10 Tips to Do Presentations Like Me: Don’t Use Templates

People tell me they like the way I do presentations … so I thought I’d share some tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way.

Tip #1: Don’t Use Templates

Ever. They are evil. Well, ok – they’re probably not that bad. But they sure do suck the creativity out of creating a slide deck!

Generally, I start with a clean, blank slide. I remove all the text boxes, title boxes, etc. Or just pull up an actual blank slide.

For backgrounds/themes, I usually just use a simple white, black, or gradient background (though once in awhile I’ll use a fun textured background that I find somewhere – it really depends on my mood).

From there, I actually drop parts of my outline into the presenter notes part of the slide (so I still have a blank slide). Then I start figuring out what words are important enough to actually use for the slide, and decide what type of image might work best on the slide, to support the point I’m trying to make.

Then I start dropping text and images onto the slide. I usually stick with 1-2 font styles, and make heavy use of layering and shadows (so parts of the slide “pop” out at you).

The image accompanying this blog post is the title slide to my newest presentation (giving it this Sunday at ALA Midwinter). White background, fancy font with a shadow, and some images (that relate back to the three main points of my presentation).

Simple, yet effective. And fun, too (if you like creating slide decks anyway).

5 Mic Tips for Presenters

I see lots of people give presentations … and hear lots of presenters with microphone problems.

I know a little bit about microphones and how to get the most out of them, so here are 5 Mic Tips for Presenters!

Have some microphone tips not listed? Add them in the comments!

5 Mic Tips for Presenters:

1. Get close to the mic! Most mic and volume problems are solved if the presenter simply moves his/her head closer to the mic.

  • Optimally, you should be about 4-6 inches from the mic, and an easy way to measure that is by using the clenched fist rule. Simply put your fist up to your mouth, and put the mic on the other side of your fist. That puts you about 4 inches or so from the mic.
  • Using a lavalier? They don’t have to be as close as a handheld-type mic, but you still need to position the lavalier to it’s pretty close to your head. Right under your neck is a great place for the lavalier mic, so for guys wearing ties, clipping the mic right underneath the knot of your tie works great. Women, same thing – wear “lavalier-friendly” clothes (so you have a place to pin the mic).

2. Speak directly into the mic (or slightly angled if your P’s and S’s are popping a lot). I see lots of speakers hold a mic down by their chest. Bad! Be bold, be brave … and talk into the mic.

3. Do a sound check before the event. Make sure to talk into the mic like you normally would during a presentation – so no embarrassed whispering. Also, use that time to get familiar with the mic. See if it has an on/off switch, a mute button, a battery light, etc.

4. Avoid feedback. That high-pitched, squeaky feedback is icky, and it’s really pretty easy to avoid, if you follow these three steps:

  • if you start hearing feedback, move closer to the mic – not farther away from it. If the mic isn’t picking up a strong signal from you, it will start picking up other noises, including your voice from the monitors… and that causes a feedback loop (ie., those terrible screechy noises that everyone hates).
  • don’t cover the mic with your hand. That’s sorta the same as cupping your ears (ie., more ambient noise = more likely to feedback).
  • Stay away from the monitors! If you like to walk while talking, and there are monitors on stands in the room … stay away from them.

5. Use the on/off or mute button. If you need to cough or say something privately, either step away from the mic or use the on/off/mute buttons. That’s what they’re for.

Hopefully, these simple tips will help you be a better presenter. Got any mic tips of your own? Share them in the comments!

cool mic pic by hiddedevries

Where Will David be this Spring and Summer?

Speaking at the National Library of SpainI’ll be doing a bit of speaking, traveling, and conference attending this year – here’s where I’ll be through July:

  • February 25 – Webcast for SLA, Basics of Website Management, Part 2 (ok – no traveling on this one. Yay!)
  • March 12-17 – SXSWi (attending and geeking out)
  • March 28-April 2 – Computers in Libraries (one presentation, two preconference presentations)
  • April 22 – SEFLIN, North Miami, FL area – two presentations
  • April 24 – Lincoln City Libraries (Lincoln, NE) staff day
  • May 6 – Massachusetts Library Association
  • May 7 – Capital District Library Council, Albany, NY
  • June 19 – NEFLIN, Jacksonville, FL
  • July 9-15 – ALA in Chicago

And more to come, I’m sure. Make sure to say hi – always more fun when I know people!

Presentation Tips

My intro notesBrenda Hough asked me to come up with some presentation tips for online and “normal” presentations… and I decided to post them! So…

When I’m planning out a presentation, here’s what I generally do:

  • Use a mind mapping program to outline the presentation. I use MindJet’s MindManager Pro, but any will do. I like the more “visual” way mind maps work – I can randomly come up with ideas around a topic, then easily arrange those ideas into points and sections as needed.
  • Turn the mind map into slides. Most of what I have on the mind map ends up being dumped into the presenter notes of Keynote.
  • Customize the slides. I’ll find a slide template I like, then hack away at it – usually, the default bullet points/text/ sizes/etc don’t match what’s in my head, so I pretty much make each slide from scratch, moving text around, adding images, etc until I like what I see.
  • Make sure I have strong intros, transitions, and an ending.
  • By this point, the topic is stuck in my head, so I don’t rehearse much at all. Usually the night before my presentation, I’ll run through it once – and customize if I need to (ie., “dang! It’s WAY TOO LONG – I’d better cut stuff”).

Other tips:

For any presentation:

  • Don’t read your outline – your audience can do that! Instead, talk around the outline
  • tell stories to make a point
  • use graphics that enhance that story or point
  • if you can, use the presenter notes part of Powerpoint or Keynote. This helps you still “feel” like you’re reading from a script (if you need the safety net or have specific points to remember), while at the same time not having that “I’m reading my outline to you” sound.
  • Transitions are important! So – make sure to have a strong intro, a strong finish, and make transitions between segments obvious.
  • If you can be humorous, do it. If you aren’t that humorous, DON’T TRY.
  • Nerves – everyone gets nervous before a presentation. Remember – attendees did not come to critique you or laugh at your choice of clothes. They are attending your session because they thought the topic sounded interesting, and want (or hope) to learn something.
  • Spell check! Remember – we’re speaking to librarians. They will notice. I know… I once left out the “L” in “Public.” I was told. <how embarrasing>
  • Make sure your talk covers whatever was listed in the presentation description.
  • speak clearly. Slow down.

For online, “webinar” presentations:

  • All the stuff above still applies
  • test out all the technology the day before! You need to make sure that you can actually deliver the presentation.
  • If using a microphone instead of the telephone to deliver audio, if you can, invest in a better-quality USB mic. You will sound better.
  • Pace yourself! When you’re presenting by yourself, in an empty room, it can feel weird – like you’re practicing instead of actually presenting.
  • Turn your phone, email alerts, twitter alerts, etc off if they make noise – your microphone will hear it!
  • Shut your door, if you have one. If not, use a meeting room with a door if possible.
  • Pretend that you’re speaking to someone who is captivated by your presentation. You most likely really are… but you can’t see them, so it helps to visualize the person.
  • if you can use interactive components, like a polling system, a raising hands system, or even a Q&A at the end, do it.

For training sessions:

  • make sure attendees know they can ask questions. I usually pause between each major section and ask “any questions?” Then pause. For what seems like a long time.
  • let people interrupt you – and tell them it’s ok to do it. They’re attending to learn – not to hear you speak.
  • at the same time, if you have a “needy” trainee who just isn’t getting it, you might have to tell that person to hold off on more questions, so you can finish a section on time – then get with him/her on break or after the session to go more in-depth.

Anyone else have thoughts? Add ‘em in the comments!