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Open Thread: Your best tip on doing presentations

As I mentioned yesterday, I'll be leading a discussion on Tinderbox and "the trusted system" tomorrow. Probably running a few Keynote slides, but mostly just casually chatting with a small group of enthusiastic Tinderbox fans.

I'm not a seasoned public speaker by anyone's estimation, so I've made my share of rookie mistakes in the past (hint: avoid doing a rambling, overlong talk without slides at ETech; people get confused, hungry, and eventually want to defenestrate you).

So, as I prep myself for tomorrow, I turn to you guys:

What's your best presentation tip? What's the "never break it" rule for PowerPoint/Keynote decks? What's your favorite site, article, or link on great presentations? How do I get that Lessig-, Jobs-, or Veen-like fu that makes audiences so giddy? (Self-links are okay within reason here)

I'll be over here imagining people in their underwear, but I'd love to hear your best advice on this stuff.

Update 2005-11-19 21:37:26

I've posted the slides from my talk today along with links to some of the posts and cool applications I mentioned.

Summary: went well! Very enthusiastic group -- great questions and conversations. And no one threw rotten vegetables. Elin liked it, and that's good enough for me. :-)

TOPICS: Off Topic, Tips
William D. Neumann's picture

Oh yeah, one more thing... Beware...

Oh yeah, one more thing...

Beware of any advice others may give you. One of the biggest problems I see with "how to do presentation slides" bits of advice is that they tend to focus on only one use of slides for one type of talk. They tend to be based on how to use slides effectively for a marketing type of presentation, and are often woefully inappropriate for, say, a technical lecture at a conference.

For example, in the Seth Godin document mentioned by Lori above, he gives as a hard and fast rule to use "No more than six words on a slide. EVER." To which I say, "OK chief... if you can pull that off for a presentation on, say [flips to random page in the proceedings of Crypto 2005]... Impossibility and Feasibility Results for Zero Knowledge With Public Keys (Hmmm... ten words there... I guess we can't even have a title slide. Bummer), or say [flips to random page in the proceedings of the Foundations of Computer Security Workshop 2005]... Non-Interference for a Typed Assembly Language, then not only will I care what else you have to say on the subject of presentation slides, but I'll buy you a big ol' hot fudge sundae to boot." Oh, did I forget to mention that the slides actually have to help the audience understand the talk, and may need to serve as a reference of the key points of your paper for years to come?

Yeah. It looks like six words just ain't gonna cut the mustard, Seth.

You see, talks like that are a far cry from a Steve Jobs keynote, where a word or two and a pretty picture can do the job just fine. No one's going to be looking at his slides six months down the road when they need a refresher on the Aperture workflow model. No one's going to want to see any semantics rules or protocol descriptions to help keep up with and digest the contents of the presentation.

Different applications call for different approaches, keep this in mind whenever you get any advice, even (hell, especially) mine. And also remember that the quality of the advice you are getting is usually inversely proportional to the number of absolutes contained within...




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