The topics on this blog tend to go beyond just design and its patterns. It has also covered how to get there and what to do once you’ve arrived. This post is about making presentations: physical presentations of your product, thoughts, or whatever you have in mind. Here is my and other’s collection of presentation tips collected and tested over some time now.

Set the scene: Be on top of the game, the beginning is critical

  • Show up early. If there aren’t any technical problems to fix, you can always chat and mingle with the audience.
  • What is the problem, who cares, and what is the solution?. Clearly tell your audience right from the beginning.
  • Skip the formal presentation. Sure ways to boredom: your reference list, your name, and why you are there. Start off with a bang instead, and they will want to know it later. If you rock, they will even want to know what your name is and have a look on that reference list. Oh.. and please don’t say that you’re glad to be there – unless you’re a superstar, nobody cares.
  • Start with a bang. The first 10 seconds are critical. Set the scene – get the attention of the audience. Provoke them, make a joke, or tell a story.
  • Communicate what you want to do. Start the presentation by laying out the agenda. If your presentation is about an idea, then present the idea first, then explain it, and at last repeat it. Communicate the agenda! Your audience’s time is precious – they deserve to know if you have 4 slides to go or 40.
  • Communicate to several senses. You should be seen, heard, (felt, tasted, and smelled).
  • Never apologize. Most people won’t even notice that you’ve slipped, and it just sounds lame.

Keep up the pace

  • Avoid sentences. Avoid long sentences – people won’t read them anyways. If you can’t remember your slides, then improvise. Use pictures combined with words or numbers instead – and explain the rest by talking.
  • Pause, take a breath, and talk slowly. It’s easy to become so engaged that your tempo rises to an unbearable high. Slow down! Talking fast will worsen your language and pronunciation – testing the concentration of your audience. Take a deep breath when there’s a natural break in your presentation. It will make the tempo more balanced and mental pictures will stand until you begin again.

Engage, relate, and keep it real

  • Talk in pictures and use analogies. Create pictures in the minds of your audience that exaggerates the points, but makes it clear. Use mental pictures and analogies to make complex concepts concrete and simple to understand.
  • Logos, Pathos, and Ethos. You need it all: Logos (Logic, facts, measurables, or rational arguments), Pathos (Passion, values, gut feeling, or rich pictures), and Ethos (credibility, trustworthiness, or ethical appeal).
  • Refutation. Close the presentation by questioning your own stand. Acknowledge that it might not be that easy to get to the target, but that your way is a good start. Finish off with the conclusion – repeat what you’ve said, but keep it short.
  • Communicate what you’ve done. End the presentation by explaining what you’ve done. Get back to the agenda.
  • Show your enthusiasm!. Don’t hide. Use your body. Use gestures. Walk around. If you aren’t enthusiastic, then why are your doing a presentation on the topic in the first place?

Keep it structured

  • Logos before pathos. A common and well-tested way of structuring your presentation is by combining Aristotle’s Appeals. Start by presenting the facts (logos) and then go into being passionate.
  • The rule of three. The Rule of three can be a great tool to focus your audience into remembering what you want them to remember. The rule of three works on several levels: use lists of three words whenever you can (“Stop, look, and listen”, “Blood, sweat, and tears”, “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité”). Also, your audience is most likely to remember only three things from your presentation – plan in advance what these will be. Another way to look at your presentation is that it’s parted into three: the beginning, the middle, and the end. Plan what you want to do in each part.
  • Use breadcrumbs. Use icons, colors themes, numbers, etc. in your slideshow to let your users know where you are in the presentation. Present all breadcrumbs in the beginning (or multiple times throughout the presentation), so that they’re easily recognized once you reach them. This helps set the expectations as to whether you’re almost done or only half-way through.

Questions

  • Wait for 10 seconds. Count to 10 after asking for questions before you start assuming no one will ask. It seems like an eternity for you, but really is not for the audience.

