Presentations: PowerPoint sheets are not enough

During the Dutch Landelijk Architectuur Congres (LAC) congress, I visited a lot of presentations during the two days of the event. Some presentations were better than others, and this was usually not because of the subject.

During the presentations, I made notes, which I want to share with you here. Not all of the observations and tips are from the LAC congress, I will regularly amend this article if I find more tips in other presentations I attend. If you are to give a presentation, please take notice of the following:

To start: Make sure all technology works. Nothing is as disturbing as oscillating microphones, or microphone clips falling off of jackets or ties. It is very unprofessional to let the audience wait for you to startup your laptop, PowerPoint application or beamer.

The first slide should be on the screen before the first members of the audience enter the room and the microphone must be tested too. Also make sure your laptop is fully charged (yes, I've seen it happen, someone started searching for his laptop charger in the middle of a presentation). Also seen in practice: During a presentation a Windows message popped-up every 5 minutes, stating that automatic updates were installed and the laptop must be rebooted. A bit negligent in a room with 60 people...

So far for the technique, now for the content.

Do not make an agenda stating every part of your presentation. No one finds this an interesting part, and it takes all of the surprises from your presentation. Better start with: “Today I will tell you something about...”.

Don't put too much information about your company in the presentation. No one is interested in how many countries your company has offices in, what your stock value is, or your complete product portfolio. It is better to present the essence about your company: “Nokia is the world leader in mobile communications hardware”. After this, you can state the most inportant problem your company is facing: “Our biggest challenge is to put as much electronics as possible in a increasingly smaller housing”.

Most presentations have way too much PowerPoint slides. This makes presenters panic halfway during a presentation. They go faster and faster through their slides in a race against the clock. I never encountered any presenter with too few slides.

Text is to be spoken, not read out loud during a presentation. Slides should present pictures you cannot tell. I once saw a presentation where some slides with much text were shown and the presenter said “I will be quiet for some time now, so you can read this slide”. If I wanted to read the information, the presenter could have emailed a text instead.

Pictures must be explained, as they might not be obvious to all of the public. Also make sure the pictures in your presentation are consistent with each other.

Practice, practice, practice. Practice out loud, preferably using a colleague as the audience. It is immediately obvious to the audience if a presenter has told the story more than once. Because you practice your presentation, you  know how long it will take, and you know what slide comes next.

Don't talk too fast. You know your story, but the audience hears the story for the first time. Therefore, also be sparse with abbreviations that are known to you, but not known by the audience.

Make sure your presentation has one subject only. If you have more than one main subject, after your presentation the audience will only remember the last subject presented.

Try to learn from professional presenters, like TV hosts or stand-up comedians. Why is everyone listening to them? Usually because they tell an interesting story including some humor.

Try not to make your presentation boring. Let your voice vary in tone and try to make it a “performance”. Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple, is a master of presenting, because he is an entertainer.

End your presentation with a statement: “Nokia, Connecting people”. Statements will be remembered.

Here is a nice description of a good and a bad presentation.

More presentation tips can be found here.

This entry was posted on Friday 24 November 2006

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