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Andy Leonard

Andy Leonard is an author and engineer who enjoys building and automating data integration solutions. Andy is co-host of the Data Driven podcast. Andy is no longer updating this blog. His current blog is

I Type During Demos

Identifying the "fear of go" is the first step on the road to making the fear go away.

Seth Godin
Poke The Box
The Domino Project
March 1, 2011


This post is the thirty-fifth part of a ramble-rant about the software business. The current posts in this series can be found on the series landing page.

This post is about why I type during demos.

"Why, Andy?"

My friend Buck Woody (Blog | @buckwoodyMSFT | SQLPeople) says "Never type in demos." I'm not typing in demos to irritate my friend. I love Buck. He rocks.

I type in demos to fail. Well, not really, but sometimes. Attendees are present for a reason. Usually part of that reason is to learn something new or more about a technology or business practice. At least I hope that's part of why attendees come to my presentations. But in-person events provide so many more opportunities: meeting new people, networking, sharing a meal, looking people in the eye, etc. Another opportunity is: An in-person presentation gives you and I the opportunity to take a technological journey together. "I'm Andy and I'll be your tour guide today as we navigate the sometimes perilous SSIS Expression Language River..." Typing in a demo is one way to confer that we're in this together.

I've written about the value of failing (here, recently). Andy Warren (Blog | @sqlAndy) writes (well) about failure. Steve Jones (Blog | @way0utwest | SQLPeoplewrote about failure last week. Jeremiah Peschka (Blog | @peschkaj | SQLPeople) is writing about failure as well. If I try and fail, what really happened? Some will undoubtedly view the presentation as worthless, delivered by someone who can't even get their own demo code correct. There's a possibility I will alienate attendees who feel this way... maybe. I think the positives outweigh this so much that it's worth taking the shot time and time again. "Really, Andy?" Really. "What are these positives of which you type?"

The Positives

I've been working with SSIS for a long time. Before that I worked with T-SQL, Data Mirror, Business Objects, Visual Basic, and a few other programming languages (starting with M6800 machine code when I was 11 in 1975). I have experience writing code.

"Oh, so you're showing off."

No. I'm showing on. I'm demonstrating software or some technique or design pattern and I'm demonstrating that I can and sometimes do fail. I'm also demonstrating risk is not to be feared, shunned, or accepted as an excuse; it is to be tested. My hope is you will see me try and, if I fail, you will hear me explain why the error occurred and then see me try again.

Right up there in front of you, God, and everybody.

Lots of people write about failure and risk and the rewards of overcoming fear - especially fear of failure. Like almost everything else, it's better to learn by example. So I invite you to watch me risk failure, and occasionally fail. For no extra charge, you get to see something else; me getting back up, dusting myself off, and getting right back to work.

The Wrong Idea

Undoubtedly, some derive satisfaction from watching others fail. This is particularly true of some in business. I'm unwilling to change who I am and waste an opportunity to share the inherent value of failing because some choose to compete with me (they could choose to be "coopertitors" with me instead... just a thought...). Snickering may be the response chosen by some.

I'm willing to risk that.


I want you with me during the presentation. I would like for you to engage. I want to share an idea, or a story, or some cool technology; or all of the aforementioned - with you. I want to convey that it's ok to fail, so I type in demos.

You're not truly free to succeed unless you're free to fail.


Published Monday, April 11, 2011 8:00 AM by andyleonard

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Karla Landrum said:

When organizing SQL Saturday events or finding a speaker for a user group meeting, I prefer folks who actually type/demo in their presentations. It is a learning experience not only if they screw up, but many of us are "visual" and want to SEE exactly how you do it. I have fallen asleep in presentations where there was no actual typing involved, and purely just a .ppt.

At tomorrow's OPASS mtg, we have a local newbie presenting for the first time, and he asked for some feedback of his presentation, and absolutely my recommendation was some actual demo to be added. So looking forward to seeing what he came up with.

Great post!


April 11, 2011 8:14 AM

Arie Jones (AJ) said:


Excellent point. I was given the same type of speech at a SQL Saturday last weekend which also involves..."Never go off script".... Please! People are there to learn something from you. You should be ready to possibly answer a question that would involve you doing a quick exmaple with typing some code , shouldn't you? If something goes wrong then hopefully you will be able to fix it on the fly just like you would in a real-world situation.

I think it gives people more confidence in using the technology if they see someone 'fail' and recover from it without lighting their hair on fire. So keep on typing away brotha!



April 11, 2011 9:33 AM

Buck Woody said:

Ha! Nice post, Andy. And I agree - failure in a demo is OK.

The only reason I suggest not typing is to avoid two issues: Not looking prepared, and "dead air". Now, no one would ever accuse you of not being prepared - but I've been to presentations where the presenter fumbles the typing and tries to debug his or her own syntax errors on stage for a long time - and I've watched that presenter lose the audience in the process. I agree that failing and finding it quickly on stage is very valuable - I've just seen too few people be able to pull that off.

Also, if I have a lot of code to show, I like to have it "pre typed" so I can have the audience focus on the few lines we're covering. The audience's time is valuable, so I make sure I value it like they do. If I type it ahead of time, I'm quicker.

So - perhaps I should say "you should (almost) never type in demos" - unless you're Andy :)

Love ya, babe.

April 11, 2011 9:57 AM

Tim Radney said:

Great article.  Honestly I see just about everyone type in demo's and nearly always it is because someone has asked a question that couldn't be answered or shown with the current presentation as is.  

April 11, 2011 1:00 PM

Rob Farley said:

My name is Rob Farley, and I type in demos...

...and I plan to continue doing so.

April 13, 2011 9:19 AM

andyleonard said:

"Hi Rob. We love you!"


April 13, 2011 9:32 AM

Rob Farley said:

Ah, nice use of quotation marks there. You really do "love" me.


April 13, 2011 4:25 PM

andyleonard said:

LOL - you know I do brother!


April 13, 2011 4:31 PM

Nitin said:

your humbleness makes you stand apart from the crowd.

You're a great source of learning and inspiration

April 14, 2011 10:56 AM

Valentino Vranken said:

"My hope is you will see me try and, if I fail, you will hear me explain why the error occurred and then see me try again."

This sounds like my method of writing blog articles.  When there's a logical way to handle an issue or implement a requirement but it's not the best method (because in some circumstances it leads to an error), I first try to show the reader how you shouldn't do it.  Then I explain a better method of fulfilling that same requirement.

As for live presentations: as long as you've planned the failure, I think there's nothing wrong with typing!  Now, when things start to go wrong while you weren't expecting them to, then it's time to start worrying. But I'm sure that wouldn't happen to you! (I've seen it happen to less-experienced presenters though, not funny anymore after 15 minutes of "what the heck is going on, one more try...")

Interesting post btw!

Best regards, Valentino.

April 18, 2011 7:07 AM

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