Making Better Presentations–Organize Things

This is part of a series of tips for speakers on how to make your presentations better.

Organization matters, and it makes a difference to how your presentation goes. The more organized you are, the better the experience for attendees. If you are very unorganized, then it becomes hard for the audience to follow what you are doing.

I’m am giving a few tips and tricks here, not for the actual outline and focus of your talk, but a few items that can help you smoothly move through your presentation.


Most of us don’t present a talk exclusively from Powerpoint. If you do, that’s great, but often I find people need to move from Powerpoint to Management Studio, or switch to a VM, show code in Visual Studio, run a browser (for Azure), etc. I personally need to sometimes run Red Gate tools as part of my talks, so I’ve learned to get organized.

I actually got this trick from Brad McGehee and I think it’s great. As I’ve written and organized my talks, I’ve learned to make notes in Powerpoint. Every time I need to run some tool or application, I put a note in the first slide of my deck. These are a few things I need to run, and when I get ready for a talk, I have a list of items to start right away.

Here is the first slide from my Continuous Integration for Databases talk.


Even if you only have one talk, it’s easy to forget things. I’ve seen lots of presenters forget to run Zoomit, start Visual Studio, or even SSMS. As someone that watches dozens of talks a year live, I can tell you it’s less than impressive or exciting when I get to watch Visual Studio start up on a projector.


I’ve tried different methods for organizing my presentations. I’ve put all the code in separate folders. I’ve numbered the files; I’ve named them. I’ve put everything in one long script file with comments.

All of those have worked, and all of them have failed. The important thing is that you have some organization. When you’re speaking in front of people, you’re concentrating on your topic and flow. Anything that distracts you is PAINFULLY obvious for attendees.

It will happen, no matter what, but minimize it. Get some sort of organization and ensure that what you’re showing on the screen smoothly transitions from one section to the next.


In line with having code organized in files, I would highly recommend that you include comments and notes in your code for both you and the audience. We are trying to teach and explain our code and concepts. There’s no mystery or magic that we need to keep people from knowing, so the more we can disclose, the better.

Your attendees will appreciate some instructions in the code when they try to duplicate your efforts on their own machines. However these same instructions can be very helpful for you during a talk. The instructions will guide you alone, allowing you to continue to speak and explain things, without trying to multi-task and remember the flow of your presentation.

Think Ahead

All of the organizational items really come down to you thinking ahead. Just as you might do as a DBA or administrator, considering what might go wrong, or what might interrupt your “uptime” as a presenter will help you prepare for a smooth delivery in front of an audience.

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