Operation #PinkShirt


What Is Operation #PinkShirt?

Pink shirts don't really have anything to do it. I just wanted to call it a name and after the abuse I got from the bloggers at VMWorld about my pink shirt I thought it would be a good name for it.

After having a such a good time at VMWorld this year, I have made it my challenge to attend again next year. Nothing out of there ordinary the you might think. True, but the plan is not just be an attendee at VMWorld, the plan is be a Speaker. Once again, nothing out of the ordinary. What makes this slightly more difficult than it seems is the fact that I have a

Fear of talking infront of large groups of people

I know, I know, most of the time you can't shut me up. But it's true, ever since I had a bad experience on stage at school I've been like this. 

So I have challenged myself to overcome my fear, learn how to public speak/present and get accepted to speak at VMWorld all in one year.

Simon Long needs you!

My first step is speak at the London VMUG in Feb 2011. I have already been given a slot to speak.

What I need from you are any tips you can think of to help me prepare myself. Whether it be tips on how to calm my nerves, ways you find best to keep the audience engaged, anything like that. Anything to help me get ready for February.

If you could post any tips you have in the comments that would be great.

I'll will endevor to keep you updated on my path to stardom….Watch this space.

  • Joe__C

    Pick a small number of people in different parts of the audience (5 or less) and look at them while presenting.

    Act like you are at a meeting and they are the only other people in the room.

  • Vmdoug

    I’m sure you’ll do great. I’ll be at the London VMUG in Feb as well πŸ˜‰ don’t sweat it and of course practice. Anyone who can wear a loud pink shirt at VMworld should have no fears πŸ˜‰

  • Stevie_chambers

    wear a massive hat πŸ™‚

  • hy simon,
    here is a tip i've learned when i was teached how to sing without fears:
    “think deeply and believe that people in front of you are your only family”
    this way you would feel like home and be calm and “zen”

    another one (for the fun πŸ™‚ ):

    “learn how to breath deeply slowly and regulary, and focus on what you like(love) the most”

    hope this would help,

  • I'm going to be in a similar boat ! try not to talk to everyone in the audience , concentrate on a few people and it'll help scale things down.

    Speak slowly , then speak at half that speed. It'll sound a lot faster than you think.

  • Some tips on how I approach a presentation:
    – Know your stuff. If you know what you're talking about you not only have the pressure of presenting but also the pressure of not making any mistakes
    – Know your slides, but don't learn them inside out. You should know the most important slides but definitely don't feel you HAVE to repeat every word from them. I normally know what topics or keywords will be on the slide and do my talk. Before skipping to the next slide I check if I have mentioned all keywords.
    – When you know your stuff, accept questions from the audience. It makes the session more interactive. But don't let it turn out to become a group discussion cause you could lose control and run out of time. Short to the point answers and for longer explainations take it offline.
    – For big important presentations I try to be ready one month before the date. Then don't look at it until a week before and start practicing. During practice I make small adjustments to get a better “flow”
    – No sentences on slides, only keywords or short titles.
    – Make sure you have copies of your presentation. Normally I carry my laptop and also have a copy on USB stick. For the real emergency I always e-mail it to myself on GMail so I can access it anywhere.
    – Don't wear pink

  • Esloof

    There’s only one remedy – practice practice practice

  • I know how you feel. After I accepted the VMworld sessions I asked myself why the hell am I doing this? I don't like public speaking and I guess you can say it scared the crap out of me. I think I had a similar experience as you had in school and every single presentation after that was a nightmare.

    And as you know I am most definitely not afraid to speak up in public. However, getting up on stage and having over 400 people stare at you is something different. So why did I speak at VMworld? Just like you, another hurdle that needed to taken.

    What helped me?
    – pick a topic you feel confident with
    – don't over prepare, know the flow of the presentation and just wing it. If you know the topic inside out you will come up wkth a good flow
    – use the ppt as a guideline for the flow but don't spell it out
    – remember that 99% of the audience aren't natural public speakers either, they will have respect for the fact that you stepped up to the plate

    And the final one: just do it πŸ™‚

    I did it , so can you!