Practice

  • Use a video camera. Practice in front of a video camera. You will be stunned how your body communicates one thing and your words another.
  • Make meta-notes. Make notes about what techniques you should use; like making eye contact, pausing, or not to mumble or sip the water.

Sources

1 Sådan laver du gode præsentationer by Anders Kragelund

2 Presentation tips by Edward R. Tufte

3 Thos, Pathos, and Logos

4 The rule of three

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Anders Toxboe Author

As the head of Digital Development at DR (Danish Broadcasting Corporation) in Copenhagen, Denmark, Anders Toxboe builds awesome websites with his teams. He also founded UI-Patterns.com and a series of other projects. Follow Anders at @uipatternscom.

9 comments

  • 7c11fc7651b8ea8ec1cd3f4dad906f48

    david on Sep 24, 2009

    I like that post, very useful. I just found also good tips at www.powerpoint-presentation-power.com

  • 8276efecb5a43c9b1b6eb8ba43d60071

    simon - presentation skills training, UK on Sep 26, 2009

    Hi – some very good point here. One trivial thing to pick up though, relating to your examples for the so-called “rule of three” – specifically you cite Winston Churchill with “blood, sweat and tears” which isn’t want he said.

    The correct quote is “blood, sweat, toil and tears” – a foursome… and even more effective for it, partially ’cos of the alliteration.

    Cheers….. Simon

  • 33f9643f4d49744e45598b5e5eab0da7

    cable hdmi on Nov 13, 2009

    Presentation skills are extremely essential for you to succeed professionally. Thank you so much for sharing such important tips here. These are keys to have good presentation skills, are not only though the transmission of the message but through the reception of the message as well.

  • 04dda7a2ae1bf1c7db33a98302d56833

    Clinical Psychologist Newport Beach on Dec 09, 2009

    Thank you so much for putting up the vital details, this will definitely help many prepare their presentations for conferences/meetings.

  • 896a2ef55d09a3d228b95bd64a568e92

    Galvanizing Service Virginia on Jan 05, 2010

    This will be very useful for all the corporate people who require to come up with presentations at various seminar and conference events. :)

  • D443ee805880776e8986d6c94a12d8d9

    Stephen Hendren - Presentation skills trainer on Jul 26, 2010

    Some excellent comments here. I would add that perhaps a critical point not mentioned is in the planning stage. When planning your presentation begin with the end in mind. Set out clearly the points you want to make, the rule of three is well applied at this point, then make sure those points inform the design of the presentation as a whole. Punctuate your presentation with these points regularly. Repeat your main points frequently. Repetition of your points can be used effectively far more than may feel natural. You may feel you are labouring the point but if you are presenting a lot of information your audience will need the repetition to remember the message.

  • D9a5aa58ce2fa84649c1b6a3a6a7da05

    Jody Urquhart on Dec 04, 2010

    I agree that when you speak in public you have to show a higher energy version of yourself. It has become a pet peeve of mine, watching people speak and they present this lifeless, drab version of themself. I know they are nervous, usually the extra energy you put in the delivery will help decrease your tension and relax.

    People often worry that they will be perceived as “fake” or “unnatural” but downplaying your energy and enthusiasm will kill a presentation. Don’t worry about the way people perceive you, just have a blast and it will all work out better than expected.

  • 6fcb678f1d65f1c22dc65bc6740cd3bd

    Cable HDMI Pro on Dec 09, 2010

    Really nice resume on blogging. ‘Keep it short’ is something I’ve kinda noticed on great bloggers. They understand that people are bored and need to be entertained, but they also keep their posts as short as they can, cause people are always soooo busy…
    Anyway, learned some good tips in here, Thanks!

  • A91ddaa051f88bd8345b5573836adc92

    Rob Wane on Jul 29, 2011

    Some techniques like breathing exercises will help you relax by keeping your body rhythm at normal. If you start to feel some aches and pains, then you better walk around or do a little stretching… loosen all those muscles first before proceeding with your workload.

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