For Hoi who is going to speak (bravely) at VALA.
This post is going to list my thoughts about what good presentations have or have wisely avoided. I want everyone’s feedback so I can come up with a single list before the next VALA conference.
Then I’m going to make up a bingo card of the criteria so we can play in the audiance. (only joking VALA presenters, don’t run now)
Firstly my qualifications to make this list :
- I’ve been in the audience of a lot of ineffective presentations
- I’ve never given a conference presentation ever, so I’m not biased about being a speaker (he he desperate attempt to justify there)
- I’ve got the world’s shortest attention span, so if I listen, then the speaker has got some great techniques
- I’m a verbal extravert (I would seriously still be talking underwater) so I know it takes more than words to engage an audience
Things good presentations don’t do
- start off with a comment about how boring you will be”I know that cataloguing the inner soles of council boots is not everyone’s favourite topic but I got the grant to speak on this …”
“I’m a really bad public speaker due to an inner ear mite and I’m sorry you have to listen to me for 45 mins”
“Sorry but yes I am the last speaker before lunch, and you have to wait until I finish to get to those chocolate icecreams”
It’s mucb harder than you think to avoid this one. We all feel nervous giving presentations, and it’s tempting to get in with your faults before you hear it from others. But it REALLY does set the audience up to think about the negative things you just mentioned for them, rather than the positives they could make out of your talk.
- READ DIRECTLY WORD FOR WORD FROM THE POWERPOINT
(and yes I know that caps is shouting, but this one is worth shouting)
There’s all sorts of technical stuff about why this is poor. Something about the speed with which you can read something, and the speed at which you hear something being different, and hence it jars in your head and makes it difficult to absorb. Frankly I think it’s way more obvious. If I can read your presentation, then I have no reason to listen to you, and engage.
Just don’t do it.
Things good presentations do
- start off with a connection to the audience
This can be about yourself, about the room, about the conf – anything that gets the audience to connect with you, and hence wake up a little and listen to what you are saying.
eg “Hi VALA attendees, it’s great to see so many people here for my talk about x”; “Thanks everyone for coming to hear an enthusiast talk about metadata”; “If you’re not in this room to learn about shellacking birds eggs you might want to leave now”
Humour is great but not essential. It’s hard for anyone to be funny when feeling nervous.
- Stick to the time limit
Practice your talk with a friendly audience before the event. They will tell you if you are talking too fast. Time yourself to make sure you have left enough time for all your points whilst still speaking below the speed of sound.
If you are confident to answer questions in front of an audience then include time yourself at the end for this purpose, or check with the organiser to see if they have included it. If not, just have a slide at the end with your name and email and offer to be contactable, or to stay after your presentation.
If you are confident about answering questions throughout the presentation then have topics you can skip easily if you run out of time; or experiment with fun tools like Prezi so that you can easily move to the slide that details your comments on the topic raised, then flow back to the rest of your presentation
- make sure everyone in the room can hear you
You can test this out yourself in the empty room sometimes before you give the presentation, or you can ask at the start of the talk, or you can monitor the room.
- make sure you have backups
If you’re doing a live demo have screenshots hidden somewhere; if you’re doing screenshots have printouts somewhere; load your presentation onto a thumbdrive, online spot such as Dropbox and print it out
If you do ALL this Murphy’s Law says that you won’t have any problems using your primary choice.
- pick a subject matter you really enjoy
You don’t have to be an expert. However sincerity is really hard to fake [I’ve tried] so try and present on a topic you like, and that will come across. If you are presenting on a topic that doesn’t grab you; genuinely try and find an angle about it that interests you and present it from that angle.
- Colour and movement help
Maybe just for those with ADD like me and Kathryn, still it’s worth including something in your presentation other than black and white text. Especially if you are presenting for more than 20 mins. Otherwise concentration spans break.
If you want to use a video or song keep it brief. That way if it doesn’t work you haven’t got a hole in your presentation.
OK that’s enough for today on good presentations. Feel free to send in questions and please pass on other points I have forgotten and I will add them into the post.
I’ll move onto great presentations in a future post. They include doing handstands to distract your audience from #technologyfail , dancing for credit points and shameless marketing Tweets pre speaking to increase your audience numbers. Or maybe I could just ask @malbooth @paulhagon and @haikugirlOz to write that one, as everything I know on great presentations I have learnt from them (Thankyou Masters).