During the course of the Shift conference I managed to see a dozen presentations and although most of them were pretty good, a few others seemed to struggle to grasp the people’s attention and a very tiny percent were fighting to keep people inside the room untill the end. Nasty.
So why is that? what makes a presentation fun to watch and another bad enough to make you wish you could just dissapear or master a ancient art of meditation.
Well, here’s my 2 cents on the subject:
1) Don’t fill your slides full of text
I assumed this was a basic rule and that everyone would follow, I was wrong. There were some geniuses who decided to include almost half of the wikipedia into their slides just in case we missed anything during the talk. This is not good, it’s information overload and it makes people desperate looking at all that text, plus, it makes it harder for people to focus on a particular topic.
You can use images instead of bullet points to show ideas. Or even comics, there’s more than one way to express the same idea without using two or three paragraphs of text.
2) Don’t read the slides as if they’re handouts
This is a follow up, don’t read the slides as if they’re handouts, people haven’t gone to a conference to see you read. They can do it themselves, you might as well save the work, in other words the slides should help you present material and not do it for you.
3) Slides shouldn’t have all the colors of the rainbow
Because it’s so irritating to see 8 colors in the same slide or 3 in the same paragraph as if every element in the slides are fighting for your attention…and losing. You should use colors carefully and use them to accentuate some important point, not pretend to be Benetton.
4) Don’t talk like a zombie
Or a half-dead person, you’re supposed to capture people’s attention, make them think, discuss with people, call them names, use funny expressions or jokes. If you talk with a half dead tone, the result will surely be a bored audience, especially if you combine with points 1 and 2.
5) Don’t exagerate on animations
Don’t use too much “woosh”, “squish”, “woof” and so on. Too many animations will distract your audience, focus more on content instead. You can use animations to focus on single points but use them just once, don’t put the animations in repeat mode.
6) Prepare your presentations
Seems simple enough, right? I’ve actually seen people deviate from what they should be presenting very easely. You should take a few minutes before writing your presentation to think on what you should put on the slides, what kind of information is the user interested, is it too technical, does everyone knows the subject?
For example, if I were to make a presentation on a linux distribution I could talk about the advantages over other platforms, how easy (or not) it would be to switch from Windows, what applications wouldn’t be compatible and so on.
7) Learn from the pros
I regulary visit some sources on the internet, like presentation Zen, they have great techniques explained there and I try to get feedback from people after my presentations, there’s always room for improvement so I always search for advices on what could be changed or what went wrong.
8) Work on your own style
Not every style of presentation suits your own personality, it’s important to work on a style you feel comfortable with and at ease. For example, Steve Jobs has a completely different style from Bill Gates but both are good speakers.
And that’s it. I think there’s still space for more good advices, so if you agree or disagree on some of these points (or all of them), post a comment and speak your mind.