  • Like others have said, don't spend too much time obsessing and rehearsing, just know the agenda you have; and keep an eye on timing, keep bit of paper with your key bullet points which you can refer to if you think you're wandering and look at people in the eye, look around – don't be afraid to stop and ask for an opinion/experience – ppl will need some encouragement but I think a 2-way dialog helps when you are presenting.

    Think this next LonVMUG will be my 5th in a row presenting, so need more pepole to present instead of listening to me waffle on πŸ™‚

  • I gotta say that's a pretty sweet picture.

    I'm not even a great person to give advice because I'm still very new to public speaking, but practice, practice, practice. Get your presentation made and never just read from the slide deck. Practice by yourself a few times, then try to practice with a 1 person audience, either girlfriend, a collegue or just in front of the dog. Learn to have fun with it and just wing it at times. Don't worry about remembering line for line, bullet points in the slide decks always give me ways to expand upon a topic. Don't rush yourself like you're a fast speaking yankee. Take your time and have someone critique you on how many times you say “umm” because that's usually the hardest habit to break

    Best of luck

  • I guess the best tip anyone can give is: make sure your session is accepted first πŸ™‚

  • I was going to suggest just focusing on one or two people but Chris has already done that.

    Once you get started you'll find that you will relax and it gets easier. For me, the hardest part is starting off. A few years ago I had to do 2 x 20 minute presentations on the wooly subject of “IT in the workplace” to over 100 school children between the ages of 8 and 12. I really did not not want to do it. I had no idea what to talk about and what level to pitch it at and I wouldn't say that I had a fear of doing it exactly but I wasn't looking forward to it at all. I worried about it far too much in the days leading up to it.

    It went very well in the end though. I had some simple but fun slides to run through and, as Simon suggested, I made it a 2-way show (which admitedly is easier with children than with grumpy, self-concious adults). I also had a bunch of broken servers for them to poke.

    Going through that experience though and coming through it has made subsequent presentations so much easier to deal with. Doing a presentation, of any sort, will be the best preparation you can do.

  • As said previously, pick a topic you know inside out. If you know the topic and have the ppt presentation to keep direction you'll be fine. A great book is http://www.amazon.co.uk/Quick-Easy-Way-Effective-Speaking/dp/0749305770/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1287692530&sr=8-2

  • – Pick a topic you are very comfortable with.
    – Don't overprepare, but do go over it a few times.
    – Don't worry about making mistakes, they'll make the presentation more interesting for the attendees. It's better to make them laugh as have them fall asleep.
    – Enjoy it, pretty much everyone who speaks in public is feeling edgy about it before they are on stage.


  • Greg

    Make sure you fly is done up..picture them all in the nude!
    Seriously the things that help me is to channel your inner 'cant shut me up voice' but the challenge is to stay on topic.
    I generally make sure I know the material I am covering inside-out, present it to myself in a quiet room off the cuff, listen to all the bullshit that comes out of your mouth, listen to all the good phrases that come out of your mouth and remember the good ones to reuse. Then do it again and record it, listen to it in reference to slide deck and see whether it lines up. By then you should be confident you can deliver the talk well. I have never delivered a talk 100% word for word, line for line, you never can so you need to be flexible and be able to take minor interuptions and be able to get back on track. The other common mistake i see is preso's that are way over time limit, you just loose the overall effect. Try and be concise and make sure they can have takeaways.


  • Steve Chambers

    Dear Simon,

    First of all you are a fantastic person to meet and very engaging in conversation. Therefore you are fully equipped though you obviously have OCD or something similar judging by your super-human efforts at VCP training, which has benefited many around the world, and for which you should be proud. But that approach does not help you present. You need something different.

    A presentation is different to an exam because the approach is not “revise,revise,revise; then shoot” affair. Instead you need to “shoot,shoot,shoot”.

