Bob Pusateri is hosting this month’s T-SQL Tuesday, and he’s decreed the topic be how we came to love presenting. I say presenting is really the same thing as performing, and my love of performing stretches back to my elementary school days.
I did a lot of performances when I was young. Nothing commercial, mind you. Skits at the Cub Scout Pack meeting (Den 4!). Chester the cat in a play-reading of Bunnicula. Playing alto sax in band. In junior high (it’s called middle school now, I guess), our concert band went on tour through elementary schools in Anchorage. In high school, our 90-piece symphonic and stage (jazz) bands toured small towns in Alaska and Canada. I got to mangle perfectly good music do improv solos and I loved every second of it. That’s the closest parallel I have to the feeling I get when I present. Which makes sense when we consider what the two have in common.
Like presenting, improv relies on a framework (key, tempo, measures) and the rest is filled in on the fly. The more you practice, the better you can express your ideas. Your comfort level with the fundamentals (scales, whole tones) allows you to be more free-flowing with your ideas while sounding like you’re playing coherent, complete thoughts. You learn tricks that you can re-use in other solos – my favorite was C-E♭-C-E-C-F-C-F#-C-G, surprisingly easy to play fast on a sax – in the same way you can re-use information, techniques, or jokes across different presentations.
With all this in mind, it’s no surprise I enjoy presenting, as it picks up where I left off nearly twenty years ago when I last played in a band. What got me started presenting was the realization that I had learned enough to stand in front of people and share my experience with a modicum of confidence. This blog post by Brent Ozar had a lot to do with it too.
I got – and still get – nervous when I present. It doesn’t bother me much, though. It’s like an old friend, a companion I’ve known for a good thirty years. I wouldn’t want to be without it.