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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
Ed's picture

Merlin, three things that you...

Merlin, three things that you should do before your presentation: organize thoroughly, practice extensively, and gather the right equipment.

Organize for speech, not for writing. You may want to have well-written handouts available too, but don't present as if you are writing, nor simply read off of a written page.

Practice at least twice all the way through; practice more than this if time allows. The more practice, the better.

Gather everything you'll need to do the presentation; ideally, this means that, if you had to account for ALL equipment (even the projector, projector stand, extension cords, etc.), you could. At least be sure to have everything you'll need for your Mac, including display adapters, and redundance is always a good idea with this stuff.

On the equipment note, I strongly recommend that you use a remote, even if you'll have your laptop in front of you. This allows you to move around while still having control of the screen, and keeps you from having to break eye contact or rhythm to advance to the next slide. This one by Logitech is pretty dandy; I've started using it lately. Office Depot has it on sale this week, with a rebate to boot. I've also used this one by Targus, which is a very affordable option, especially if you're not going to do a lot of presenting. Both work well with Macs.

Steve Jobs is, of course, the king of the modern-day presentation, and an archetype to aspire to be like. Just watching Jobs's presentations will teach you a lot if you're paying attention to his techniques. I've also found that this former Apple employee has some interesting things to say about Jobs's presentations.

Two great blogs on effective presenting will be very helpful to you; if you follow half of the advice here, you'll be way ahead of most business presenters today. The first is Presentation Zen, and the other is Beyond Bullets.

One thought on the content of the presentation itself: leave them wanting more. It's always better to tell them less than you know. This way, if they ask questions, you still have something new to say, but if they don't, they have a reason to show up for your next presentation.

Finally, just relax. If you know what you're talking about, and you know what order you want to talk about it, you should be fine.




An Oblique Strategy:
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