My Failure, Success and Great Experience at Oracle OpenWorld 2011

Oct 18, 2011 / By Yury Velikanov

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A bit more than a week passed since most of us who been part of the OpenWorld are back from San Francisco. It is about time to start sharing stories on how it went for each of us. I must admit that it happened to be a very stressful OpenWorld for me personally. I am recovering from it slowly. On the positive side I met so many great people, discovered how supportive people are and how great is to be a part of the Pythian Team!

This was my second OpenWorld. My very first one was 10 years ago. This year I returned to San Francisco to present my experience working/implementing Oracle technology. This blog post is the very first blog post about Oracle OpenWorld 2011. I am writing about my most important personal experience bellow. I am planning to write more posts on Pythian & OTN Bloggers event, My takeaway on Fusion Applications, Oak Table dinner and may be something else…

Let’s talk about how my 2 presentations went at Oracle OpenWorld 2011.

Challenging delivery of “AWR Performance data mining” presentation

My first talk on Tuesday (October 4) was related to AWR (Session ID: 05581, 15:30). From my personal point of view I failed miserably to deliver that presentation. I really grateful to those people who gave me a positive feedback about the presentation and to those who came to ask questions right after the presentation. However I would like to ask for  forgiveness from the rest of people who came to the presentation. Looking back I think I got sick on the stage because of adrenaline levels that ran over the roof in my body.

I must mention that I gave the presentation for several times before I delivered it at the OpenWorld and any single time I didn’t have problems close to the problems I had this time (you can find one of the successful presentations feedback here). Therefore I was quite comfortable before it all started and I got on stage.

It all started well. Just before the beginning I chatted with audience about social media and my presents there, clarified how many people in the room came from outside of US (~10%) and how many were there from Australia (strangely enough I was the only one) etc.

However on the second slide something switched inside of me and my talk stream stopped. My heart was beating way too often and I literally lost all my words and thoughts on what should I being talking about. It was so embarrassing. I struggled to come with each next word. I even started to read from my own slides at some point in time. My brain literally refused to work. Somehow I made my way to the end of presentation. Many people left the room and I don’t blame them for that (most probably I would have done the same).

I can’t blame anyone for the failure but myself. However it looks like there have been a few factors why my brain got that blackout period. Looking back I would mention the following things that contributed to the adrenaline level explosion I experienced:
- The room got packed. And this was a very big room (at least 300 seats). It was one of the biggest rooms I have presented. I would prefer a bit smaller crowd for my very first OpenWorld presentation
- There had been technical issues with connecting my Laptop to the projector. The technician spent a lot of time trying to get it connected and I ended up presenting on other (conference) laptop with the slide “clickering” device I was unfamiliar with
- Nobody but Graham Wood (Oracle architect of AWR, ASH, and ADDM) came to the presentation just few minutes before it started
- I felt uncomfortable with the way screen, stage, laptop were located. The problem was that I didn’t see the screen from the stage I should present from. I used to use a laser pointer to highlight some areas of my slides. This time I didn’t have this option. I recognized that at the time I started to present (and I wasn’t ready for it). The other problem was the microphone setup limited my ability to move on the stage. I typically make a few steps back and forth while presenting. This option was switched off for me that day. I had a few discussions with some more experienced presenters and they found the setup challenging as well.
I believe all those things together played a very bad joke on me. Once again there are no excuses for myself and I am taking full responsibility for the failed delivery that day. If this performance will stop/slowdown my public presenter career let it be. However I think I should share my experience with you to give you a chance to learn from my mistakes and try to avoid them.

I think I learned the lesson the hard way (in fact the very hard way). As for now I am taking some actions including the following to make my best effort at avoiding the same happening ever again:
- I am planning to work on my English (third language I am learning) harder. My plan is to start reading literature more and increase my vocabulary. This will give me more flexibility in expressing thoughts without thinking/looking for a next word to say at very important moments in my career. BTW: I would appreciate any suggestions from your side on what fiction book I would start with :)
- I am joining Toastmasters later on this year. I have been speaking publicly since 2005. However I think there are still things to improve and work on. Let see how it will go.
- No matter how well I know the presentation I will dedicate a significant amount of time for a rehearsal a day before the presentation.
- I will make a list of things that helps me present well. Each time I am presenting I will explorer the setup (screen, projector, microphone, stage etc.) in advance and think/prepare to the factors that would limit my well presenting habits.
Think about the actions I just mentioned. Some of them may help you avoid the problems I faced, next time you present.

