Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Best advice for giving a presentation

I googled for tips on public speaking and on the first page of links less than half of them had this tip. If they had this tip, it wasn't listed at the top and wasn't emphasized as much as it absolutely needs to be. It's not about the background color of your slides, it's not about trying to insert a joke to keep your audience's attention, or how you should imagine everyone in their underwear. In fact the best advice doesn't even take place during your presentation.

It happens before your presentation. I'll let you in on it...


I have to give credit to author and speaker Scott Berkun for enlightening me on this subject. I highly recommend reading his book Confessions of a Public Speaker. Basically the advantage a speaker has over the audience is they know what is coming next. Speakers can emphasize this advantage by practicing. Go over your slides. Stand up and speak to each and everyone of them to make sure they make sense and clearly illustrate your point. If you can, try to practice in the same room or venue you'll be presenting in. This way you'll know how much energy and volume you'll need to be able to project to the whole room. You'll know if there's any gotchas with setting up the projector, what to set your screen resolution to, if you need to bring your mac dongle, if you'll be needing a mouse, or if you'll have access to wifi.

There's been so many presentations I've seen where presenters assume everything will go right and end up wasting ten to fifteen minutes of the audience's time configuring their machine, flipping back and forth to find the right slide, or apologizing for not knowing how to right click on their track pad. Don't be apologetic! Every time you apologize I stop listening to you and I spend the next two minutes of my life irritated wondering why you didn't spend two minutes to prepare for this. Sure there's room for error, but if you practiced enough you'll be able to avoid all the big avoidable mistakes and know how to recover back into your presentation.

If you take the number of people attending your presentation and multiply that by the length of your presentation (e.g. 10 people x 1 hour = 10 hours), practicing is a small investment in comparison to how much time people are investing in you.