Monday, November 21, 2011

A few quick presenting tips

I spent a couple of hours at an event last night where the main presenter spent about 40 minutes talking about himself and 15 minutes about the topic we were there to hear about. The information that he presented in those 15 minutes could have been reduced down to a two-paragraph blog post.

Most people who are asked to make presentations don't have a clue what they're doing. I used to believe that it was rude for audience members to check their email or browse the web during a presentation, but after sitting through years of crappy presentations, I now think that it's rude for poor, unprepared presenters to waste their audiences' time. So, in the spirit of making everyone's life easier, here are a few presenting tips from someone who's made every mistake in the book:
  • If you only had five minutes to speak, what are the points you'd want to make? Those points should become the core of your presentation.
  • It's better to focus on a few key points than it is to try to pack everything but the kitchen sink into the presentation.
  • Use PowerPoint sparingly, and put one item on each slide. Keep them simple.
  • If your presentation isn't well-organized, your audience won't understand it.
  • Keep the presentation focused on the audience, not on you.
  • Unless you're specifically doing a sales presentation, use your presentation to inform.
  • Rehearse. The first time you give the presentation should never be in front of the intended audience.
  • Arrive at the venue early enough to check out everything--make sure your laptop works with the venue's projector, your microphone works and, if you need it, you've got a network connection. Assume that nothing will work, and prepare backups.

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