Going to unexpected places

A week ago I woke up in Tel Aviv, Israel, the day after I gave my presentation “Speak your hands - using body language for effective communication” at SQL Saturday in Israel. Despite feeling the onset of a sore throat, I contemplated how I had gotten here.

I did not expect to find myself in Israel doing what I love - speaking at conferences and sharing knowledge - when I first started working with databases back in 1997. In fact, I didn’t expect to get very far from my birth town at all. It turns out that was going to be rather far from the truth.

The event in Israel was the fourth SQL Saturday in Israel and had some 400 attendees registered. The speaker lineup was quite impressive, with speakers from Portugal, Brazil, the US, the UK, Canada and Israel. Two minutes before I was due to take the stage I had a grand total of two (2) people in the room. I asked one of them about the Israeli view on time, and was told not to worry, as Israelis in general have a very flexible view on this “time” thing. This turned out to be quite correct, as five minutes later I had 40-ish attendees, eagerly awaiting my session on presentation skills.

The session went very well despite some technical issues in the beginning, and I was very happy to receive very good feedback both immediately after the session and all through the day. While presentation skills might seem like a weird topic for a SQL Saturday (especially as far from everyone is a presenter), my opinion is that most everything about interactions with other people is a kind of a presentation. My session covered gestures, body movement, facial expressions and use of voice - all of which is equally useful in a discussion with the boss or the significant other as it is on stage delivering a presentation.

I’m on a kind of mission to help technical presenters in general to up their game - the absolute majority of the presenters I meet at SQL Saturdays and other conferences are VERY good at the tech but can benefit from learning a thing or two about presentation skills. It’s not hard, but it is a skillset that needs to be learned just like the technical aspects. At the end of the day, everything is about people, so it might not matter if you have the best demos, the coolest tech or the niftiest scripts - if you can’t explain or disseminate what you want others to understand the whole thing falls flat on its face. I hope to get the opportunity to give this presentation at multiple technical conferences around the world in the future.

This year alone I’ve spoken at seven conferences in as many countries. I have four conferences in three countries in the pipeline, as well as scores of abstracts waiting to be reviewed at conferences all over the world. It started with SQL Server in the small town of Link√∂ping, Sweden, and now it’s taken me all over the world. The #SQLFamily is truly amazing.

I crawled out of the bed and made ready to go to Jerusalem with four of the Israeli organizers and three of the international speakers. We had an amazing day in Jerusalem and I am forever grateful to Michelle, Schmuli, Adi and Maria for setting it all up. It takes a special kind of crazy to organize SQL Saturdays and I have the utmost respect and admiration for the team behind SQL Saturday Israel. I was so very glad to be invited to the beautiful country of Israel, and I very much hope to be back next year!