Over the past decade, I have developed and given many technical presentations that range from being cultural, based on depth of audience or on diversity in level of understanding. I have found that the art to a good presentation, is being able to adapt the content to the situation and deliver the content based on the audience perceived expectation. In this article, I will provide common tips that are very important for every developer as they prepare and present technical presentations.
Less experience = Practice your talks
There will always be a first time, there will always be anxious moments. As first time speakers, we need to kick the fear out and be confident when delivering a presentation. I am sure we all have been given the advice to practice, know your content and don’t read your slides. You want the audience to pay attention and believe what you are saying and leave the presentation with an understanding of the key points or ideas from your presentation.
As first time speakers, don’t try to overdo your content. Be prepared and mindful of your time. Many speakers have the tendency to talk or explain everything they have learnt in the short time they have. This makes the presentation longer, boring and most importantly we are bound to lose our audiences attention. An effective presenter is one who knows how to deliver a presentation in the limited time they have.
Setup and Cleanup
As developers I have seen many complain and get frustrated over when a demo goes awry. It is important to note that regardless if you are a beginner or a seasoned presenter, know your demo thoroughly and test it. There is no excuse for a failed demo or demo that doesn’t run. As part of your practice, rehearse your demos a number of times.
Know all the steps to setup a demo on a brand new laptop if required with all the artifacts. This is like safety net. In case the laptop crashes before your presentation (it has happened to me couple of times), we must be able to recover the situation as fast as possible.
Create a clean setup and cleanup script for all your demos so that you can start your demo at any time, from any situation. Carry the backup on a thumb drive or keep them safe on cloud drives like Dropbox, OneDrive etc.
Be mindful of people in the back of the room
Keeping sentences short and use effective presentation tools so that the presentation, audio, videos, etc. are clear to everyone in the room. A good rule of thumb is to keep sentences on PowerPoint (PPT) restricted to single lines with short descriptions. Learn to talk through your demo and do not read your PPT. Use the PPT to guide the train of thoughts.
While showing Demo, adjust the screen size or font to accommodate viewers that may be in the back of the room. Often times, code shown using IDE’s can be very small and difficult to read to people at the back. So please take special attention in using screen zooming tools like ZoomIt. Make sure you have the attention and interest of every single person in the room.
In large rooms, make sure your energy and enthusiasm for the topic delivered reaches the very last person in the room. Avoid bad posture and speaking in monotone- in other words, don’t bore your audience!
These 3 tips are life lessons learned from hundreds of presentations done in the past. Even seasoned presenters need to be mindful of these tips. These are common pitfalls and mistakes that each of us have made in our lifetime. Learning is a process, hope these learnings will help you become a better presenter.