walls.corpus

By Nathan L. Walls

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Articles tagged “presentation”

Presentation lessons learned

Last week at BarCampRDU, I presented “Productivity of a Submariner.” At my day job, I wrote and presented “Maintainable Perl”. Both presentations went well. But, I wanted to dig through notes I made over the course of the week to help my future presentations, polish them a bit and share them.

Rehearse

I did two run-throughs of my BarCampRDU presentation with my wife. I found it awkward to actually start speaking. I had a mental block to starting. Thankfully, I didn’t have that issue in either of the live presentations, largely because I was aware of the potential. I got the ball rolling by engaging in small talk and went right into the presentation.

I also needed to recognize each slide and how to successfully transition between slides and points without skipping around the presentation. I suffered the issue in the “Submariner” rehearsals, but was satisfactorily minimized it going live.

The main lesson (re)learned is speaking is different than reading. I need to giving myself a run-through to hear myself speaking and identify what needs emphasis or a softer touch.

Put any links to online material in the first few slides

I planned my “Submariner” presentation poorly. With questions and discussions, I barely got though half of my material. But that’s OK. I learned from it, and I got great feedback on where people were having difficulty and concern in applying my idea to their own situations.

At the risk of sending people scurrying to download my slides and follow along, I’ll add a link to where my slides are earlier in the presentation. If time runs tight, people already know where additional resources are located. I’d repeat this at the end, too.

One mitigating factor; if it’s the first time I’m presenting, I can give the URL, but hold back the material itself until after the presentation.

Minimize failure points

“Submariner” was my first time using Keynote seriously. Of course, right after I bought iWork, I picked up the iPhone Keynote Remote app. It’s a swell idea. You see the slide on screen and the speaker’s notes. But, I discovered as BarCamp progressed, I had trouble connecting to the WiFi network in the room I was going to be presenting in. That rendered the Remote app useless since it only works via WiFi. I attempted to create an ad-hoc wireless network from my MacBookPro, but my iPhone had difficulty connecting to it.

While I would have liked to have used the Remote app, I should have packed the white Apple remote and paired it. It’s simple. It works.

All of this led to a mild panic before my presentation. I was hoping Keynote had functionality to display my speakers notes on the MacBookPro, but not on the projector. Sure enough, it has a speaker’s display, but under the gun isn’t the best time to hope the application can solve your problem.

Also, everyone says this, but be sure to bring a Mini DisplayPort to VGA or DVI connector. Projectors don’t have Mini DisplayPort cables that I’ve seen and hoping to find one at the conference is gambling. Of course, all of this can be rendered moot by not having slides at all and presenting naked.

Finally, bring water. It’s uncool to have your voice lock-up when your mouth is dry.

Know what time it is and how long you’ve been talking

Keynote’s speaker display has a clock and either a stopwatch or countdown timer. I go with the stopwatch. I want to know how long I’ve been speaking and a rough approximation of how much time I have left.

Know your pacing

Part of doing a presentation for the first time in a long time was correlating my slides to a total time to present them. I use slides as public guideposts for the presentation and the speakers notes as reminders for specific things I want to say. I didn’t know how long it was all going to take until I stopped writing and rehearsed. My initial inclination was to write more because I thought I’d fly through the material.

As previously stated, I ended up with roughly half (alright, two-fifths, really) of my “Submariner” slides untouched. Given the format of BarCamp, it’s natural people are going to ask questions. I didn’t allow for that.

Thursday, when I presented what I determined would be the first part of two or three of “Maintainable Perl,” I kept a rough eye on the clock. Overall, the presentation ended up at about two minutes per slide. That’s a great metric for me. When I write the next presentation, I know how much time I have, how much material I can cover and allow for questions and discussion.

Process

I had a vague recollection that OmniOutliner Pro could export as a Keynote file. Working over two presentations, I stopped writing incredibly detailed outlines and adding somewhat detailed notes. Top level items become slide titles. Each top-level items children become slide bullet points. By default, you get the presentation in a title/bullet master slide when there are sub-items and a title only master when there’s only the top level item. Notes on either a top level or a child element are treated as speakers notes.

It’s a bit different than how I typically use OmniOutliner Pro, but I find it a lot easier to manipulate the outline and make minor tweaks in Keynote.

For the themes I’ve used, I learned I need to keep the title of each slide short.

Another perspective

You may also be interested in Ignite Raleigh presenter Rafe Colburn’s series of posts on lessons he learned from presenting. They’re worth your time.

Productivity of a Submariner slides and links

I presented “Productivity of a Submariner” at BarCampRDU on August 8, 2009. My thanks to everyone who attended and asked thoughtful questions about how this might or might not work for them.

I’m OK with not making it through the entire presentation. I learned a lot from the questions, and next time, I know to know my environment and time things better. Regardless, I’ve posted the slides of the full, intended presentation as a PDF document.

I had to gloss over resources at the end, so here they are in link form:

I’d like to extend a very special thank you to my wife, @5x5 for her assistance in listening to the early run-throughs and offering advice in tuning my presentation. For what it’s worth, she warned me about letting the presentation run off the rails with questions.

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