Presentation Skills

Posted: May 30, 2006 in How to...?, Informative
Tags: ,

How many times have you been at a presentation and felt like either it was so boring, so long, or that the presenter has no idea what they are talking about? I have seen (and given) more than a few talks and presentations. The following 10 points summarize what (in my own opinion) a presenter should do to give a great presentation.

1. Know what you’re talking about
You have to be prepared, and have very good knowledge about whatever you are presenting. Cover all aspects. Research related issues or topics. If the audience get the feeling that you are not comfortable enough with the material, your presentation is ruined.

2. Know your audience
The level of information you present depends on what type of audience you expect to have. Talking to a technical team is different from talking to a group of managers or a group of end-users for example. Know who your audience are, and adjust the level of detail accordingly.

3. Cut down the text!
This is a common bad practice in many of the presentaions I have seen. When you prepare your presentation slides, it is never a good idea to write everything you want to say on the slides. If you have to write something, just write some major headlines. The audience should look for the details in your explanation not on the slides. Filling your slides with text has the following results:

  • The audience will focus on reading what’s on the slides, which will distract them form listening to you.
  • You will tend to read off the slides yourself. First of all, this will give the audience the impression that you don’t know enough about the topic (point #1). Second, it makes you lose eye contact with the audience, which is very important (point #7).

4. A picture is worth 1000 words!
Make sure to include as many figures, charts and tables as possible. They convey the desired message much easier than text does. Any insight into a figure should be explained by you, not included in the slides.

5. Rehearse!
After preparing your slides, make sure to rehearse your presentation a couple of times. Keep track of how much time it takes you to finish, and adjust the presentation to fit the allocated time slot. Keep in mind to leave some time for questions.

6. Good start
Once you start your presentation, make sure you give a brief outline on what you intend to talk about. After that, if possible, start with a motivating introduction that attracts the audience’s attention and makes them appreciate the subject.

7. Eye contact
Maintain eye contact with the audience as you talk. Do not look at the board to read. Only look at it to point something out on a chart or a figure, or to guide the audience to look at something in particular. Eye contact gives the impression that you are actually talking to your audience, not just reciting something that you have memorized.

8. Timing and flexibility
Always keep track of your time. Be flexible to adjust your pace to fit the allocated time. If you are running out of time, you can always skip over some of the less important parts in favour of the interesting information or your results. If you are not flexible enough, you might end up running out of time without conveying the main point in your presentation.

9. Control
Always be in control of the presentation. It is up to you whether to answer questions during or after the presentation. If you answer questions during the presentation, make sure they do not take up too much time. Always know when to put questions on hold till the end.

10. The End
Make sure that you stress on your results and your conclusions. If you are presenting an on-going work, emphasize the positive aspects done so far. If you do not do that in a good way, your audience will just be wondering what you wanted to say after all that talk.

Note that this is by no means an exhaustive list. This is just what I got off the top of my head. Comments/additions/criticism are most welcome.

  1. George Beskales says:

    Useful notes 😉 I could use them. Thanks man

  2. Amr says:

    I’m glad someone found these useful. Please feel free to add anything else that you might find useful

  3. Mariella says:

    I am going to present a project on European scale and someone told me that I have to begin by a little movie about myself, my dreams and the reason why I want to start the project. For some reason I believe that by putting myself into the presentation it will steele a part of the audience attention and make it much longer to listen since it will after continue into the real story. I will be present anyway and prefer an interactif relation with the audience so that I can listen, respond, react adjust and adapt when necessary. So, three good reasons please why I should NOT do it in order to make sure my desicion is right. Excuse my english pls.

  4. Amr says:

    Hi Mariella. First of all I have to say that there is no one correct way of doing a presentation. There are different opinions, and what might or might not work depends on the presenter, the type of audience, and the topic.

    In my personal opinion, I disagree with talking about yourself in the beginning. The first reason: in most cases, presentation have a limited time, and I think it’s better to use that time to convey your idea to the audience instead of talking about yourself and your dreams. Second reason: It’s possible that some of your audience might be interested to know more about you, but certainly not all of them, and therefore they might find it boring to listen to all this information. This can make them lose interest quickly.

    Instead of talking about yourself and your dreams, it might be a good idea to start with an interesting example that demonstrates why this project is important. It is better to do it in a way that makes the audience reach that conclusion themselves rather than feed it to them.

    I hope this helps.

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