Sunday, 24 July 2016

Never, ever, ever, ever

Never, ever, ever, ever overrun. Ever. Aim for 75% of your allotted time, make sure your practise delivers that and ensure you have a means of monitoring your performance on the day. No presentation is made better by going on longer, quite the reverse. Never over run.

Prepare a presentation for 75% of the allocated time. You will KNOW exactly how long your presentation will take because you have practised and achieved that repeatedly, if necessary by editing. All talks take longer on the day, never expect lesser and never think rushing will help. No audience will complain, no organiser will ask you to fill the space and everyone wins. Aim for 75%.

As well as rigorous practise that has shown your expected time, you must have at least two means of knowing the passage of time. Never think you can over run because the previous speakers has done so. Some organisers have a countdown clock on the stage, most presentation software has a set up allowing any combination of elapsed, remaining and current time and you have a mobile phone. It takes little effort to set up a countdown timer with SILENT VIBRATE for your 75% of your 75% time. Press start as you rise from your seat. With your 25% remaining time you can safely relax and rise to the punchline.

It is mandatory that you effectively and clearly deliver the punchline by the allocated time. There is never an excuse for failing even if this requires an artificial break. It is better to arrive and deliver the denouement than rush crazily into it and fail to capture the audience for that last moment. Timing takes practise, not luck. You, your message and your audience deserve it. 

For clarity and the sake of humility it should be recorded that when I gave "The Best Presentation in the World" it clearly wasn't; I over ran. We were having fun, folks enjoyed themselves but it was rude and inconsiderate and affected what happened next. Let's never speak of it again.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Feel more, not better

For some presenters, there is a striving after perfection that drives them to constantly tinker with presentations before delivery. No presentation will ever be perfect; there is always space for improvement. The important view is not from the stage but from the audience.

There are places within preparation that changes can be made: brainstorming, the storyboarding, the p2 design and practise. After that it is of more value to polish the product rather than re-design it. For most presenters the added value of these changes will be minimal. Importantly the audience receive only one version.

The most valuable use of time between construction of a piece and its delivery is in practise. A deeper understanding of the topic, a more polished and engaging delivery and more poise on stage are worth much more than minuscule movement in the position of a segment of text, alteration in font or subtle changes in hue of an image. These changes may make the presenter "feel better," the former will make the audience "feel more."

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

on QR codes

qr code
QR codes are perfect in certain places for quickly interpreting a complex url.  A presentation is not one of those places. Although a QR code is simply read by any appropriately equipped smart phone the actual mechanics of using during a presentation mean that it is usually ineffectual and often adds to confusion. There are better ways of transferring a url to the audience.

Most smart phones are able to read a QR code but this requires a specific app on the device. In some instances this has to be downloaded in advance. Not all those who have such an app are actually aware of its existence, location on their device or even how to use such technology and this poor strike rate will limit the value of such a link to the audience as a whole. Moreover for even this to be effective it requires the whole audience to stop, find their phone which may be deep within a bag, find the app, open it and then activate it. This will both take time and is likely, due to its less than universal use, lead to conversations and confusion amongst the audience. None of which is ideal.

The use of a downloadable handout is a valuable way to furnish an information hungry audience with data but at a time convenient to them that does not distract from the delivery of the presentation. The problem with a url is that for it to work it has to be completely accurately recorded and this, as described above, also takes time. The use of url shortener such as google or will drastically reduce the text involved. My favourite is tiny.url that has the option of a custom ending that is more easily transcribed and is memorable 

If you're going to use a downloadable link in a presentation, signpost it, perhaps leave it up during questions and back it up with a short link. 

Monday, 11 July 2016

Less is more. Or fewer, in fact.

Less is more in design. The same applies to the number of slides in p2; except for the grammar. Restraint increases effect in decoration and so it is with slides. Slides decorate or support the story and its delivery. Fewer is more. 

Once the storyboard of p1 has been constructed, it is important to remember that not every single step in the process requires to be illustrated. This often harks back to the need to annotate each point and probably also reflects the use by many presenters of visual prompts within the p2. Each slide should be essential, never superfluous. Restraint in number of slides is as essential as in their design.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Where are your slides?

