A few days at the Microsoft Evangelism Academy

I had the privilege of being invited to attend the inaugural Microsoft Evangelism Academy last week in Melbourne, run by the DPE team at Microsoft.

The people in attendance were (aside from myself)

The event was organised by Andrew Coates and Sarah Vaughan from Microsoft and run by Steve and Melony from NRG Solutions.  Steve and Melony have in the past have been involved with speaker training for the TechEd Australia events.

The idea of this Academy is to, in Microsoft’s words, take technical “gurus” and turn them into “super gurus”.   It was an intensive three day course, focused on helping us become great speakers with lots of exercises and activities to firmly put us outside our comfort zones. The program does not just end there either, it continues until August next year during which we have :

  • Monthly conference calls
  • Monthly 1 on 1 catchup over the phone with a mentor
  • 1 day of group training in Melbourne every 3 months
  • Talk at UserGroups, Conferences and whatever we can!

Microsoft also provided what I think is one of the greatest tools available today to a public speaker, a small MinoHD video camera. This enabled us to get our own instant feedback on what we like or dislike about our own speaking styles.  This kind of feedback is gold to a speaker, I was able to instantly identify several things I disliked about my speaking style as well as pick up on a few things I did not even realise I was doing, such as gesturing with my thumbs and swaying slightly. 

So what did I come away with? After 3 days I had a card with a list of tips that I found helpful, which are outlined below :

  • Don’t be afraid to be Different!
  • Don’t spend too much time on “About Me” as it can detract credibility. If you are on stage you already have credibility
  • Have a good start and a good finish. The first 100 words will be more powerful than the next 1000.
  • Don’t be afraid to change the environment. Own the space!
  • If you are presenting on multiple topics or points, move to a specific space for each point and return to it if you return to the topic. (Spacial Anchoring)
  • When preparing aim to present for exactly the time you are presenting for, or 10% less.
  • Don’t be afraid to link to other presenters to establish rapport with your audience.
  • Showing is better than telling.
  • Build up a library of stories that can be told on any relevant situation.
  • Make eye contact with as many people in the room as possible.
  • It can be very powerful to hold eye contact for an entire point or paragraph with one individual, but do not make them feel “stared at”
  • Do not tinker with your tech before your presentation, welcome your audience, get out from behind the podium!
  • Stand still or Move with purpose.
  • Don’t forget to Pause – A good pause is far more effective than words.
  • Less is More!
  • Recovery is more important than delivery, and you get to practise it a lot more!
  • Build up a presentation kit and checklist to make sure you are prepared every time
  • Walk for 7-10 minutes before you present, to build up energy
  • Use gestures deliberately, not accidentally
  • Stand with feet at shoulder width
  • Point your feet at whatever has your attention. If you have attention on your audience, they will pay attention to you. If you have your attention on your slide, they will pay attention to your slide
  • Let your visuals augment You, not the other way around
  • The room is yours, feel free to change it how you see fit, even if that means restricting access to the back seats, or even turning the room around
  • If you are talking on a negative point, do not make eye contact with the audience, talk to the floor. And do this in a sacrificial space, that you will not return to
  • Don’t be afraid to be theatrical, everything looks way less dramatic from the audience
  • Gesture BIG!  It will appear smaller from the audience.
  • Stand with your hands clasped in front of you, or by your sides

This is only a tiny fraction of what I learned in the 3 days and I can tell you that I will never again look at a presenter the same way, nor will I ever present again in the same ways I have in the past. I am already looking at some of my prior presentations wondering how I can make my presentations really stand out.

This training really put me outside of my comfort zone, which immediately forced me to learn and while I did find it difficult I really enjoyed the whole thing. The final activity was a huge example of this as we had to pick a random topic and speak for 3 minutes on it, to members of the general public, at South Bank in Melbourne.  This also had the side benefit of removing any possibility of me ever being embarrassed or nervous prior to speaking to an audience again.

This was captured on video and I have uploaded it to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SqcZGHDRedM

I picked the topic of “Three things about me, and try to pick which one of them is false”. While I think I spoke reasonably well within the constraints of the stress this activity generated, upon reviewing it I can see a half-dozen things I wish I had done better and hopefully with practice will improve on.

I am really looking forward to working on my presenting over the next year and it will be interesting to see where it takes me! 

Also lastly, A massive thanks to everyone involved! this is probably the most exciting thing I’ve seen from Microsoft in the community space in a long time, and I am really proud to be part of it.


