This is quick guide on giving a talk, meant as a friendly nudge to the casual presenter. If you just remember one thing after reading this article, it should be prepare: prepare what you're going to say, prepare how you are going to say it and prepare what the audience will see while you're saying it.
All good presentations are well prepared. If you think you can "just wing it", don't fool yourself. Your audience will not be fooled. They can tell. It takes a lot of practice to make a simple, "casual" talk. There is no such thing as a simple talk. It all takes preparation.
Prepare your talk and your slides. Check that your laptop has the right connector for the projector in the room, that you have your power supply with you and that the plug fits the one in the wall. Also, if possible, you should try out the project prior to making your talk, there's nothing as boring as watching a presenter fanny about getting the hardware to work. Also, do you need extra cables? Do you plan on standing or sitting? (will the audience see the screen if you stand?)
What you're going to say 📢
For a short presentations, say 10-20 minutes, focus on one topic only. Follow the AIDA principle: Attention, Interest, Desire, Action.
Attention: Get the attention of the audience. A picture, a joke, a quote.
Interest: Pique the interest of the audience. How is your application different? How does your test framework find bugs faster?
Desire: Convince the audience that they want your solution, you're idea. How will it make their life's easier? How will it make your product better?
Action: How can the audience try out your new program? Where can they view your new spreadsheet?
Ensure everyone can read your screen 👓
Be sure that everyone in the room, also the ones at the back, can read everything on your screen. It's much better that the size is a little too big than a little too small.
Choose a lower screen resolution that you're using when you work on your laptop. If you're unsure which one to choose, for instance if you've never used the projector before and you don't have time to test out various resolutions before your talk, use 1024x768. It's a resolution that all monitors and projectors, no matter the age, support.
If you know for sure that you'll just show one window for the entire presentation, increasing the font size of that window might be enough.
For your reference, to increase the font size, you do:
- PowerPoint: F5 (full screen)
- Keynote Option + Command + p (full screen)
- Web browser: Ctrl + +
- Emacs: Ctrl + x Ctrl + +
- Start a Linux terminal with a large font:
xterm -fn 10x20
Turn off notifications 💬
Turn of all desktop notifications in all applications you've got open. Notifications take away the audience's attention to you and what you are presenting. The notifications popping up during your talk may even be embarrassing — either to you or someone in the audience.
Most people use a set of slides when giving a talk. That's fine. Here are a few suggestions for making better slides:
1) Think of your slides as the take off board (you know, the one gymnasts use when they jump) from which you take off and land.
2) Don't overload them with details. You, the presenter, will convey the message.
3) Let the slides be just a simple sentence, a number or, even better, a picture. With slides, less is more. Remove, don't add.
Final words 📜
Since many presenters are not aware of these things or simply don't bother, you will make your talk easily above average simply by following these steps.
Remember, everyone in the audience has taken time away from their work to listen to you. They could all be doing something else, they most definitely have some work laying around that they feel an urge to finish. But they chose to listen to you. Therefore, make sure it's worth their while.
You make your talk a good one by preparing. Preparing what you are going to say, prepare how you're going to say it and prepare what the people in the room will look at while you're saying it.
Now, pick a topic 💡, find a stage and talk! 📢