Don Box - What goes into a great technical presentation?

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Don Box is well known for giving highly-rated presentations at industry conferences. One year he gave a presentation in a bathtub. Another year he gave one wearing just a T-shirt.

Mike Hall took his camcorder over to find out Don's philosophy on giving a good conference presentation.

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    The Discussion

    • User profile image
      dotnetjunkie
      Thanks a lot for this video!

      I need to start preparing my slides for a talk soon, and after listening to Don Box, I am going to pursue a totally different route!

      I'll make some radical changes to the way I (and my colleagues!) create PPT slides etc...

      Wonder whether my manager will like it though Wink
      Otherwise I'll point him to this video Smiley
    • User profile image
      earnshaw
      I think nudity should become de rigueur for all technical talks.  At least, when the talk is going badly, there will be other things to think about.
    • User profile image
      Senkwe Chanda
      Why is there no direct download link?
    • User profile image
      Charles
      Senkwe Chanda wrote:
      Why is there no direct download link?


      There is a problem with getting our downloadable videos on the download servers. This is out of our control. As soon as this is fixed you will see the Save link.

      Sorry about the inconvenience.


      Charles
    • User profile image
      rasx
      I know how to pick 'em! Don Box is great and it's great that he has a chance to explain why!
    • User profile image
      rasx
      I've got that Dell laptop that allows me to run at 1600x1200 so I too find that 14pt Lucida Console is great for editing code as well!
    • User profile image
      VBmaniac
      Thanks channel 9 and Mr. Box!!! Good advice. I'll remember this when I'm doing my next Oral Presentation at high school!!!
      Oh yeah and umm...
      I used to be "forced" to use powerpoint for written homework at elementary school(Or primary school as we call it over here in Australia)
      Anyway thanks for the tips!!!
    • User profile image
      Sven Groot
      I'm a pretty good public speaker if I do say so myself. In 1999 (5th grade of secondary school (VWO)) I got to the national finals for the Netherlands-England Foundation Public Speaking Competition. That was just a five minutes talk though, followed by a three minute questions session. Slides weren't allowed.

      Being a college student I have many, many anecdotes about how horrible people can be when giving talks or lectures. In the first year the man who gave Computer Architecture tended to go through about 150 overhead sheets in a single hour. You honestly had no idea what he was on about anymore after a while. Come to think about it, I have had only one really good teacher in that respect. Professor Rosenberg, the man who single-handedly invented DNA Computing (every book on the subject seems to be written by him) was my teacher for both Theory of Concurrency and DNA Computing. He is a clone of Einstein by the way he looks, but he gives great lectures. He uses these elaborate overhead sheets, that show you parts of something, and then he overlaps them and it's the whole thing. I'll also never forget his explanation of petri nets, doing what he called the 'token game' using push-pins.

      What's probably the worst are seminars. A seminar at Uni means that the students themselves have to give presentations about the subject matter. Typically this means people are giving a presentation about something they hadn't even heard of until the night before. Especially in those situations you end up with people trying to cram as much information as possible onto the PowerPoint sheets (so they don't actually have to learn it) and read it out loud. One thing that makes it worse is the fact that we have many foreign students, whose English pronounciation is often very bad. We have one Chinese student that can read and understand English just find, but if he tries to speak it I have no idea what he's saying. It's not his fault really, but it does make his presentations quite uninteresting.

      I always try to avoid things like that (reading out loud, too many slides, etc.), and the fact that I usually get pretty high grades for my presentations (even the occasional 10 out of 10) seems to suggest I'm pretty successful.
    • User profile image
      PerfectPhase
      rasx wrote:
      I've got that Dell laptop that allows me to run at 1600x1200 so I too find that 14pt Lucida Console is great for editing code as well!


      You want to try the Dell D800 widescreen, 1920x1200 display.  I am total sold on wide screen for code editing in visual studio, so much more room for the toolbars down the side.

      Stephen
    • User profile image
      Andy914

      If the footage exists, it would be cool to have video of Don's talks intermixed with the video of him describing them.  I'm specifically thinking about when he's talking about doing one SOAP talk in the tub and another featuring a band and flamingo dancers (definitely NOT the one where he strips naked - I have absolutely no interest in seeing that <g>).

      I believe adding this additional footage would really help sell the points he was making in the video.

    • User profile image
      PeterF
      You also have to see the joy on people's faces afterwards when they are playing with their Tech'Ed 2002 chemical camping lights Wink

      That was the first time I heard the name Don Box and I didn't forget that name because it seemed that I absolutely had to go to one of his presentations in order to get some cool goodies... well that wasn't exactly the reason to go to one of his presentations, but it sure helped to get his name on my famous tech peoples list and buy his XML book and let him sign it the year later Smiley

      Rock on and next time give the band more playtime, you might manage that by talking more softly in stead of slower Tongue Out

      Peter
    • User profile image
      Minh
      God damn it, you can't bleep Don Box!

      EDIT: Gasp! I can't believe that one got through.
    • User profile image
      scobleizer
      Actually, I argued with myself over that one for a long time. I finally decided to beep it, just in case.

      Robert
    • User profile image
      leighsword
      when <the Essential .net Volume 2:XML Web Services> will availabled in damned China?

      there are no genuies in China ,because that the books market is controled by goverment.
    • User profile image
      MikeA
      As someone that has to do a lot of presentations, I absolutely loved Don's advice.  His take on not relying on the slides, and engaging the audience are (I'm afraid) all to often ignored in so many of the presentations I watch.

      Another person that does excellent presentations and embodies all of what Don says in this video is Prof. Lessig - his presentations are legendary (just the white typewriter text on a black background is his "signature").  I've found it really hard to find his talks online, but if anyone want to view an excellent example visit

      http://randomfoo.net/oscon/2002/lessig/free.html

      Please, please, please, take the advice of Don (and learn from other people of what "works) - these type of people make going to a talk an enjoyment, not a drudge.

      Cheers,
      Mike,
    • User profile image
      Rossj
      scobleizer wrote:
      Actually, I argued with myself over that one for a long time.


      I like those types of arguments, I always seem to win them Smiley

      MikeA wrote:

      Another person that does excellent presentations and embodies all of what Don says in this video is Prof. Lessig - his presentations are legendary (just the white typewriter text on a black background is his "signature").  I've found it really hard to find his talks online, but if anyone want to view an excellent example visit

      http://randomfoo.net/oscon/2002/lessig/free.html


      That is *fantastic* its like poetry. Its a shame it is going to be one of his last ones ... wish I could have seen him speak.
    • User profile image
      dantheman82
      You can still hear him speak.  I just watched him give a presentation which can be viewed in Windows Media Player (very ironic considering who the speaker is Wink).  You can get to it by going to http://lessig.org
    • User profile image
      tankete
      Thanks for the tips. I recently had to give a three hour talk, and only wish your interview had "aired" earlier. Looks like I've got some pointers for next time.
    • User profile image
      vaibhavshar​ma
      Many thanks to the team at Channel 9 for preparing such an excellent video. This is just awesome.

      Can someone please elaborate on the difference between fact and concepts as Don mentions in this video? Actually I am not clear on this idea as to how we can keep our facts separate from concepts. I will really appreciate if someone can explain it to me with reference to a technology (say, ASP.Net, or C#..)

      P.S. Is there even a slim chance that Box himself can elaborate a little on this.

      Vaibhav Sharma

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