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New Stars of Data feedback

March 18, 2021

As mentioned in my last post, I gave my first ever conference talk at New Stars of Data last Friday. Recordings of all of the talks (including mine) are now available on YouTube, and all of the slide decks are available in the NSoD GitHub, or you can find mine here. I’ve not yet been able to listen to mine, but I will manage it someday (my voice always sounds so strange when it’s recorded).

I thought the session went very well, and I had a few nice comments at the end, but I was still more than a little nervous about the feedback form.

As it happens I did pretty well…

If you can’t see them in the picture, they are:

Demos: 4.3, Overall Session: 4.71, Presentation Style: 4.57, Session Matched Abstract: 4.77, Session Met Expectations: 4.69, and Speaker’s Knowledge: 4.93

I don’t want to brag, but I’m ridiculously happy with these scores. The Speaker’s Knowledge and Overall Session scores in particular just blow me away.

Then, looking at the comments…

Again, really couldn’t be happier.

A few highlights:

This session blew my mind. I did not know that these things are possible with SSDT even though I played with it before. Thank you Chris!

Awesome job Chris! I love it when I can learn new things and you knocked it out of the park. Very well done. You have great pace, tone, & answered questions well. Keep it up and I look forward to more sessions from you.

Excellent session. Interesting topic with clear understanding, clearly expressed.


Clearly there’s one person who wanted more demos, and it feels like they wanted in general more of an introduction to Visual Studio database projects. I feel bad for them because I want everyone to get something out of the talk, but it’s not an introduction session. I’m seriously considering putting together an introduction session as a companion to this one, but this session can largely stay as it is. The main thing I might tweak is the abstract, to make it clearer that this is an advanced dive into the topic.

That might seem a bit harsh, but I only have an hour to get everything across. I did want to include some demos in the presentation but that would have meant cutting out 10-15 minutes of talking, which maybe means I don’t get to the really good stuff. Some conferences only have 50 minute slots for speakers so I may need to cut this talk down a bit if I want to try and speak at them in the future (spoiler alert: I definitely do want to try and speak at some of them, speaking was awesome and I very much have the bug now).

How I built the talk in the first place

Part of the reason I know I can’t do everything is because of the way this talk evolved in the first place. I wanted to give a talk at my local user group a couple of years ago, and settled on a general overview of best practices, or things we can learn from the .NET world. This was largely because I’d been working with .NET developers for a few years, and had noticed a lot of ways in which their best practices seemed more embedded than they did in the SQL Server world. I’m talking about things like source control, unit tests, versioning, all kinds of stuff.

Anyway, that first talk was fairly well received even if I was a stuttering mess throughout, and I decided I wanted to do another. This time I figured I’d follow up on what I’d done before and talk in more detail about Visual Studio database projects as an option for source control, as well as a few of the other interesting things you can do with them.

That went a bit better, but I still felt like it wasn’t great. Then I heard about New Stars of Data, and checking the entry requirements I saw that having spoken at a user group before didn’t disqualify you (I guess they were looking for anyone who hadn’t spoken at conference level). I applied with an abstract about what you could do with database projects besides just putting your project under source control, with the aim being to build on the previous talk.

Long story short, I got accepted, and worked really hard with my mentor to try and make a good talk. At the start I figured I’d cut out some of the stuff from the last talk and add a demo, but after Rob saw my slides he said something along the lines of “We have a lot of work to do” and I knew I’d need something a bit more drastic. We ended up with something that looked completely different to the previous presentation, with at least half the content gone, and I needed to cut that. If I hadn’t, if I’d tried to give the introduction talk, I wouldn’t have had the time I needed to really dive into the good stuff that ended up impressing people. As it was, I could definitely have spoken for longer on some of those advanced features, and would love to give the 2-4 hour version that one of the commenters requested! Unfortunately conferences don’t often have slots that long, so I have to pick and choose.

I remain incredibly grateful to the conference organisers, to Rob, to everyone who showed up to listen to me, and to everyone who left feedback. My hope is I can kick on and make this the start of my speaker journey.

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