    Remember that all good presenters start off EVERY PRESENTATION LIFECYCLE awful, including Bill Clinton: their first presentation is stammering, they don't know the order, they focused on the content not the presentation. But they only do these early presentations in private, which also takes confidence in itself so you need the right audience, and then they build up to the big ones…by the time they hit VMworld they should have 10's of practices behind them. Shoot, shoot, shoot. get better. don't shoot the same target. shoot hard ones, get even better. That means presenting to someone like me behind closed doors. Which for you is free πŸ™‚

    There is no pill, no potion, no magical pressure point to becoming a great presenter. There is also no mystery. Don't worry about Q&A, for example, because you can always follow up with people. On the positive side, use theatrical techniques (yes, cheat!) to get your point across (but what is your point? that is really hard!), and don't use the bullet point boredom approach.

    With your good looks and Norwich accent you will be disarming and everyone you present to will want you to do well: nobody wants to see a presenter fail. Start to watch and learn from presenters: you know your stuff, don't worry about that, just focus on the way you present and handle questions: with charm, enthusiasm and confidence.

    Go get 'em,

  • stu

    Simon – simply put – you're an expert, they don't know everything that you're going to say, so share your passion, share your knowledge and you know the virtualization community is one of the friendlier ones. Practice your flow (especially transitions and consistency of topic) – have someone who is a good speaker that knows you & topic critique a run-through (Simon Seagrave could even do it over video). Seeing the outpouring of support in comments, how can you have any doubt that you'll do great?

  • You've got some great tips there Simon – here's mine:

    – Choose a subject you like talking about, you know well, and you think others would want to hear about

    – Keep your slides simple, not too “wordy” and throw some graphics in there too

    – The time will pass so quickly – you might be thinking “How will I fill 45 minutes?” – don't! You will fill the time!

    – Rehearse your presentation once at least

    – Don't be scared of tripping over your words or making mistakes – we're all human

  • Calin

    Hi Simon,

    I saw your post and remembered how it felt for me about 10 years ago…
    I also have had similar problems in my childhood so I “feel” you πŸ™‚

    I have prepared some easy to go steps and I hope you will find them useful

    Visualize often how well you'll feel after delivering your presentation… How pleased you will be about:
    – delivering knowledge
    – gaining recognition…
    – ….. fill the blanks according to your desires and personal values πŸ™‚

    – choose a subject you feel comfortable and passionate about it (not necessarily the one you will use at London VMUG)
    i.e. I am passionate about and would like to buy a new fish tank and populate it. I would also like to let my friends/colleagues know how beautiful their homes would be. Even though I would like to let them know the responsibilities which come with it. Call for action for my presentation — buy at same time with me and let's get a nice discount πŸ™‚

    – gather info and assess the value you will pass on depending on the intended audience (see at evaluate)
    – define your objectives; what I will teach/show them; what I will gain from delivering this presentation; call for action?
    – structure your presentation
    – intro – words about you, about the presentation, show & setup expectations for your audience, tell a joke /self-irony about how lousy you are at this kind of events lacking public speaking experience πŸ™‚
    This will build your self confidence and will relax your auditorium, set expectations lower than the level you will use to deliver and finally will make them smile πŸ™‚
    – content — know your content πŸ™‚
    – closing — it's useful to relate the closing with the intro and statements you've made at the beginning; sum-up; give them a clear call for action

    evaluate yourself
    – present in front of the mirror
    – record times for each slide/stage of presentation

    evaluate yourself through others
    From this experience you are expected to collect as much feedback as you can. The main purpose is to assess your presentation skills and have a clear picture of areas which needs improvement πŸ™‚

    Take the time and test yourself with a small group (5-10). It would be more rewarding for you and your audience if your subject would be of interest for them

    – ask someone in the audience to keep time for you. Ask him/her to give you a signal anytime when you should have passed that slide/stage of presentation
    – ask someone in the audience to notify you when you are loosing eye contact
    – ask someone in the audience to observe your posture and note down any act that would make you look silly like wobbling, playing with markers, talking to board, too loud, too soft, too salesy or preachy, appearance, too much information when answering, too little information when answering, caught in repetitive phrases. Discuss it afterwards

