Last week at the THETA 2015 conference presenters were offered a free pre-conference workshop on how to improve their presentation style, presented by Patricia McMillan. Here are some of the notes I took.
5 easy tweaks for great presentations
- It’s about them. Ask what they want. Patricia herself demonstrated good practice to make it more interactive by getting us talking in pairs.
- Less text and more pictures is the golden rule. Using the app Haiku Deck makes this easy as it limits the text real estate on any slide. And, as you type text it searches Flickr for free CC licence photos and gives suggestions of free images. It even adds the attribution automatically on the slide!
- You need a Meme, that is a short phrase that carries the information cues in the presentation. It doesn’t have to be catchy. I have also seen that ultimate meme, cats, used well (I suspect I one day will regret having written that…). There were a lot of Lego memes used at THETA.
- Structure is what holds a presentation together. For example, have an opening, 3-5 points in the middle, and a conclusion.
- Open with punch. The first minute is the best way to get their attention. Punch is also an acronym for 5 suggestions on how to open, courtesy of a book called The Naked Presenter:
- Personal. Make it personal. Include a story or share something about yourself
- Unexpected. Add a surprise element
- Novel. Show a new angle
- Challenging. Starting with a challenging question can be the easiest way to open
- Humourous. Not easy to do well but wonderful when it works
Dealing with presentation nerves
Nearly everyone gets nerves, and a little nervousness is OK. One thing to remember is that everyone in the audience wants you to do well.
There was an interesting suggestion from a book called The Charisma Myth called The Responsibility Transfer. The idea is to give responsibility over to a higher power, or the universe or nature or whatever you might believe in. And this suggestion still works even if you don’t believe. The only thing you need to do is pick one. If you don’t believe in something then do it as taking a placebo. Placebos work even when the patient knows it’s a fake!
Leave the lecturn behind
Finally Patricia had a suggestion for seasoned presenters, to stop hiding. She says it is worthwhile to come out from behind the lecturn. Don’t hide behind expertise. It is better to share something of our true selves.