This weekend I debuted two new talks at the Great Lakes Software Symposium: “Tag-Oriented JSP Design” and “Software Development Heresies.” They were both well received, and at the same time I got some good feedback that will improve both talks for next time. That’s the ideal situation.

It was a funny process, though. When I proposed those two talks, I was very excited about Heresies and thought that Tags would be “just another tech talk”—good, but nothing particularly special. Then as I was preparing the talks, my opinion reversed: Tags looked like a great talk that people would be really pleased with, and Heresies looked hazardous: if the audience didn’t want to join the discussion, it would potentially be 90 minutes of Glenn Vanderburg mini-rants, and even I think that gets old pretty quickly.

The actual outcome, however, was yet another reversal. As I said, they were both well received, but Heresies was the one that really rocked. Everyone was interested, there was a lot of energy in the room, and a lot of interaction. Two comments from evaluations have me walking on air: “Nice job of turning my world upside down” and “… you were by far and away my favorite speaker with the ‘Software Development Heresies’ talk.”

The smart thing to do with speaker evaluations is to treat them like figure skating scores, throwing out the lowest and the highest. So that last one gets thrown out of the official tally, sadly … but I can still bask in it for a little while. :-)

And maybe I’ll trust my instincts a little more about what makes a good talk.