Additional presentation tips

The following are some tips that worked very well in the past for me. As you are not me, you might want to tweak them a bit. So here's what I do when I give presentations.

Introduce yourself

Introducing yourself – however briefly – breaks down an initial barrier. You are not any longer this unreachable person on stage or at the head of the table – you are a normal person.

Explain why you are competent to talk about the matter at hand. Then put the ego away – people came for information, not to see you sing and dance.

Use humour

Humour is important to keep a long presentation interesting. I like to put in things that people just don’t expect – to keep both me and them on the ball.

Humour also makes things more approachable. We tend to use humour to deal with things that scare us. Furthermore humour allows for a memorable moment – it is a way of structuring and providing landmarks in your presentation.

Build bridges to the real world

I like to bring up real world examples and comparisons. The rationale is that they make very theoretical and hard to grasp data more easy to consume for humans. Real world comparisons also allow for emotion – and emotional responses are very powerful and make us remember.

Example: If you for example talk about code standards and re-use of code without a proper review a good case to mention is the Ariane 5 disaster. This rocket self-destructed because it veered off its intended path 37 seconds after lift-off. The reason was re-use of the code used to launch Ariane 4, which had different flight specs. 370 million dollars were lost due to this error.

Pace yourself

Speaking at the right pace makes you easy to understand. If you appear rushed listeners will feel uneasy.

Trying to keep up is a terrible feeling and makes us feel inadequate. So speak slowly with meaning and concentrate on pronouncing things thoroughly. Pauses are good. They allow listeners to take information in and digest it in the way they know best.

Avoid “Hello World”

“Hello World” examples are easy to show. They are also useless, as they teach a syntax, but not the concept of a language or solution.

There is no personal value in “Hello World”. We should teach how to solve issues and fulfill tasks. I yet have to be asked in a professional product to produce “Hello World”.

It is much better to have a real production example to build upon:

  • “This is what we had to create – here are the specs”
  • “This is the final outcome”
  • “Here’s what we used to deliver this job”
  • “... and here is how you can do it yourself!”

Build on top of what people are asked to do, not what you expect them to do for you.

Be fresh

I always try to deliver fresh material. I hate re-using presentations and training material. The least I do is to bring some new, fresh angle. Check what is hot at the moment, research it and add it to the talk.

That way you show that your content is not only good but also very relevant at this moment in time.

It also means for seasoned conference attendees that you don't bore them with something you told them before and as seasoned conference attendees are also adamant bloggers and Twitter users this can only be a good thing.