Great delivery “Oracle Database 11g SCAN: Sharing a Successful Implementation Experience” presentation

You can’t imagine how devastated and upset I was the evening after AWR presentation. I wanted to hide and disappear from the planet. However the next challenge was, I had to deliver my second OpenWorld presentation on Thursday (October 6 15:00, Session ID: 05561).

And you know what?! I delivered it! :) Despite of the previous failure and presentation of Markus Michalewicz (Oracle Senior Principal Product Manager Oracle Real Application Clusters) in the room the presentation went very well. I will leave Markus and other folks to decide on the content (I am really looking forward to hearing any feedback) but I was happy with the performance (I am very critical of myself typically).

In spite of the fact that it was the very last presentation in the OpenWorld schedule, the presentation was well attended (~100 people showed up). I started to chat with people 10 minutes before the presentation’s beginning. Todd Carlson from World Wide Technology made great 10 minutes business introduction and I covered the rest. We had a good Q&A session after the presentation and very few people left the presentation before it finished. I would say it was kind of comeback for me. I got part of my confidence back as a presenter. I can’t talk about a full recovery at this stage. However it was a great personal achievement having in mind all what happened just few days before.

Appreciations for the support

I would like to say a HUGE thanks to all people who helped me to overcome the crisis and comeback with the good SCAN presentation.

  • First of all to the Pythian team who didn’t leave me alone and supported all way through. Just mentioning one thing that they did for me from the very long list: they got me out from my hotel room Tuesday night, where I was hiding from the rest of the world for the Pythian’s Exadata Titan Award ceremony. Thank you folks (Vanessa Simmons, !Gwen Shapira!, Michael Abbey, Paul Vallee, Alex Gorbachev, Andy Klock, Marc Fielding, Shervin Sheidaei, Keith Millar, Ted Maslach, Todd Bunch)! It is my great pleasure to work with you!
  • Tim Gorman, Cary Millsap, !Arjen Visser!, Bjoern Rost , and others who listened to me and gave me a bit of advice during the Pythian and OTN organized bloggers meetup at Oracle OpenWolrd 2011 (Photos from the event, Blog post ) just before my second presentation.
  • Tweeter community for their great support: @saldais, @jantup, @goryunov, @asdaraujo, @orcldoug, @gokhanatil, @fuadar, @munkyben, @dbvisitmike, @DBAKevlar, …
  • All folks who I just forgot to mention

THANK YOU!

PS Comeback 2: Presenting “AWR Performance data mining” at AUSOUG 20:20 Foresight Conference

There is a AUSOUG 20:20 Foresight Conference in Perth on November 3 and 4.
I am presenting “AWR Performance data mining” paper there. I hope that Graham Wood who is going to be part of the conference will be gracious enough and give me a second chance to present the paper in front of him.

I will do everything possible to give my best delivery, ever!

Thank you for reading,
Yury

27 Responses to “My Failure, Success and Great Experience at Oracle OpenWorld 2011”

  • Robin Moffatt says:

    Really enjoyed reading your write up of your presenting experience. Thank you for sharing it. Sorry to hear it didn’t go as well as you had hoped.

  • Arjen Visser says:

    It is great that you are so open and honest about your presentation experience and use the opportunity to learn from it. It is obvious you know you stuff and I was pleased and fortunate to get a mini one-on-one SCAN presentation from you. Thanks!

    • Thank you Arjen for reading! It was my pleasure to meet you man! You have been a great listener. The one-on-one was really useful for me that night. I used that mini version during the presentation itself as as short introduction to the technology for the people in the room who’s brain was overloaded with information.