    – I cannot stress it enough: let you and them to have fun during the presentation. Think about an innovative way of engaging them into your presentation. That will make you a group and you'll be on the same side
    – every stage of your presentation will have mostly the same steps: TTT –> touch, turn, talk
    – touch –> first you would show something on the board, use a pointer to show something on a projected slide etc
    – turn –> remember to turn your face to your audience πŸ™‚ and keep eye contact
    – talk –> obvious: talk about that stage of your presentation
    – different people have different teaching styles and are receptive to different teaching styles; some are more receptive to audio, others to reading, others to seeing 3d models, others when they're feeling engaged in the presentation
    – I saw someone recommending to keep eye contact only with a small group and I couldn't agree less. You should make THEM feel good, not yourself. You achieve that by being inclusive, not exclusive
    If you are very-very uncomfortable with such an experience try to picture all the people in your audience being all naked πŸ™‚
    Hopefully it will relax you and let you go further πŸ™‚
    – It is important to setup expectations at the beginning and to let them know about everything about how your presentation will go; for instance — you may interrupt me anytime or not

    There is a very good, international program which helps you being better at public speaking. Search for erudio

    Sorry for my loooong email. Please let me know how you feel about it and how it's going

    Good luck!


  • Ronald

    Hi Simon, I’d say practice practice and practice. We have a day next month with a small group of VMware experts in The Netherlands, do a half an hour there about your current assignment or someting…

  • Stevenljjohnson

    Man there’s a lot of good comments there.

    However I thought I’d keep this short and sweet


    Possibly one of the best presentations I’ve ever seen for an IT audience. Granted the subject matter is different, but you’ll get the idea I’m sure.

    There’s an air of naturalness that comes through. Watch for the fact he doesn’t bite when (what can only be assumed from the whooping and hollering, is a predominantly American audience) the audience participates.

    Anyway good luck

    You’ll be fine. Especially if you’re from Norwich.

  • sanjai

    Nice to hear this.

    My suggestion is “Proper Practice” will make sure you are going to *ROCK* in the stage.

    Good luck

  • Tim

    A good lunch beforehand might help too… not just a bowl of rice.

  • Not even if the rice smells of old gym socks? πŸ™‚

  • vmspook

    Pick a person who you admire when he/she are public speak and see yourself in they’re shoes try and visualise doing the same. Remember nobody want’s you to fail, use a bit of humour and do not rush, you obviously know the subject matter, so take your time.

  • Jo-Ann Yeoh

    Hi Simon,

    I’m Jo-Ann, Simon Tay’s exec asst at the SIIA. I found your blog when googling you (might as well admit this outright) and I love the idea of Operation Pink Shirt (though my fav colour is green, really).
    I don’t consider myself any authority on public speaking, so what I’m putting down here comes only from personal experience. My main trouble with public speaking is this: when I’m good, I’m good but when I’m bad, I’m REALLY bad. Over the last year I’ve been trying to analyse exactly WHY some days I’m awful and so here are my two-cent tips:
    – Don’t have a script.
    – Write notes and keep them with you while you present, but don’t refer to them
    – Read all your notes, materials etc over and over again the day before so you KNOW the stuff and you won’t have to refer to them. ( I find that if I refer to my notes, I start to read out from them and that makes me sound monotous and boring.)
    – I also find it helpful to focus on a section of the audience more than the rest, so look out for people who are responding well and talk to them, and shift your focus a little from time to time.
    Sorry if I’ve gone on a little! Hope this helps. =)

  • Conrad

    A little self-deprecation, goes a long way, it can not only get you relaxed, but provide a bit of humor for the audience. Don’t do too much though, I said “little” for a reason.

  • BH

    Make public speaking events a special treat. Purchase a highly expensive bottle of Johnny Walker Blue Label and have a nice glass before you speak πŸ˜‰

  • Minki12

    Try doing some videos or webcasts. It’s not exactly the same but it has that same set of nerves that go along with talking In Front of a crowd. Good luck and thanks for all your work

  • I am planning on doing a Video of some sort, so keep an eye out. Thanks for the advice.

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