After my recent presentation at the recent Tech Ed conference in Auckland, I’ve spent a little time reflecting on the feedback received and identifying some lessons learnt. I thought that blogging these might prove useful for others as they work towards their conference debut.

Set Expectations Carefully

My presentation was entitled Lesser Known Design Patterns, and for my target audience of developers not heavily steeped in design patterns, the title worked well. Where it fell down was with a small number of developers who were already well informed, and who expected my presentation to be covering more esoteric territory. They were, naturally enough, disappointed at my content as there was little new for them. By using a relative term (“Lesser known”) in my title, I set expectations for those developers that my actual presentation didn’t meet.

Lesson: Be explicit in the session title.

Everyone knows you

An unexpected side effect of being the presenter up the front was the number of people who were keen to have a chat afterwards. Throughout the rest of the conference, I had a large number of interesting conversations with delegates who had attended my presentation and who had something to say. I didn’t anticipate this social side effect of speaking at TechEd, though it was most welcome.

Lesson: Make room for the conversations.

You can’t please everyone

I was somewhat taken aback by some of the feedback received - while most of it was positive, there were some extremely negative comments that hit me pretty hard. I commented to a few fellow speakers, and discovered that this was a relatively common occurrence. I’m choosing to pick up on any lessons I can learn from the feedback without letting it affect me too much. There’s a middle ground between ignoring the feedback (which would be a mistake) and letting it get under my skin (which would also be a mistake).

Lesson: You need a thick skin

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