Feedback Loop

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I was so honoured to present a session, “Windowing Functions: How Spying on your Neighbours Enhances your data” at PASS Summit this year. Thank you to all the people who attended my talk, I so appreciate you being there. Especially since I was up against the #BIPowerHour!

Many speakers are sharing their feedback from PASS Summit 2018, and I’ve found it fascinating reading through the reviews, especially of sessions that I attended. Evaluations are so valuable in seeing the attendees perspective on the session, and they really allow speakers to hone their craft.

My feedback

I thought I’d hop on the bandwagon and write my own post, but before I go into my attendee feedback, I thought it would be appropriate to add the notes that I made for myself immediately following the session; my own “session evaluation”, if you will.

Very nervous start

Speaking at PASS Summit has been a dream of mine for a long time, and it’s something that, if I’m honest, I never expected to happen. So to be speaking at my first Summit, on relatively short notice (I wasn’t originally selected, but I was offered a spot due to some withdrawals), was incredibly exciting, and more than a tad overwhelming. I guess nerves were to be expected, but I was surprised by exactly how nervous I was. It took me a few minutes of talking to the audience about #sqlfamily, Twitter and #sqlsaturday before I started to calm down a little.

Needs slightly stronger tech intro

I LOVE the introduction to this talk. It’s different, and I think it grabs attention and gets the audience wondering about where the talk will go. I felt that came across well in my talk, but the section immediately following that intro was a bit weak. I think this was partially because of the nerves, but maybe I need to review the flow slightly, to ensure that I don’t have an immediate energy drop after grabbing attention.

A few people walked out early

I have no idea why people left the session (3 or 4, if I remember correctly). As other people have pointed out, PASS Summit didn’t display the level on the schedule, so maybe the talk started a little slowly, and felt a little introductory. Perhaps I should add a little more context to my Session plan so that people leave right then, rather than a further five minutes in.

Error on 1 slide, republish notes

I thought I had checked my slides hundreds of times, but an attendee spotted an error on one of my demo slides. This error really annoyed me as it was totally within my control. I corrected the slide and republished them to the PASS Summit site.

Rushed one question answer and had to adjust. Take time to formulate best response.

I had one question, towards the end of the session, that caught me slightly off guard. I needed to take a few seconds to compose myself and think through the answer, or even offer to answer after the session, rather than feeling rushed. In the end, I gave an answer, and then had to backtrack to give a better answer.

Left out links slide and didn’t finish strongly. Nervous ending?

Last time I gave the talk, I noted that I wanted to link my conclusion back to my introduction, to bring the talk full circle. I did that, and I think it worked well, but I actually had 2 more slides that I wanted to make sure the attendees were aware of. They contained links and further reading on the topic, and my contact details for follow up questions (hat tip – Brent Ozar). I think that the relief of getting through the session meant that I didn’t finish in the way that I’d originally planned.

As you can probably see from my own notes, I noted a few things that I wanted to work on before I give this, or any other big talk, again. However, I was incredibly happy with how the talk went, and I was really flattered by the number of people who came by to say thanks, and congratulate me afterwards.

If you go to a conference and enjoy a session, please do this, it means a lot to speakers.

Attendee Feedback

Session Size and Responses

  • Attendees: 116
  • Responses: 22 (18.9%)

116 attendees is quite a lot more than I thought I had, I estimated 80-90. Either way, 22 responses is quite a small percentage, so my feedback could suffer quite heavily from small sample size bias. The other speakers who have blogged about their feedback had higher response rates, so I wonder if there is something to be gleaned from this? The only thing I can guess is that I probably had a less “experienced” audience for a level 200 session, and perhaps, despite my efforts, they aren’t aware of the value of submitting evaluations.

Rate the value of the session content.4.86
How useful and relevant is the session content
to your job/career?
How well did the session’s track, audience, title,
abstract, and level align with what was
Rate the speaker’s knowledge of the
subject matter.
Rate the overall presentation and delivery of the session content.4.91
Rate the balance of educational content versus
that of sales, marketing, and promotional subject matter.

Other than the note about the low response rate, there’s not much for me to say about the numbers. I’m absolutely ecstatic with all of them, almost to a point of disbelief.


I’d like to preface this with a disclaimer. I almost didn’t write this post, because I’m a little embarrased by some of the comments from the session. At a conference the scale of PASS Summit, I truly expected to receive a little bit of negative feedback, or someone who didn’t find the session to their liking (there’s always one). However, in my feedback, the comments were literally only positive. I’d love to copy Cathrine’s trick, and assume all other attendees gave me full marks, but I’m sure that’s far from the truth. So I apologise in advance if this section makes you want to throw up.

“Enjoyed seeing the Beatles chart data used for the examples. Nice to see something other than sales data.”

I loved this comment. Especially at a lower technical level, I see loads of space for using interesting and diverse datasets for demos. I feel that they make a presentation more engaging, and enjoyable, for attendees. Of course, they also add a whack of time onto session preparation, so it’s wonderful to know that someone appreciated it.

“Excellent speaker. I thought I knew pretty much everything about the content, but I wound up learning a few new tricks. The speaker made the presentation very down to earth and entertaining. I am going to recommend that others in my organization seek out this presentation.”

This is also a wonderful comment that I really appreciate. Firstly, I’m glad that an experienced person was able to learn something from the talk. Secondly, I like the combination of “down-to-earth” and “entertaining”. That feels exactly like what I aim for in a level 200 talk. Finally, the suggestion of recommending the talk to others is really flattering and I am honoured that someone would say that.

“Great delivery and good rapport with session audience. Excellent visualizations. Very well done.”

“very nicely presented with the house visual. Being familiar with some of the windowing function I found value in some of the other deeper options. Great presentation”

These two comments speak to my “abstract” examples that I used in PowerPoint, to demonstrate what was happening in each scenario. It is a part of the session that I am very proud of and I’m so happy that other people enjoyed it too.

“This was one of my favorite sessions. James really has a knack for presenting and teaching. The examples used for the concepts and the demos for the code were excellent. This way of teaching really helped me a lot. I would love to see a part 2 that builds on this session. Or perhaps it could be pre-conference session that covers more functions and their use cases and allows hands-on demos. Very well done.”

I love this comment, because I’d never thought of extending the session, or making it into a different type of session. Since I got this feedback, my mind has been racing, thinking of the possibile ways in which I can do this. Thank you for the suggestion, I’m looking forward to thinking about it, and deciding on the to take it forward.

“This is the most clear and well organized presentation I’ve ever seen on this topic. It was fantastic! The speaker clearly knew the material and the presentation was well rehearsed so focus was on content not technical logistics.”

This is my favourite comment of all! I think that sometimes people do not understand how much effort goes into designing a session, from planning a roadmap, to building the slide deck and demos, tweaking and rehearsing, and finally executing it on the day. Comments like this make speakers so happy, as it shows that their efforts are appreciated.


Attending PASS Summit was such an incredible experience for me, and it was an honour to present a session. So it’s fair to say that receiving feedback like this has been the cherry on top of a particularly scrumptious cake! I truly hope I get the opportunity to do something like this again.

Other Speaker Feedback Posts

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