Australian SharePoint Conference Wrap Up

The Australian SharePoint Conference finished up yesterday evening. It was a fantastic couple of days immersed in all things SharePoint as well as getting a chance to hang out again with a bunch of the Australian SharePoint community members, and of course share a few drinks with them 🙂

I was able to present my session on one of everybody’s favourite topics – Content Deployment!

Content Deployment Bootcamp
Content Deployment is one of the final frontiers where SharePoint administrators fear to tread. Mark will explore Content Deployment from its origins to what to expect with SharePoint 2010 and covers his experiences when using content deployment in production environments, including tips and tricks to get your content deployment running smoothly, and how to keep it that way!

The session went quite well and I had a great amount of participation from the Audience, including giving away four hand made pens that I made myself, these seemed to be fairly well received and I like to think they were a unique touch.

Slides from my session are available here : http://www.slideshare.net/markrhodes/content-deployment-bootcamp

I was also really fortunate to participate in the “Ask the Experts” session with Elaine Van Bergen, Todd Bleeker, Arpan Shah and Paul Swider.  This was a great way to finish off the conference as we were able to have a good time answering questions as well as giving a few laughs to the audience.

I was also able to participate in an excellent podcast by Jeremy Thake which will be available fairly soon on http://www.sharepointdevwiki.com. The podcast was on the topic of “Sandbox Solutions” and was moderated by Jeremy and included myself, Arpan Shah, Todd Bleeker and Paul Swider.  I will post the link as soon as it is published.

**Update** – Podcast available at http://www.sharepointdevwiki.com/display/SPPodCasts/2010/06/18/SPWebCast+018+-+Sandboxed+Solutions+interview+with+Arpan+Shah,+Todd+Bleeker,+Paul+Swider+and+Mark+Rhodes

The conference itself was incredibly well organized and I think has set the bar in what to expect from these events within Australia.  Huge thanks to Debbie Ireland, Mark Orange, James Milne, Kathy Hughes and Brendan Law, as well as the crew at http://spevents.co.nz/default.aspx for such a great time.

I also promised to provide the links for my resources for my session, so here they are :

Stefan Gossner : http://blogs.technet.com/b/stefan_gossner

Spencer Harbar : http://www.harbar.net

Maxime Bombardier : http://blogs.msdn.com/b/maximeb/

Content Deployment Wizard : http://spdeploymentwizard.codeplex.com/

Microsoft Content Deployment Poster : http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=de010583-e5fe-4c4b-a633-e57312336aef&displaylang=en

I’m speaking at the Australian SharePoint Conference in June, are you going?

Hey Folks,

Just a really quick note to let you know that I'm going to be speaking at the Australian SharePoint Conference in Sydney June 2010.

I will be doing a presentation on Content Deployment Bootcamp, specifically aimed at helping people understand Content Deployment, and keeping it running smoothly in the long term with SharePoint 2010.

Content Deployment BootCamp – 200 Level
Content Deployment is one of the final frontiers where SharePoint administrators fear to tread. Mark will explore Content Deployment from its origins to what to expect with SharePoint 2010 and covers his experiences when using content deployment in production environments, including tips and tricks to get your content deployment running smoothly, and how to keep it that way!

More information about the conference can be found at : http://www.sharepointconference.com.au
Follow the official twitter account for the conference on http://www.twitter.com/AUSharePoint (@AUSharePoint)

See you there!

Presenting this month at two user groups.

Just a quick update as I will be presenting this month at two usergroups.

On Tuesday 10th March I will be presenting on System Center virtual Machine Manager 2008 at Brisbane Infrastructure Group

Session #2, Hosting and Self Provision of Virtual Machines with SCVMM w/ Mark Rhodes

Hosting virtualized servers is easy, especially with tools like SCVMM 2008, but giving tools to clients to manage those servers is more difficult.  Mark will demonstrate what his production SCVMM 2008 self-service portal and what you can do with it.  In addition to this he will also about some of the functions he has used since implementing SCVMM 2008 (i.e. P2V, V2V, Archiving of old servers, Managing Checkpoints)

 Mark will also share some of those ?notes from the field? he encountered that may not be immediately obvious during his deployment.

This one is on at 5:30pm at Microsoft's Brisbane office.I will also be presenting at the Brisbane Sharepoint Users Group on the 18th.  I will be talking about hosting, as yet I do not have an abstract on this, but most likely I will cover the benefits of hosting, basic hosting technology and the future of hosted services.This one is at 12:30 at Microsoft's Brisbane Office.