Saturday, November 15, 2014

Avoid Death By Presentation - Small tips - Part 02

In the last post of this series, I have introduced some small tips on how to achieve better stakeholders engagement while delivering presentations. These are my last crumbs on this matter. Please, do not intend them as golden rules, these are just simple advices that I have found to work in most of the situations; Feel free to break them if this suits more your needs.

Again, I invite you to comment and add your tips.

10 - Try the presentation
Try your presentation at least twice, better if you can gather a small audience. It does not matter if they do not know anything about the topic. What is important is that they can give you some advice on your speech. Sometimes, even if it is sad to admit it, how you say something is as important as what you are actually saying. It could be a good idea to write down some important sentences you want to say but remember, never talk to people, reading from a sheet.
Try the presentation is of the greatest importance if you belong to that large group of people that fear to speak in public.

11 - Revise the presentation after a few hours
After having completed the slides, forget about them for a few hours. I guess next time you look at them you will find many things that could be quickly improved.

12 - Avoid animations
Animations create more problems than they solve. Producing animations takes a lot of time; they distract the audience and, in the end, they always give your presentation a tawdry look. Moreover, you can never be confident with animations’ behaviors, unless you do not give a presentation using the same device that has been used to create it. Sometimes even a small difference on the operative system can mess up with your slides.
If you feel the need to insert an animation, try instead this little trick. Create two versions of the same slide. Create the first version without the content intended to be inserted by the animation and the second one with this content superimposed. When you give your presentation, the effect will be, more or less, of a very fast animation. You will have to work with one slide more but, in the end, I think that this strategy will pay you off.

13 - Colors and Fonts
Avoid too many colors, font types and font sizes at least if you are not an artist inside, that somewhere in the past missed the turnpike exit for the art school and became a project manager instead. Personally I strictly adhere to this recipe

•    Never more than one font type
•    Never more than two font sizes
•    Never more than three colors

Maybe you won’t appear creative, but undoubtedly you will appear tidy and methodical.

14 - Background and templates
Simple and well contrasted. Simple because a too baroque background or template could distract your audience, and well contrasted because, believe me, you can’t trust projectors.

15 - Details
You do not have to explain everything. It is reasonable to assume that your audience will have the basics of what you are talking about. If not the case, again, consider a report instead of a presentation.

16 - Create a PDF of your slides
Always prepare a pdf of your slides. It will take you 30 seconds and it could save your day. Every kind of device that can be connected to a projector is capable of reproducing a pdf file. That is not always true for each format of slides. What if you crafted a series of slides using the most famous presentation suite in the world and you will end up giving your presentation on a Unix system? Yes, it is very unlikely  but what if it will happen?

17 - Never embed videos
Never embed videos in your slides. It is not uncommon that they are more meaningful to you than to your audience, and the even little time that it will take to make them playback, will break the rhythm of your speech. If I had had a dollar for each time I saw a video not working properly, I would be a rich man by now.

18 - Do not break for anybody
It can happen that someone in your audience will try to ask you one or more questions during your speech. Do not let anyone do it. 
Seven times out of ten, this kind of questions are about topics that you will be covering spontaneously in the next slides. 
One time out of ten, these kinds of questions are about something that is not strictly related with the matter at end.
One time out of ten, these kinds of questions are about something that is strictly connected with the subject at end, but will generate a debate in the room. They will be better addressed at the end of the presentation, when everyone will have in mind the great picture.
One time out of ten, these kinds of questions are about something that someone has not well understood. Sorry, but the odds are against this. Casualties. You will have to make a fast recap at the end of your speech.

The problem is that these interruptions will make your audience completely disconnect from the ideas you are going to deliver. The best way to handle this kind of situation is to ask your audience in advance not to interrupt your speech and to hold their thoughts till the end of the presentation. Obviously, you will have to leave enough time at the end of your speech to answer all the questions your audience would have.

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