Last Minute Presentation Tips

By now (we hope) you have fine-tuned your slides and demos, and are feeling very comfortable and confident in the material you are going to present at PASS this week.  There are a lot of things that go into preparing for a live presentation, and there are a lot of bad examples out there.  One of my favorite blogs on presentation skills is Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds.  Absolutely fabulous tips for any type of presentation (technical or otherwise).  But it's probably too late to radically overhaul your slides and incorporate all of his recommendations, so here are a few simple, last-minute tips to make this one better and get you started in the right direction for your next one.

  1. Do NOT read your slides to the audience.  They are already busy trying to read your slides for themselves and having you just repeat what is already there on the screen makes you an unimportant part of the presentation.  Instead, simplify the text on your slides and then fill in the gaps for people.  Be the source, and provide background information as well as expanding on the simple points in your slides.
  2. Unless your presentation is all about the features and benefits of Intellisense or SQL Prompt, do not type during your demo.  Typing while everyone is watching you is harder than it sounds, and the audience quickly begins to feel like you are wasting their time.  Have your code pre-written (and tested!).  Then you can highlight key parts and explain the magic of your code rather than spend your time trying to re-type the syntax you finally got working last night.
  3. Act excited about your topic.  You picked it, so you should be excited about it...or at least interested.  You don't have to be doing a cheer or trying to hype the crowd, but don't talk like you're bored to death, either.  Maybe this is the 95th time you've given this talk, but it's the first time we have heard it, so try to keep it sounding fresh and interesting.
  4. Increase your fonts.  There is a huge difference between you sitting 18 inches from your monitor and the guy or gal sitting 100 feet away from the screen.  Even with a large projection screen, bring your fonts up to something in the range of 36 so that it is EASY for everyone to read.  In SQL Server Management Studio, go to Tools, Options, Fonts & Colors...  Remember to set the size for the Text Editor and the Grid Results and Text Results.  If you are demonstrating some other specific feature, such as Query Plans, remember to adjust the font for that feature as well.
  5. Respect the Clock.  You were allotted a set amount of time for your presentation.  The entire schedule of events is designed to give people enough time to get from session to session, but also to give the most bang for the buck.  I understand that you are excited about your topic (see point 3 above) and that it is the most important thing that anyone will ever hear at the entire conference...but respect the clock.  It is rude to run your session overtime, holding hostage the members of your audience.  Sure, some people will get up and leave, but some are actually interested in everything you are trying to squeeze in, and others are just too shy to walk out.  You're messing with their schedules and their ability to get a good seat in the next session they want to attend.  And you're messing with the schedule of the next speaker scheduled in your room.  So wrap-up on time.  Or better yet, wrap-up early so there is plenty of time for people to ask questions.  Which brings us to...
  6. Similar to the writer's credo to Omit Needless Words, you should use fewer slides.  You probably don't really need all those slides you've put in your deck.  You're not going to read them to the audience (see point #1) and if your audience is busy trying to read all that stuff, they aren't listening to you.  This isn't a book.  And it should not be a slideument.  Purge some slides and create yourself some breathing room to ensure you end on time, and even better, have time for a little Q&A.

There's still time to make your whole presentation better by implementing just a couple of these.  And your audience will thank you for it.  Especially if you're speaking at the end of the day.  So let's help each other out, that's what a conference like this is all about, and make this the best one we've ever had!

posted @ Monday, November 17, 2008 10:10 PM


Comments on this entry:

# re: Last Minute Presentation Tips

Left by Lee Potts at 11/18/2008 7:44 AM
One other last minute presentation tip: Never, ever show up at the last minute if you are a presenter. Show up early and make sure all the technical aspects of the presentation are taken care of. It’s hard to give a good presentation if you're flustered and starting 15 minutes late because you couldn’t get your presentation to work on the venue’s AV system,or the sound system isn’t working or the network connection is down or...

The list of potential problems is basically endless, but a great majority of them are no big deal if you allow enough time to recover should they occur.
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