HOWTO give a good presentation

Over the past few days I’ve had a number of conversations with folks about presentation styles and abilities. David Lee King even suggested that someone give a presentation about giving presentations at a library conference. Until that happens I thought I’d post a list of my thoughts here. Please note that I’m not claiming to be an expert presenter. I’m sure I use terribly too, many, uh, pause words when I’m speaking to people. I also think I caught myself pacing a kinda fast at one point during a talk this week. Oops! Even though I’m sure I have presenting foibles, I bet the following thoughts remain helpful for presentations at conferences, in your own library or on the corner soapbox.

Remember that you’re not giving a presentation. What you *are* doing is sharing ideas and hopefully trying to convince people of something. So don’t “give a presentation.” Just talk to your audience. Have a main point or two and tell the story surrounding those points.

→ Often said but worth repeating: Please don’t fill your slides with words. Find some relevant and pretty pictures to support what you’re saying. You can use the pictures to remind yourself what you’re going to say next. Search Creative Commons photos on Flickr and cite the photos with a URL. Your presentation should be *very* incomplete without your narration.

→ Instead of spending time practicing a presentation, use the time to learn more about the subject. The more developed your thoughts on the topic are, the more you’ll know what the audience needs and doesn’t need to know. This also helps with the Q&A portion of the talk.

Leave plenty of time for that Q&A session because it’ll probably be much more interesting than your prepared remarks. If you get stumped during this time, don’t pull a Palin and answer an entirely different question. Ask the questioner to get in touch to talk about the subject later.

→ Quoting other people makes you look smart.

Don’t be nervous. The people you’re talking to aren’t out to get you. In fact, they want to see you succeed. Because if you succeed they’ll be informed and entertained. Instead of being nervous, have fun. It will be apparent that you’re having fun and having fun is contagious.

Say something outrageous. Big, bold statements get people’s attention and are often funny. People like to laugh. Don’t confuse this with me suggesting that you be crude. I’ve heard “hell,” and “damn” used a one or two times to great effect, but I don’t think anyone would suggest you drop an f-bomb on stage at a library conference.

→ Speaking of stages, get off of them. The podium is not your friend.

→ Read Presentation Zen, The 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint (though I don’t agree with it all), Tufte’s classic The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint, watch Steve Jobs and Lawrence Lessig.

→ Don’t fret if there’s a software or hardware glitch. With any luck your moderator/handler can help you with it whilst you keep talking. Or maybe the tech is a lost cause (Kate, you were amazing!). If you rely on the web during talks, it will fail on you one of these times. Be prepared with screenshot/casts or just plain talking.

Be polite. Thank the audience for listening.

Hey, thanks for reading.

63 thoughts on “HOWTO give a good presentation”

  1. I agree with the bulk of the entry, but with one caveat — from the perspective of a meeting organizer. Slides that are predominantly made up of graphics offer little value to subsequent viewers of those slides. I think it is important to consider subsequent learners who view slides (without having been able to attend the real event)who may not be able to grasp a valuable point because there isn’t enough content visible on the slide.

  2. I acknowledge with the volume of the access, but with one warning — from the viewpoint of a conference manager. Slips that are primarily created up of design provide little value to following visitors of those slides. I think you should consider following students who perspective slides (without having been able to go to the actual event)who may not be able to understand a useful factor because there is not enough articles noticeable on the fall.

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