Dennis Burton's Develop Using .NET

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This weekend I had the pleasure of presenting at Cloud Dev Day Detroit on the topic of migrating an existing application from on-premises to fully hosted on Windows Azure/SQL Azure. I presented an hour long session that had a significant amount of its content dedicated to demonstrating the process of migration. The heavy demo content was important to me as I did not want the audience to see another high level overview that day. I wanted to show real code!

This could go really bad

I decided to check out the internet connection early in the day to see how it would perform with a couple hundred of my closest geek friends checking twitter on their phones. It turns out the speed of the internet connection at the conference was exceptional. However, port 1433 was blocked. This is the port that is used to communicate with a SQL Server(including SQL Azure). A good portion of my demos were based around migrating from a local SQL Server instance to SQL Azure. You might think this was going to go very bad.

The good news

The day prior to the event when I was practicing for my demos (as every speaker should), I fired up Camtasia and recorded all of the demos I planned to give. I originally did this as a way for me to see how they played back and how the pace was for the talk. Having these recordings available for the conference saved my bacon! Not only did it save my bacon for items I was planning on doing live, but I was also able to show more than one deployment to the Windows Azure environment. With the editing tools in Camtasia, I was able to reduce 15-20 minute deployment process to just over a minute. I believe this made for a better experience for those attending this talk.

What do you think?

Does a recorded demo reduce the speaker’s street cred? Is a recorded demo better than the inevitable typos and demo demons that pop up during a presentation? How would you leverage this tool?

Monday, 13 June 2011 14:56:24 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
Hey Dennis,

I probably wouldn't have said this a couple of years ago, but presenting with prerecorded demos really does offer some pretty compelling benefits. Mainly, as you mentioned, they can be much more efficient, and therefore more interesting. The other big benefit is that people can watch them as much as they want afterward. Having said that, though, I have not yet presented a recorded demo to a live audience. If I do so, I might still try to mix in a little bit of live demo. I might also pause a recorded demo at various points to comment in more depth. That way, people would get something more than if they just stumbled across the video on-line.

As long as you deliver good, worthwhile content, I think you have a lot of flexibility in the delivery. It's very tempting to sink way too much time trying to fix a demo that has gone awry, all in the name of authenticity. Even if you get it fixed, people still feel ripped off if you have to rush through the rest of your content. The ultimate task of a speaker is to communicate the topic clearly, and to steer people around potential pitfalls. If you can do that, and you do a good job handling questions, then I think you've established street cred.

Jerry Anderson
Friday, 17 June 2011 10:10:24 (Eastern Daylight Time, UTC-04:00)
I think that having the demo pre-recorded depends greatly on the topic and the goal of the presentation. For your presentation on Azure Migration it worked out really well because you were able to compress the long deployment process into an interesting time-lapse video. The only thing that I would be mindful of is skipping around a lot (both backward and forward) because you lose the linearity that you normally get in a standard presentation, which can be difficult for people that are struggling to understand the topic as is.

You presented the topic well and I learned a lot. I'm really glad you covered the MVC 3 deployments because I know I'd be banging my head against the wall on that one when the time comes. Thanks Dennis!
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