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”, “LibertÃ©, Ã‰galitÃ©, FraternitÃ©”). 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.
- 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.
- 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.