Presentations are not easy to do well even if you are a designer or professional speaker. Understanding your audience, having a catchy topic, being loud enough to be heard are all things that require practice. Designers and professional speakers have the bonus of experience (and pre-set slides) on their side – you probably do not have any of the above.
After the Computers in Libraries conference, I got to see all kinds of styles of presentation. There is one style that always stands out, no matter what. I like to call it the “Scatter-Drone.” That is the presentation that has 50 bullet points scattered on every slide with a long-winded drone of a voice wavering in the air saying something, but nobody really knows what because catatonia has already taken over.
There are simple things you can do to prevent being a total bomb in your presentation, though. Here is one step-by-step process you can use to create a half-decent 15 minute presentation out of your typical Scatter-Drone.
What Do You Have to Say?
- Create 12 blank slides using your favorite presentation software.
- The last slide should say “questions” or have a nice question mark graphic on it.
- The second slide should provide an agenda consisting of three sections. Nice if you can offer a “promise” – something that you can assure will be worth taking away from your presentation.
- The third slide will offer three “big picture” points — you will repeat these things three times throughout your presentation.
- Fill in the rest of the slides with as many bullet points as you want.
How Will Your Audience Understand You?
- Print off your presentation as is. Yes, it does stink right now – now you must fix it for your audience.
- Think of a single word or phrase that describes each slide (remember, each probably has 5-6 bullet points). Go to Flickr’s Creative Commons and use that word or phrase to find a picture that will suit the bullet points you have on your slide. Replace the bullet points with your nice picture. As you put your pictures onto the slides, take a look at how other people do their presentations and adapt accordingly. I appreciate that you are not a designer – but grab some ideas from people who are.
- Use the original presentation print-off (the one with all the bullet points) as your notes and the slide show with the pictures is what your audience will see. Now you can just “read your slides” without anyone ever knowing that that’s what you are doing.
Feeling Confident and Prepared
- Start by acquainting yourself with the audience somehow. Poll them. Ask them what they expect from you. Crack a joke to test their level of seriousness. Maybe even throw them a bit, by offering an alternative presentation style.
- Give yourself an idea of where you are going to repeat your three key messages. You should do this somewhere in the middle (slide 7 or 8) and again near the end (10 or 11).
That’s it. A generic procedure for creating a half-decent presenation if you are not a designer or professional speaker. It’s not too difficult to get a passing grade from your audience. Remember, the audience *wants* you to present well and share your ideas in a meaningful way. It just takes a bit of preparation, and some way of getting feedback from your audience.