Presentation tips

Today I was a guest on NCompass Live, for Michael Sauers’ Tech Talk on Presentations. Jezmynne Dene, David Lee King, and I  talked about what we think people should know about giving good presentations.

You can listen to it at the NCompass site, which I recommend so you can hear Jezmynne and David as well, but I said, in short:

  1. Get your audience’s attention. You’ll be fighting them for attention — they have smart phones, laptops, are in their office streaming you, are talking to the person next to them… grab them. Somehow. Use humor, your appearance, a great slide, a good quote… whatever works for you. But grab ’em.
  2. Tell a story. Create a narrative line, whether it’s a numbered list, a classically structured essay with an opening, body of argument, and closing, a dramatic structure a la Shakespeare with 5 acts… something that we can culturally recognize and follow along with. We know the beats of classic structures, and if you use one, people will follow you.
  3. Focus. Don’t try to tell everything you know at once. Tell the good bits, the highlights, the parts that are engaging, and trust that your audience will strive to learn more later if you entice them with the best of what you know.
  4. Never read your slides. Seriously. Just stop. If you read the slides out loud, the audience will have read them first, because they can read faster than you talk, and now they’re bored and waiting for the next thing. If you can’t stop reading what’s on your slides, then  use slides with no words. Or no slides.
  5. End well. You want your audience to remember something, and they remember the last bit best. I’ve heard that this is why drug commercials put the side effects in the middle and lots of “we’re awesome” stuff at the end. Help the audience remember that you’re awesome and taught them good things by ending well.

And, for the curious, I was working from this:

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