My Tips For Presentations
I have a problem: I naturally give horrible presentations.
In January, I had to give a presentation to ~600 people in Washington DC. I was scared out of my damned mind. So I came with a couple of “todos” in my preparation:
- Prepare like I’ve never prepared before.
- In general, get more comfortable giving presentations, so I wouldn’t be so scared.
I know, the last thing the world needs is a bullet-point list saying: “don’t use bullet points.” So, I’ll leave the irony to others. And, yes, I’m aware that there are literally ~55,000,000 articles on the internet about this (well, I’m aware now that I’ve looked that up). But, this doc is as much for me as it is for you.
Now that I’ve done a couple presentations in public forums of varying shapes and sizes, here are a few tips:
- Practice. Seriously. Do it. Practice your presentation at least twice. Once to find the “bugs” and a second pass to test your fixes. If you have the guts, video yourself.
- Make it flow. Transitions between slides shouldn’t feel abrupt, they should feel like a natural progression of your talking. These become really obvious when you practice your presentation.
- If you’re using slides, make them not suck. Lots of text on slides is bad in most scenarios. My rule is: one word is best, but never more than one piece of punctuation. There are several tools out there to help with this: Slide Bureau, Haiku Deck, and more. But know this: one of the best presentations I’ve seen in recent history had NO slides. Don’t feel required to make slides!
- Do not drink alcohol beforehand. It will not make you loose and freeflowing and engaging. It will make you hard to understand and incoherent. Yeah, you could probably sip on a beer, but honestly… why risk it?
- There is a time limit. Either, it’s an official one and someone is timing you OR there is a threshold at which 80% of the crowd switches to “done yet?” mode. Recognize these things. You’ve never been mad at someone for being done with a presentation quickly, but you sure as heck have for some long and rambly presentation. Going past your limit is ALWAYS bad, mmmmkay.
- You may have spend the last 7 years of your life working on whatever you’re presenting on, but the audience (likely) hasn’t. Give everyone a high-level background, so they can understand what the eff you’re talking about.
Recognize that all of these tips come from my repertoire of mistakes. And as an old German guy once said: “A fool learns from his mistakes, but a truly wise man learns from the mistakes of others.” Be smarter than I.
And, if you’re wondering, I did pretty well in my presentation. I’d score it a 7/10. You wouldn’t watch me at TED (or even TEDx), but people weren’t boo'ing me either.
Thanks @myronm for the proofread.