Strong opinions, weakly held

Presentation post-mortem

I gave my presentations earlier this week. The first presentation I gave did not go particularly well. I had written out the entire presentation by hand and practiced it many times, but then I actually brought the printout to the presentation and became a little bit too fixated on giving the presentation as written. Then the moderator turned out the lights in the room so people could see the projected slides and a I wound up having a very hard time following my written copy. I knew the presentation well enough to give it without the text, but not being able to see my printout caused me to be rather anxious. I don’t have a recording but at the end I had the sense that it did not go well.

For the second presentation I didn’t have time to write everything out. I wrote a detailed outline instead, and then just used my slides (which were very spartan) for the top level bits of the outline. For the details of what I was supposed to talk about with each slide, I used the notes feature of Keynote. That presentation went a lot more smoothly, and I was quite happy with it in the end.

The next time I give a presentation, I’ll write the whole thing out first. I like composing things by writing, and writing out a presentation gives you a very good idea how long your presentation will turn out to be. I was exactly where I wanted to be in terms of time with both of them. I used very simple slides, but I think they were effective. (I used “Lessig style” slides, but I wouldn’t say I gave my presentations in that fashion.)

Another thing I learned from watching other people is that presentations where you take a more informal tone and let your personality show through are better than presentations where you focus on getting the material out there efficiently. I think that comes from confidence more than anything, though, and I’d do better next time in that regard.

The toughest thing about these presentations is that I had no idea who I’d be presenting them to, other than that they would be attended by people who work in information technology. That made setting the technical level for the presentations complete guesswork, and I think that the actual presentations didn’t do as much as they could have for the audience because they weren’t necessarily given at the right level. I don’t consider that a personal failing, though, since I was in a position of having to guess.

If you are looking for presentation advice, I’d strongly encourage you to read the comments on my previous post about giving presentations. There’s some great advice in there.

1 Comment

  1. man! I can’t imagine giving a talk to an unknown audience. especially on technical stuff, where there’s a high chance of going over their heads or of boring them stiff. good for you to soldier through and get out of the experience what you could. you’ll be more confident next time as a result, and maybe the organizers will be better organized as well.

    congrats on pulling it off, however semisatisfying.

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