Instantly Better Presentations

IMG_0796At a recent YOW! Night, Damian Conway gave an excellent presentation on “Instantly Better Presentations”. His notes are online and the video of the presentation is below.

My notes from the session:

  • if you need to give the audience bad news, give it first
  • instantly does not mean effortlessly

1. Talk about your passion

  • to feel more confident, you need competence – talk about subjects you genuinely understand
  • seeing someone who is excited… is exciting
  • energy, enthusiasm and passion through your actions and speech will translate to your audience
  • find something in the required topic that gives you passion – even if you loathe the topic or have been forced by your boss to present it

2. Tell them a story

  • our memory is very volatile – stays for 8-10 seconds unless we do something with it
  • 7+/- 2 is horribly optimistic and not backed by research, real number is 4 +/- 1
  • stories are our oldest information processing tool
  • stories have a flow to assist acquisition and memorisation (all our memories are reconstructed from a storyline), have a hierarchy to assist comprehension and recollection
  • tell the historical story or the story of what happened, process or funny anecdotes
  • story is for your benefit to get the sequence and content right – audience don’t necessarily need to know
  • stories make complexity comprehensible, structure recognisable, information easy to remember, make audiences feel more comfortable

3. Don’t search for content, select it

  • what should I say is the wrong question, question you should start with is what could I say
  • humans are good at recognising important stuff rather than recalling important stuff
  • start with a blank sheet and write down everything you know about the topic that you might want to say – stream of consciousness
  • whittle down to 3-5 most relevant and important topics to talk about
  • these 5 points becomes the chapters, so go looking for the narrative that connects them – they may not connect so look for a couple of lesser topics that better connect the 5 important things
  • competency – think about the questions you were asking when you were learning

4. Simplify your slides

  • tools encourage a bad job
  • content matters but not as much as style
  • content is your payload to explode the audiences brains
  • style – the stuff the audience doesn’t see that prevents them seeing what they should see
  • bad style – anything that prevents the audience seeing what they should see
  • a wall of text – technical audience will read everything, regardless of whether it is relevant or not
  • Apple is good at presentations – simple but effective
  • big words – people at the back can still read them
  • slide numbers turn your presentation into a death march – get rid of background, name and title on every slide, get rid of the logos (audience sees salesperson)
  • slide deck is to focus audience on the presentation – if they need context give them a separate PDF or notes
  • each message is a different slide
  • cluttered is overwhelming and as a result they switch off the attention channel as they are trying to read everything
  • show less on more slides

5. Manage the questions

  • a presentation should always be for the benefit of the audience – give them what they need
  • have an explicit questions policy – hold to the end of each topic, end of the talk, or interactive through the talk (can however affect the flow)
  • always be keen to take questions – shows you care
  • make the questions fit in with your question – “that’s a really good question” makes others more comfortable to ask question

6. Animate code simulations

  • explain code temporally, not spatially
  • use animations to reveal information one thing at a time
  • walk through code as an animation and highlighting
  • low tech animations – use the same slide over and over – cell animation
  • don’t export your slides – notes
  • live coding – synthesise, automate or have a partner – need to keep contact with the audience

7. Deliver your message fearlessly

  • use your nervousness – turn fear into energy
  • never give a presentation for the first time – practice it live at least 3 times
  • use an audience image on a big screen
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