      PS SCAN presentation took very last slot in the OOW11 schedule

  • Doug Burns says:

    Yuri,

    This is possibly one of the best blog posts I’ve ever read – seriously – because

    a) I admire personal honesty above all other characteristics.

    b) That’s not true. I admire heavy personal criticism even more (as mutual friends can tell you – LOL). It can be a difficult thing to live with but makes you become good in the end ;-). Personally, I find it difficult to like people who are lacking self-criticism.

    c) OK, maybe I admire even more your ability to come back from those things you found painful and be able to rectify them and deliver a come-back a couple of days later! Man, I bet *that* felt good :-)

    d) You are absolutely spot-on about the difficulties presenting in those rooms in Moscone South and you have warned others who will present in them. That’s the reason I left your presentation early (as I’d always planned) because I really need to feel totally comfortable in my environment before I speak and I was already dreading mine. I arrive in rooms ridiculously early to allow for the screw-ups that happen and even then, I hate it when they do :-( So I often end up just pacing around, waiting for folks to show up. But I still don’t like those Moscone rooms with you at one side and the screen on the other and the frankly weird AV setup!

    But it is true that I could see your discomfort and it was uncomfortable for me too because I know what a smart guy you are and even the fact that we have *all* probably had some bad days, it doesn’t make the memory of them any easier and I felt for you.

    I am just glad I never have to present in another language! When I am really, really in trouble, I can just mumble some nonsense that pops into my head or make a joke or something – anything to get me talking again. I doubt I would ever to be able to do that in another language.

    In summary …

    >> You can’t imagine how devastated and upset I was the evening after AWR presentation. I wanted to hide and disappear from the planet.

    I probably can ;-) but it really wasn’t the end of the world from where I was sitting and you came back strong. I would have stayed if it wasn’t for my own presentation and my apologies for being an idiot and sitting right at the front when I knew I’d be leaving. I *must* get some new glasses soon!

    As I think Alex probably mentioned to you, one of my Hotsos presentations had half a dozen slides and the rest would be 50 minutes demo. None of which worked until I was 45 minutes into the time-slot! Horrible! But still people ask me back to present because they recognise that it was just one of those days …

    What doesn’t kill you just makes you stronger …

    Oh, and it was great to meet you too!

    Cheers,

    Doug

    • Dear Doug,

      I think your comment just made me even stronger.

      >> as mutual friends can tell you
      I am glad to find a new good FRIEND! Just that was worth all the efforts.
      I hope destiny will bring us together to enjoy time and the company!

      Hope to meet you soon again

  • Galo Balda says:

    What a great post. This can happen to anyone but it’s feels really good when you have an opportunity to bounce back immediately and beat the fear/insecurity.

    I agree with Doug about presenting in another language. Very, very challenging.

    • Thank you Galo for following. I must say that the fist failure ruined almost all my OOW experience for the rest of the conference as I spent rest of the time preparing for the comeback. However it was worse it. The feeling straight after second presentation were great.

  • Noons says:

    Look up the books from Robert Heinlein. Great English, simple to understand, direct, and fun too – being science fiction rather than some boring lah-dee-dah romance.

  • The Old Man and the Sea (Hemingway)
    The Foundation Trilogy (Asimov)
    25,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Verne)
    The Heart of Darkness and The Secret Sharer (Conrad)
    Bio of a Space Tyrant series is a six-book science-fiction series by Piers Anthony
    The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever is a trilogy of fantasy novels by Stephen R. Donaldson.
    (That will be a good start, and probably be fun, too. By the way, I cleared a room out once, with a painfully failing demo where the com cards kept overheating the laptops between 3 minute reboots…)

  • I second Doug’s comments, and have to say Doug is probably the best to comment posts :)

    Regarding the first presentation, I think it was many of us who saw themselves there on the stage. And I still remember the applause you received when you completed the talk. Glad I met you and other Pythians at oow11.

    • Øyvind! I must say huge thanks to you man! Your blog post next day after the first presentation let my think that possibly I will make it though. Thanks to you Norwegian man! Thank you neighbor!

