Presentations

March 27, 2018

I have presented very frequently and continue to enjoy doing so. I would like to share with you a few tips. Some of these are my own; some come from my significantly better half, Carolyn Vella, who critiqued my early training presentations for the better; some are based on co-presenting with skilled presenters like Dr. Ben Gilad; and some are based on what I have seen and heard, liked and disliked. Here they are:

  • Check out the stage and the room 10 minutes or so before you start. Is everything plugged in? Does the mike work? How loud is it? Where can you move around? Are the floor mikes for questions working? Is your presentation really preloaded? (Hint: always bring a copy of the presentation on a jump drive in case there is a screw-up. It happens every so often.)
  • Help the audience. Tell them quickly what they will be hearing, and, at the end, remind them, in a sentence or two.
  • Continually reach out to the audience. If you are in a room, look at different individuals in the room from time to time. If it is remote, try to get responses, questions, and comments. Suggest that people “make a note of this”, or “raise your hand if this is not new to you”. If the venue’s technology permits, take polls, streaming the results live. Use short exercises that attendees can self-score and comment on. All of this keeps their attention and makes for a better learning experience.
  • You are a presenter, not a statue. If you can, move, at least a little. Step away from a podium, point to the overhead, or walk over to a table of attendees. Positive motion attracts attention. But never turn your back on the audience.
  • Make it clear. Avoid acronyms if possible. If that is not possible, at least define them on a slide when they first appear, and then repeat that definition to the audience again later.
  • Keep it short. PowerPoint slides have bullet points, not bullet essays. Keep the points around 6-7 words long. Don’t go down more than two additional levels. That is really getting in the weeds. It is also hard to read in hand outs or on a mobile device.
  • The overheads are just reminders – to you and to the audience. Write them that way and use them for that. If appropriate, use graphics and other attention-getting devices – but sparingly. They should remind you and them of your point, not just be cute.
  • Be careful of your slide contrast, pattern, and color selections. Avoid gaudy patterns, and stay away from flat, low context selections like black letters on a dove gray background. They can be hard to read in anything less than perfect light.
  • Moving transitions are nice – but only infrequently. Do it for ever slide and you are telling the audience to watch, but not to listen.
  • Modulate your voice. Not every word and every phrase is equally important. Using different tones and inflections communicates that. Besides, it keeps the audience awake.
  • Keep track of the time. Have a way to check the time while presenting and regularly refer to a sheet of paper in front of you telling you where you should be every 5 or 10 minutes, that is, “10:20 AM – Slide 26”. Always allow time for questions and comments at the very end. Note it on the overheads. End on time, no matter what.
  • Tell people that they can contact you after the presentation for any questions (and give contact details). Before you offer to give out a digital copy of the presentation, make sure that is ok with the event sponsor. Also, purge it of anything you do not want redistributed, such as exercises you developed and may want to use again.


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