10 Tips to Do Presentations Like Me: Rehearse!

Tip #8: rehearse!

I always do a dry run-through of my presentations the evening before I give them. If it’s a longer, multi-hour seminar, I probably won’t – but I WILL look through my slides, give some thought to how long each section should run, make sure I have time for Q&A at appropriate places, etc.

But if it’s an hour-long presentation or under? Yep – I’ll probably run through it once or twice. I know – some of you are saying “well, gee David. Glad that works for you – but I don’t need to do that.”

Really? Sure, your presentation might be fine. Yay for you. But I’m guessing this – if you DID rehearse, even just a little bit – your presentation would be that much better.

For the rest of us – if you don’t rehearse, it shows. Here’s why I rehearse:

  • To make sure my transitions work.
  • to make sure my timing is accurate (ever seen someone get the 5-minute warning at the end of a presentation, and they freak out because they still have 20 slides to go over? Sure sign that person didn’t rehearse).
  • To practice saying any specific things I want to say, and to make sure I can actually talk coherently over each of my points.
  • OK – and to feel better about the whole thing, too.

So go rehearse – your presentations will rock that much more if you do.

Pic by Suzy Glass

10 Tips to Do Presentations Like Me: Tidy up those Transitions

Tip #7: Work on Introductions, Transitions, and conclusions.

Intros, conclusions, and transitions have always been a challenge for me – in writing and in speaking! In college, me professors frequently said “David, you need a transition here” or “you need a stronger conclusion.” So I’ve been working really hard on those transitions.

And I’ve noticed that I’m not alone. I’ve seen more than one presentation where the presenter was introduced, then starts their slides with an uncomfortable “um … I guess let’s get started now” and jumps right into the presentation. Or when they’re done, they end with a weird smile and a “um, I’m done now” (I have to admit, I’ve done that myself).

They’re not really that hard to do, either. Here’s what you’ll see me do:

Intros:

  • Usually, someone announces who you are. If they don’t, take a minute to introduce yourself. It gets you used to talking, and gets the audience used to you
  • You might start off with a question, or a statement (sort of a statement of purpose for the presentation). Then briefly cover what you’re going to talk about.

Transitions:

  • also easy. At the end of one point, flow into the next point with something that relates to it. Or at the least, say something like “we just learned about this. Next up, let’s talk about this for awhile.”
  • These transitions make it easy for people to follow along or take notes.
  • If you like to walk around while giving a presentation, it helps visually to actually move to another spot while making your transition
  • And of course, show something like “point #2” up on the screen if you’re using slides.

Conclusions:

  • Remind people what they just learned – something like “we’ve just covered these 5 things.”
  • Then I like to end with some broad statement about what can happen if you put these ideas into practice (ie., “put these easy steps into practice and you’re bound to improve your website and make your customers happy” or something like that).
  • Actually have an “I’m done now” slide. I wrote a book and have a blog, so my last slide says “Thank You,” shows my book cover, and displays my website’s URL.
  • If you know you’ll have a question and answer time afterwards, you might just show something like “Q & A time” on a slide, then say “it’s time for questions.”

Improve those transitions – I promise to work on them too!

Pic by dnnya17

10 Tips to Do Presentations Like Me: Do What you Said You’d Do

Tip #6: Talk about … what the program description says you’re going to talk about.

Has anyone ever read the description of a presentation, thought “that sounds interesting, I think I’ll attend it” … and then left highly disappointed, because the presenter didn’t actually cover what the description said they’d cover?

Yep. Me too. And that has never made any sense to me. Guess who writes those descriptions? Usually, it’s the presenter.

So presenters – if you say you’re going to cover five tips in your presentation, or answer three questions, or mention a list of take-aways … actually include those things in your presentation!

I know, I know – lightening-fast changes in technology mean that … well … technology changes. And if you’re presenting about technology, well darn – your presentation content might have just changed up a week before you actually present it.

In that case, make sure your description and your list of take-aways are general enough that they still make sense in 6 months time. When writing your description, don’t say things like “you’ll learn how to use Delicious.com to make web-based bookmarks (because that service might disappear). Instead, say something like “I’ll teach you how to create web-based bookmarks using the best tools available” or “… using tools like delicious.com.” See the difference?

So presenters – go clean up those descriptions!

10 Tips to Do Presentations Like Me: Use Screenshots

Tip #5: Use screenshots, not the live web.

I’ve seen this (and experienced it, too) – someone wants to show off their new website or a new web tool during a presentation. So they go to the site, and then discover the either the conference center’s web access is down, or it’s not fast enough to handle the demonstration.

Then the presenter is stuck – that part of the presentation depended on the web actually working! Darn it.

Here’s the solution – use screenshots. The live web isn’t predictable … especially when you’re standing in front of a room full of people … and will most definitely slow you down during a presentation. Even if web access is working great, using it during a presentation will still most likely slow the presentation down as you wait for the next page to load.

So if you can, use screenshots to get your point across. Screenshots often work fine during a presentation, and can speed things along. They also give you the option to be a bit creative. For example, int he screenshot accompanying this post, I took a screenshot of a website, and then layered some text and soem arrows to help get my point across.

Obviously, sometimes you will need to go to the live web – training sessions or in-depth “how does this work” sessions pretty much require the real thing. But in most other cases screenshots probably work just as well, if not better.

Something to think about!

10 Tips to Do Presentations Like Me: Learn Your PC

Tip #4: Learn how to use your PC (or the PC you’ll be using for the presentation)

I have to admit it – it bugs me when someone stands up in front of everyone – especially at a tech conference – accidentally moves to the next slide … and can’t figure out how to go back to the previous slide.

They get all flustered, blame “technology,” and finally decide to solve the problem by getting out of presentation mode, finding the proper slide, then restarting the presentation. Or by just skipping that slide.

I get it – when we’re standing up in front of people giving a presentation, it’s weird – and we sometimes get a bit flustered when things go wrong. That makes sense.

Because of that, I’d suggest this – take 10 minutes to figure out that PC, and the software you’re using for the presentation. Find all the different ways to advance slides (spacebar, arrow keys, etc). Figure out how to go back to the previous slide (as in the left/right arrow keys).

If you’re planning to do some slightly advanced stuff like playing a video, either in-presentation or not, make sure you test it multiple times – in your office AND on stage. Make sure you know how to turn up the audio.

Do this little bit of prep work, and you’ll look that much more confident and knowledgeable. That weird feeling you get when you’re doing a speaking gig? It’ll still be there (the only way to get rid of that is lots of experience or being an uber-extrovert) … but at least you’ll know how to go back to that slide you just skipped!