Inspired by this post http://tinyurl.com/76hy9o from @jonburg, here are a few tips for making more interesting presentations in 2009.
1. Avoid filler words. Commonly abused (read repeated over and over and over again) words: really, like, um, you know. How to avoid them? Know your shit! If you know your material backwards, forwards and sideways, you’ll have far more to say than what’s on the slides and thus will not need to fill at all.
2. Avoid cliché phrases. One example: I don’t know how many times I heard a variant of the Thomas L. Friedman’s phrase “The earth is flat” in presentations. I don’t think it particularly demonstrates either intelligence or well-roundedness in the speaker and that it almost never enhances and argument or makes a talk more interesting. IMHO, you are better served with a quote (and a reference) such as “Contrary to Friedman’s ‘the earth is flat’ theory” rather than “We all know that the earth is flat, so…”. The former sounds researched, the latter sounds more pretentious and “me too”.
3. Get a gadget. I love my Logitech USB Presenter tool (Model R-RB5) with a slide changer, talk timer and built-in laser pointer – and it works with both MacBook Pros and Windoze laptops. One tip though (conferred on me by annoyed listeners!): don’t move the laser point around frequently during presentations as it becomes a distraction rather than a way of directing attention to a point.
4. Keep it short and to the point. No one likes to hear a speaker spout off at the mouth for an indeterminant amount of time. Most points can be made in half an hour. Beyond that, folks – particularly large audiences – will lose focus and drop their attention. Plan for less blah-blah and more Q&A.
5. Be passionate. The more passionate you are about your subject, the more your audience will try to share that enthousiasm. The more bored and nonplussed you sound, the more the audience will tend to tune you out.
Have a fantastic 2009 everyone. Well try to anyway…
6. Added thanks to a comment below from Jeff Zemsky: Know your audience! This one is critical as getting a sales presentation when you expect a technical one or vise-versa is incredibly annoying and a waste of time. Your content may also differ depending on how many folks there are and how large the room is. You can get away with smaller fonts with a smaller audience but never, ever with a large audience in an auditorium. There are probably also versions necessary for whether you are speaking to fellow employees, business partners, existing customers or potential customers. Unfortunately, the only “library” I know of for Powerpoint is Sharepoint so other than having a mongo PPT with Custom Slideshows, (and since my company does not have Sharepoint Server anywhere that I know of), I tend to make separate versions for various audiences as necessary. It is a painful exercise as things can get out of sync but I haven’t stumbled on a better way. I am as always open to suggestions though!