In a rash moment, I tweeted the following a while at Codemash 2009:
At the styling Silverlight controls talk. Jesse Liberty has burned me twice now with his ill prepared sessions and showing up late.
And then later.
In fact, he’s starting to piss me off. He’s talking to someone at the front now. Dumb ass.
A bit harsh and not one of my finer moments. Interestingly, I received an email from Jesse Liberty later on. What ensued was a thoughtful and constructive conversation.
Jesse Liberty to Mike
I’ve been quite concerned about your feeling twice burned by my presentations (was that twice at CodeMash?) and wanted to respond to your tweet to that effect.
I would very much value any further feedback you can provide, especially if you care to share what it was about the presentation that made you feel I was unprepared – I thought I was quite prepared, having spent quite a bit of time creating and practicing the presentations. (Though if you were at the hyper-video presentation you did witness the most bizarre situation in which a program I had used that morning was no longer on my disk! I did figure out why later that day and fortunately I had a backup of the presentation on a thumb drive and, though I ended up not needing it, a backup of the entire drive on a USB drive.)
In any case, I take this quite seriously and it is important to get it right, so I’m not trying to convince you that your observation was incorrect, rather I’m trying to figure out what I was doing in my presentation that left you with the impression that I was late and that I was unprepared. Neither of those would be acceptable, and I’m eager to correct both.
I hope to get a chance to talk with you in person at an upcoming conference and I appreciate any feedback you care to give.
Mike to Jesse
Admittedly, my tweet was a bit harsh and I apologize for calling you a dumb ass. You’re not and I’m a fan of your Web cast series on using Silverlight.
What bugged me was that when I arrived for both sessions about 5 minutes early, you were not yet set up to do the presentation. In both sessions, you had issues interfacing with the AV equipment. Part of preparedness in my book is that you be set to go at the scheduled time.
In the Hyper-Video presentation you chatted with the audience and started 10 minutes late because you lost track of the time.
In the Silverlight presentation, you started 15 minutes late because of AV issues. You then proceeded to talk about when you were a boy programming Unix when a full quarter of the allotted time was already gone. I would have thought more urgency would be in order to complete the talk. Perhaps you had this urgency and I misread it because you were so relaxed and unhurried.
Frankly, I’m not that interested in a speakers history as rule. I quick here’s my blog and this is where work is all it takes. 30 seconds tops.
For me, most of the interesting bits of a presentation come at the end. I realize that you have to lay ground work to establish a baseline but running out of time and not talking about the “meat” of the matter so to speak is a big miss in my book. I marvel at the guys who give talks and finish with just minutes to spare.
Perhaps more importantly, I expected great things from you. I like your Web casts and expected something as polished and as informative. I’m told that the second half of your Silverlight talk delivered the goods and regret not having the patience to wait it out.
Again, I apologize my harshness. You’re a good person and I appreciate your efforts.
Jesse to Mike
Ah, not a problem. You paid good money and you were entitled to get a great presentation. And your comments are actually extremely helpful. It is amazing how much I can be unaware of these things when they’re happening, and having someone willing to point them out is very much appreciated.
You are right about being there early and set up. I’ll make a point of that from now on, that is just basic.
You are doubly right about not wasting time on stories; I tend to be big on anecdotes which may or may not be a good idea when you have a few hours, but not when you have 60 minutes and the clock is ticking.
You’ve also crystallized something I’ve been thinking about for some time. I bring more material than I can possibly deliver on the theory that it is better to run out of time than to run out of material, but it does leave the listener feeling that I’ve not managed my time well and they’ve missed out. Far better would be to have a topic come to a conclusion and then, if there is time, start another discreet topic and finish. When there is not enough time, better not to start, but to expand on what has been covered.
I appreciate the implicit compliment in your high expectations and will try to live up to that at my next presentation. If you do find yourself at one of my presentations in the next year or two, let me know if you see a difference.
With all of that, I’d very much like to thank you for this feedback. Can I send you a copy of one of these books? If so, please let me know and I’ll get one right out to you with my thanks.
Mike to Jesse
Thanks for the book offer but I have these already. My company has a liberal book policy.
I would like to ask if you would permit my posting this conversation on my blog. I think it is very illustrative of how people can “discuss” issues in a constructive manner (and Lord knows we could use more of that in these times).
I commend you for seeing through my frustration and soliciting my feedback.
Jesse to Mike
Feel free, and thanks.
Tiny phone, tiny message.
Jesse does not follow me on Twitter and yet my “tweet” somehow got back to him. I’ll be more careful of what I say on this very public forum in the future.
In retrospect, I should have emailed him directly and kept my Twitter mouth shut. While I’m much better than I use to be, there are times when I can still be a hot head. Age continues to mellow me fortunately.