  • Jk says:

    I know these feelings. You have great collegues and everything will be fine. Practice makes perfect and unknow setup is a reason why i arrive at least hour before presentation just to be sure i have enough time to adjust mentally. Once was in situation when projector failed without any backup projector in place and was forced to deliver second half of presentation without any slides. That was a experience i must say.

    So- keep running!

  • Gary says:

    I’d recommend Bill Bryson (especially “Down Under” since you’re here). Happy to lend you a copy.

    But it depends a lot on what type of stories you enjoy reading.

  • Szymon Skorupinski says:

    I really admire that you decided to write such post. And of course I’m very grateful that you wrote it – besides a big load of honesty it’s very informative, especially for person, who just like me few months ago, was supposed to give first presentation using another language (in my case it was English too, but audience was much smaller than yours). Thanks!

    • Appreciate you feedback Szymon! I hope your presentation went well and you are ready for the next one ;) I am glad that you found the post useful. I had some doubts if I should publish it. After all feedback I receiving it looks like it was right decisions to release it. Didn’t expect so much support and good words from community! Thank you all!

  • jtu says:

    Everybody, who is doing something, has had some failures in the way. Good that you are analyzing those.

    Additionally, you may take attention on simple emotional intelligence matters concerning this. For example, it is ok to be afraid of such a big croud or to be mad about equipment or room, at least I had such feeling in some cases. The thing is that you can’t effectively deal with a problem while not recognized / admitted this feeling. After that it is easy to react, for example by stopping the presentation for 3 minutes with any reasoning (correct one: please adjust my mic, funny: I need a pee, risky: please give me a portable mic, I’ll present from middle of the room, hoping that they have a lots of equipment in the facility) just in order to save the rest 30 minutes :)

    Reading is a good idea. Read what you like most, except for Oracle books ;) I do several cheap current bestseller thrillers a year just besause English is my third language too.

    I see that you’ll be just fine, just keep going.

    • Cau Jani!

      You just gave me some ideas on the possible actions to tackle the emotional issues while presenting. I think I will put some in my list.

      I am a bit upset that you do not advice to read Oracle Docs :). I am having hips of it handy. It looks like I still need to go to the library this Saturday :)

  • Oh, I understand your feelings after first presentaion and you’re the MAN! No doubt!
    Such fuck-ups force you to work and think. Frequent delivery of OU courses have tought me that ;)
    Thank you for forewarning. Reading your post I have literally “lived” through your feelings. Now I have some “to-dos” and bugs in my head to smash.

    As a reading approach I can recommend you to read some book in englisch which you have read in translation previously. My preference could be Sir Terry Pratchett.

    Your blog is great! Thanks!

    • Hey Juris! Great suggestion on a book that I read in my mother language! As of “bugs” in a head I suggest you wait for the next summer and we will smash them together drinking some bottle of …dka :)

  • Mike Donovan says:

    Hi Yury,

    First of all it was nice to meet you at OOW – and thanks for sharing your knowledge and expertise – along with so many others in the Pythian team.

    All I can say is well done for picking yourself up after presentation #1. I wasn’t there for that, but I was at your SCAN one and you did a great job! Good flow to it, heaps of enthusiasm and handled the questions well.

    Great post too – quite refreshing to have someone be so candid about their difficult experiences – and it spoke to me. I’ve heard it said that public speaking is, generally speaking, peoples’ number 1 fear – so just remember that what you are doing (let alone speaking 3 languages) is way ahead of what most others will ever achieve.

    Good luck for your upcoming presentations!

    Cheers.

    • Mike! You just made my day with your feedback on my SCAN presentation! I think this is the fist feedback I see on the social media. I am glad that it not just me who enjoyed it. It was my great pleasure to meet the team dbvisit.com at OOW! Many people like what you are doing! Let me know next time you are in Sydney and we will meetup :)

  • [...] never thought that it would happen to me. The full story about my OpenWorld experience is available here. During the last 6-7 years, I truly believed that public speaking was the next big step in my [...]

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