Back at the PASS 2010 Summit I got my freak on FreeCon invite and spent a few hours on Sunday afternoon with about 15 other people who wanted to get together and discuss ways we could get better at doing whatever it is that we do. Sound vague? Well, it was, but lunch was provided and I am never one to turn down a free meal.

My biggest takeaway from that event was writing down the three words that I want people to associate with me whenever they interact with me in any way (in person or through writing). The words are part of my “brand wheel” and they are: passionate, knowledgeable, and capable. If I want those words to be a part of my brand then everything I do needs to point back to one of those three words. [No, I did not include ‘smartass’ as one of the words, that is just a bonus that comes with the package.]

Why am I telling you this? Well, I was going through my evaluations from the SQL Saturday event in Cleveland. I had 47 (plus one blank) sheets returned to me, which is roughly the size of the group I had attend (I thought there was roughly 50 in the room but did not do a count). The questions were standard enough [my score in parenthesis, on a scale of 1(poor) to 5(excellent)]:

  1. How would you rate the usefulness of the session information in your day-to-day environment? (4.62)
  2. How would you rate the Speaker’s presentation skills? (4.87)
  3. How would you rate the Speaker’s knowledge of the subject? (4.81)
  4. How would you rate the accuracy of the session title, description, and experience level to the actual session? (4.77)
  5. How would you rate the amount of time allocated to cover the topic/session? (4.62)
  6. How would you rate the quality of the presentation materials? (4.79)

I was happy with the scores for the most part. I mean, question two is the one I always focus on, and out of 47 votes cast I had 41 5’s and six 4’s. I had 29 evaluations returned with all 5’s. I have no idea about scores for other speakers, but I won’t complain about the results I got back. But as good as those scores were for me to see, it was this one comment:

Entertaining and knowledgeable presenter. Good job.”

BINGO!

Did you see it there? My brand wheel keyword? I’ll do it again in case you missed it the first time:

Entertaining and knowledgeable presenter. Good job.”

Not only did I manage to get some good scores, but I also managed to entice 12 people to leave remarks, and one of those 12 said the EXACT keyword that I want people to walk away with.

When I get feedback confirming that the message I want sent is the one also being received then I know I am heading in the right direction with how I build and present my talks. It was a huge rush for me to see that the connection was made at this event. And with each event I know I am getting better at connecting with my audience, no matter what the topic.

And that, my friends, is why I keep doing these events, and would encourage all of you to get out and try your hand at speaking.