How to Present Better [Wired]

I’ve been reading a few books lately on how to create and develop better presentations. One of the best (from a practical, slide-layout perspective) is Presentation Zen. It’s a guide that helps you think differently about the power of the slide and the type of story that you are trying to tell. The main message that I’ve gathered from it so far? Slides support you, they are not there for you to read from.

I’m sick of slides with 100 words on them in 10 point font. It’s visual time, baby. And notes.

To that end, I’ve also been doing a quick search for various presentation posts / blogs to help give me ideas on style, comfort and public speaking. I’ve copied a great post from Cory Doctorow (BoingBoing) that Wired did in 2008. Some great thoughts:

1. Don’t read a speech. Write out bullet points on index cards and practice elaborating extemporaneously on each one. Focus on the transitions. Be sure to number your cards in case you drop them.

2. Videotape yourself practicing the presentation. Note awkward body language, stilted movements, and annoying verbal tics. OK. Now stop doing that.

3. Don’t read from PowerPoint slides like they’re cue cards. If you must use them, keep the text short (two words and a picture).

4. Don’t use the conference’s Net connection for your demo. It’s embarrassing to stand on stage whining, “Everyone please stop using the Net!” Turn your demo into screenshots or bring an EVDO card for your own high-speed connection.

5. Don’t rely on the event’s A/V setup, either. To play an audio clip, try holding your mike up to your laptop’s speaker.

6. Use your Q&A time wisely. Field the big-picture queries while you’re onstage and deal with the minutiae offline.

Some fantastic thoughts. I’m sure most people would hate video taping themselves and watching it. But that’s the only way to see what everyone else is looking at. I remember doing this in some communications training a few years ago. It was humbling but very effective (and it made me see that crossing your hands while standing up is extremely weird…). Any good tips to share?

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