinds over the years. So in a way, "Presenting for Geeks" is a stripped-down version of Presentation Zen, with a few topics thrown in that we geeks have to deal with but which Garr doesn't really cover in his books.

As such, the book is an "if you read nothing else, please at least read this"-type of book. It can help first-time speakers as well as those who have been using bullet points and are wondering if there isn't a better way.

As I mentioned in another thread, the majority of the content applies to all types of presentations, not just technical ones. The geek focus is mainly because that's the majority of people I'm dealing with; and it fit better into this specific series of ebooks that my publisher is bringing out.
7 years ago

Burk Hufnagel wrote:Whether on a napkin or whiteboard, most geeks I know are pretty comfortable sketching system architectures, screen shots, flowcharts, etc. to help someone else understand problems or potential solutions.

Yes, and this is way better than presenting it on a slide since you can show how things develop, which helps with the understanding. Don't fret that it may look "messy" or not as pretty as a picture on a slide.

Burk Hufnagel wrote:I don't know if you're familiar with the book "Back of the Napkin" by Dan Roam, but it's has another take on presenting without slides.

I read that book, but it was quite some time ago and I wasn't too impressed. Thanks, I guess I should take another look.
7 years ago

Burk Hufnagel wrote:Before the presentation, talk with some of the people in the audience.

Burk, admit it, you already read the book ;-)

This is exactly what I'd recommend, for both of the reasons you mentioned. It helps you connect with (a part of) your audience and it helps you calm down and make the audience feel less of a "threat". It also helps to reassess their expectations, so that you get a better idea if you're going to give the right talk to this audience.

In general, I'd try to establish eye contact in any case. For a small group, try to establish eye contact with each person at least once over the course of the presentation. For large audiences, divide them into quadrants (from a certain distance, people can't tell any more whether you're looking at them or the person next to them) and make sure you cover each quadrant equally during the presentation.

There will always be a few people who spend all of their time hunched over their mobile phone or laptop. You can still try to draw them in by catching their eye when they take a rare glimpse at you, but in the end it's their own decision. Don't sweat over a few loners - keep contact with the rest of the audience.
7 years ago

Burk Hufnagel wrote:If you notice that things are taking longer than expected due to unexpected questions or requests for more detail, it may be possible to ask the audience to wait until after the presentation is complete before you respond so that you can deliver the information to everyone on time and those interested in more detail can get their answers without inconveniencing the others.

I'd say if you do get a lot of unexpected questions, then it may be an indication that you're giving the wrong talk to this audience. Consider abandoning your presentation and switching to a Q&A session.

Of course, especially with a geeky audience, you'll often have people who are a step ahead of you. If it's only a minority of the audience, then you can (politely) ask those people to be patient. But if you get the impression that it's the majority, you need to change your approach (see above).

Burk Hufnagel wrote:If it's a meeting with managers, and the questions/details are pertinent, then they may agree to set aside more time for the presentation.

For a meeting with managers, who are usually short on time, the approach by Joey Asher from his book "15 minutes including Q&A" may be better: Give the shortest possible presentation with only the minimum of required information and then do a Q&A where you answer all the questions about details.
7 years ago

Burk Hufnagel wrote:Please excuse me for jumping in, but I've read (and own) quite a few books on presentations, and I think you'll find Chapter 6 of the book "Presentation Patterns" interesting as it describes several patterns/anti-patterns concerning live coding demos that you might find interesting.

I have that book but have to admit that I didn't finish it. Thanks for the hint, I'll have another look.
7 years ago