There were many great sessions and many great speakers at the PASS Summit this year in Texas, but most of the sessions I went to seemed to have one bad thing in common: too many slides.
Sure, I know it can be tough to gauge how long it will really take you to go through your whole presentation. And unfortunately, as computer geeks, we have a tendency to want to spell everything out, which leads to making a lot more slides than we really need. You can further complicate the situation by deciding to take questions throughout your presentation instead of at the end. Many of the speakers I saw who did not get through their whole slide deck, actually did cover almost all of their material, including items that were on later slides, while they were doing their talk. Unfortunately, because they did not get through their deck, it appeared to many in the audience that they missed out on some information.
So here's my suggestion for any future speaker...use FEWER slides and more commentary. And don't be afraid of getting done early, you can always open the floor for more questions. And honestly, nobody is going to be upset with you if you finish 5 minutes early, but if you go just a minute or two late, you'd be surprised how anxious people can get, especially if it's right before lunch or the last session of the day. Oh sure, if you only used 10 of your allotted 75 minutes, you might have some angry people on your hands, but if you use the majority of your time, you can finish early and keep everyone happy (and you'd be surprised how much better your evaluations would be, too). Remember, you want to leave them wanting more, not wanting to leave.
One way to pare down your slides would be to put some of the additional information in the speaker notes section of your slideshow, and make it available for download. And if you're really worried about finishing too early, then make a note or two for yourself about some “extras” that you can cover if you have the time, but leave them out of the main deck.
Oh, and one more thing...if you're going to be so bold as to open the floor to questions throughout your presentation, then learn how to control the room and keep things moving so you don't get bogged down in Q&A and never get your presentation completed.
posted @ Monday, October 10, 2005 9:33 PM