Sunday 26 September 2010

To-do: Learn How to give a good presentation

I’m sure you’ve had to sit through a lot of presentations and even more lectures that were horribly boring. I think it is very irresponsible of a person giving a presentation to just read off the slides. And given the nature of things, it may be the case that someday, you’ll be that speaker. So please, although I’ve said this before a lot of times (if you’ve been reading my blog for the last few years, you’ll realize that this is true), I think it’s worth it to repeat this again, in a recipe format.

Step 1: Best software for presentations

You have to realize that creating a PowerPoint slide is just a waste of time if all you’re going to put on the slides is a bunch of text. Please, just print out a few pages of that text and hand it out before your talk. Using PowerPoint as speakers notes is a crime.

If you’ve convinced yourself that you’ll be showing some meaningful images and need some kind of a presentation software, here are some good picks:

  • Keynote (mac only): Simple, easy to use and has some really fancy animations. Don’t get carried away by these fancy animations though!
  • PowerPoint: The thing that everyone uses…
  • S5: Present from a HTML page (and the tell people to view it on your website after the talk!)
  • Google Docs: Create your presentation online (great for collaborative presentations!)
  • SlideRocket: Another powerful online alternative that has Keynote style effects
  • Beamer: If you need to give research talks that involve a lot of equations (and know what LaTeX is), then Beamer is something that you should look at

Step 2: Create your slides

Some rules:

  • 10/20/30 rules: If you’re pitching something, I highly recommend Guy Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 rule. 10 slides, 20 minutes, and a minimum 30 pt font!
  • More images than text… this’ll force you to know your presentation, not to read off the slides
  • High resolution images
  • A sensible theme (a dark blue background with white text doesn’t cut it anymore….). Please choose something that’s easy on the eyes.

Step 3: Rehearse, rinse and repeat

You can’t ever give a good talk without practicing. The more you practice, the more you’ll realize that the software is there mainly just to show a bunch of pictures. Having some text on the slide, and you reading it out is just useless and distracting!

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