The Fear of Presenting

I am deputy chairman of the UK Oracle User Group: Availability, Infrastructure and Management  (AIM) SIG. We arrange several groups per year where we look to get speakers to present on all manner of subject in relation to the remit of the SIG: Exadata, RAC, Partitioning, Grid Control, Managing DBA’s, etc (for more info, check here). However, it can sometimes be difficult to get presenters, and close to impossible to get new presenters.

Now, most people are pretty scared to get up in front of their peers and present. It initially seems quite a daunting prospect. However, I was recently reading Dr Richard Feynman’s autobiography, which puts the fear of your first presentation into perspective:

When he was a graduate student at Princeton, Feynman was working as a research student and was encouraged by John Wheeler to give a talk on an electrodynamics theory they were working on, as “you need experience in giving talks”. Feynman found out later that especially invited to the talk were Henry Norris Russell, Professor Wolfgang Pauli, and Professor Albert Einstein. Three of the most preeminent scientists of their day (you might have heard of at least one of them).

So, if you think your talk is going to be difficult standing in front of a couple of contractors, 3 geeks from the local council, a couple of bankers and some bloke from a supermarket, it’s not. Well, not compared to being open to critique by Pauli and Einstein! Nobody is going to be critical of your talk, only supportive. Nobody expects a presenter to have all of the answers. Many of us have witnessed the consummate presenter Jonathan Lewis writing impossible SQL on a flip chart, much to his chagrin. So if Jonathan can make an amusing mistake, I don’t think we’re overly worried about anybody else making one either.

As for Feynman, his only regret about the seminar as that he can’t remember exactly what Prof. Pauli has said when he raised a question, as he thinks it might have been the answer to making a quantum version of his electrodynamic theory.

So, if you DO present, and I would really encourage you to present,  listen carefully to any questions asked by the audience. They just might give you the answer you are looking for.

For the record and to stop frivolous posts, Martin, I DO present occasionally. Just not as much as perhaps I should.


One Response to The Fear of Presenting

  1. mwidlake says:

    Frivolous post?I REALLY do not know what you mean…

    I suppose I’ve crossed that boundary from Audience to “will he NOT shut up!”. But the thing is, now I am comfortable speaking up, I speak up. As does Neil, even though he does not present *enough*. I would dearly love more people to do so. After every UKOUG event I go to, I try to be in the pub afterwards. Some may say this is because I like a pint or three. But actually,what I like is to hear the opinion of those who did not speak up during the SIG. Nearly always, the SIG would have been better for this shy person to say what was on their minds at the meeting.

    You see, it is a User Group Meeting. ALL of us have an equal right and weight to add our point of view. As Neil points out, sometimes the Great and Good of the oracle world get it wrong. Even more commonly, the “average” member has a few words of experience or even wisdom to add. That is how I started. And now you can’t shut me up!


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