A great presentation is the product of three parts, the presentation (p1), the presentation (p2) and the presentation (p3). Or is it? Can one deliver a great presentation without a p2? Probably.

The reality for many presenters is that their supportive media(p2) supports the story (p1) by adding detail, illustration or visual interest. Appropriately chosen images can strengthen a theme that will be more easily remembered than simply a spoken message. Complexities of data can be clarified with appropriate use of graphs and illustrations. A picture can indeed be worth a thousand words.

The reality for many presenters is that their supportive media (p2) also supports their delivery (p3) by adding script prompts, pacing and confidence. It is a significant challenge to memorise the entirety of a script and visual clues aid that recollection. The regular change of slide also gives a rhythm and pace to a presentation. The combination of these adds to the confidence of the presenter. A picture can indeed be worth a thousand words.

A presentation can be given without p2. For one reason or another technical issues have forced a presenter to deliver without their supportive media. This often encourages a spontaneity and engagement that audiences value greatly augmented by feelings of sympathy and added respect for the achievement. There are presentations though that are complete in the p1 and the p3 as a whole; the p2 would either detract or distract from the overall p cubed value of the whole. A p2 is supportive, not compulsory.

The decision to deliver a presentation without p2 should not be taken lightly. The realities of prompts, pacing and confidence must be considered and countered. The real value in practising without p2 in preparation for potential of technical failure allows insight into the practicalities of this. There is a real feeling of exposure but delivering a great presentation without p2 is entirely possible.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

er...thank you?

A sentence without the final word is. A journey without reaching the destination is just tiring. Sadly many presentations simply reach a point where the presenter says, "thank you" and it is assumed that the suffering is over. Every presentation needs to rise to a climax, a definitive call to arms or a challenge and it is the role of the presenter to build to this. Never just drift to

The conclusion of a presentation is both its ending and summation. It signifies closure and the point of the process. The audience should never be in doubt; the presentation is delivered.This is conveyed through all parts of the presentation p1 verbally, p2 by the supportive media and p3 physically. It should be expected and understood. This was why I spoke.

The p1 has the punchline as its goal. Whether scientific or inspiring, every presentation should rise to meet this. This may be the answer to an initially posed question, a call to arms, a proof or a challenge but signposted through the presentation and arrived at by common consent. It is not a shaggy dog story or simply the end of a list but a specific and achieved goal.

The end of the p2 for a presentation should similarly be clear to the viewer. It should support the p1 and a useful trick is to mirror or subtly reflect the opening slide where the initial challenge or question was raised. This can be graphic or textual but is never something to be read as it is essential that all focus is upon the speaker at this point. Some may chose the best slide in the world.

The delivery p3 should also clearly identify the conclusion of the presentation. It is useful to pause and slow to deliver the key line. This must be practised, if necessary memorised as this is the most important part of the whole. Ensure that body language leaves no doubt that this is important and that the presentation is over. And stop.

Don't add useless information.

Don't thank the audience for listening.


Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Cinderella got married

Every great presentation has a message, one single message. The common failing in many presentations is they are simply a pile of data, a ramble or lists, not a message. When constructing any presentation one needs to determine early on exactly what that message is and build around that. The message is what you want the audience to leave with.

Previous posts have discussed the difference between "covering" a topic, which is both an oxymoron and an impossibility and simply a delivery of facts or lists. The presenter's craft and value is in determining the audience needs and fashioning a presentation to meet these in a manner more engaging or entertaining than simply, "Cinderella got married." few of us would sit through that.

How then does one construct a presentation that achieves the goal but adds value for the audience? The answer to that is surely the reason writers and poets, cinematographers, photographers, painters and sculptors the world over wear a permanently pained expression. A great presentation is a piece of creativity and as such requires more than simply facts. How one achieves this is really up to the presenter. Many, faced with the blank page of creativity are too afraid even to start.

Few artists believe they have ever created the perfect piece. The same is true of a presenter. That fear of perfection however should not stop the beginning of the journey. What makes a presentation better than the last is that it is personal for the audience, that the presenter has seen and valued those to whom the presentation was constructed. The addition of emotion and passion are essential, physiological and too frequently curtailed. It is only because we care about Cinderella that her marriage is of value to us. If our presentation elicits nothing from the audience, no one cares about the Happily Ever After.