Monday, April 11, 2011

So, You Want to Give a Presentation? Tips for Speakers...

Over the last decade, I've done quite a bit of public speaking on technical topics.  Those of you in the IBM/Lotus community may have seen one of my sessions at Lotusphere, Software University, or various user group events over the last few years.  Well, I've been told that I do these things fairly well, and I'm often asked if I have any tips for technical presentations and those who deliver them.  I just received such a request via email, so I started tweeting tips off the top of my head.  These are short--they had to fit in 140 characters each--and presume the typical slide-based presentation.  So, without further ado:

  • Assume that your audience can read.  Reading your slides is THE fastest way to lose your audience.
  • Make a noticeable transition, either verbal or visual, every 90 seconds or so - or you'll start losing people.
  • In most cases, the podium is NOT intended for use as a boat anchor.  Move around - be VISUALLY engaging.
  • If you can't cover a slide in less than 2 minutes' time, split it into multiple slides.
  • Only use animations when they deliver a necessary accent or transition to the content - forget the eye candy.
  • When speaking, assume a posture as if you were waving to the guy in the last row, but use head/eye movement to engage others.
  • Don't point at the screen unless necessary - your gestures should be engaging your audience, not your slides.
  • You're speaking faster than you think - breathing normally will naturally meter your speech.
  • Don't try for humor unless you're REALLY comfortable doing so - that goes double with an international audience.
  • Bring a few bottles of water with you - there may be none on stage, and it's usually OK to stop and take a sip to maintain pace.
  • Don't "get fancy" with language. You'll be seen as a show-off, especially where words/phrases from other languages are concerned.
  • Don't recite your content.  Talk AROUND your slides, adding perspective/depth to what your audience is reading.
  • The guy in the last row wants to read your slides, too.  Don't create eye charts; use a resonable font/size.
  • If you must "go deep" technically with a mixed audience, bring them "up for air" regularly by tying it to the high-level view.
  • Spend no more than 20-30 seconds on your agenda/intro slide; instead of taking time to compose yourself, get to the content! (from @sjsawatsky)

I'm sure that all experienced presenters have their own "tips'n'tricks" (as you can see from the last entry, I was getting additional tips before I finished tweeting my own),  and those folks who aren't presenters know what they DON'T like.  All of you can feel free to add to my list in the comments...

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