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Ways to torpedo a presentation

Ways to torpedo a presentation

  • We've all attended bad presentations, but that doesn't mean we're doomed to give them.

    Find tips for creating and giving a good presentation in TechSoup's articles How to Design a Bad Presentation and How to Deliver a Bad Presentation and share your own personal presentation pet peeves here.
    senior editor, TechSoup
  • Visuals are so important!
    I have a screencast about how to use flickr to find good visuals as well as a roundup on presentation design advice
  • Having music in a PowerPoint is almost never a good idea. Also, all slides should be numbered.
  • Take a look at your presentation from an appropriate distance before you go "live".

    That 8 point font might look great on your computer from 18 inches away, but the people in the cheap seats are going to be mighty disappointed.

    Also, colors will NOT look the same via a projector as they do on your monitor. You might think that your trendy color combination is fantastic, but until you see it on the big screen you just don't know for sure.

    Finally, show the presentation to other people who do NOT have a mastery of your subject matter. Ask them if they "get it", or if you are either underestimating or overestimating the experience or knowlege of your end users.

    As for length, an old professor told me that it should be like a ladie's skirt. Long enough to cover the subject, but short enough to make it interesting. Hey, it was his quote, not mine!

    Tim Claremont
    Systems Administrator
    Rochester, NY

  • My tips:

    [*]Start out by telling audience what you'll tell them. End with a recap.
    [*]When using PowerPoint, turn off screen saver, email and reminders, IM, and PowerPoint's right-click menu.
    [*]Provide a URL for handouts.
    [*]End with questions.
    [*]Repeat any questions.
    [*]Use 6 bullets per slide max.
    [*]Fewer slides is better than more slides. I plan on 2 - 3 minutes for any slide that has content (as opposed to a title slide). For a 60 minute presentation, I aim for 15 - 20 slides, plus 5 minutes for intros and 15 minutes for Q&A.
    [*]Speak from handouts with small groups -- not PowerPoint.
    [*]Don't depend on technology. Be prepared to do your presentation even if your PowerPoint fails.
    [*]Know your audience -- what do they expect?
    [*]Look at people -- make eye contact.
    [*]Don't walk around too much. But don't stand frozen.
    [*]Don't walk in front of the projector.
    [*]Only look at the screen when you want everyone to look at the screen
    [*]Check the room out before you speak. Put up your slides then sit down at the farthest point away from the screen.
    [*]28 point type or smaller is very small 40 feet away.
    [*]If your voice is not powerful use a mic.
    [*]Ask everyone if they can hear you.
    [*]Get a wireless mouse or presentation controller -- it saves you bouncing back to the laptop or saying "next slide".[/*]

    I also highly recommend Andy Goodman's book (and workshop) "Why Bad Presentations Happen to Good People." His web site says the book is available for free to "full-time public interest professionals." Details are here.

    He's also been presenting webinars on the topic. The one he gave for NTEN was archived here but it costs $$ to get the recording.



    Forum Moderator
    Robert L. Weiner Consulting
    Strategic Technology Advisors to Nonprofit and Educational Organizations
    robert [AT] rlweiner [DOT] com

  • A couple more tips,

    Remove keys, coins and stuff from your pockets. You don't want to jingle while walking around giving your presentation. You also don't want a nervous hand jingling keys either.

    Use a "parking lot pad" to note comments or questions that are outside the scope of your presentation. This lets the questioner know you care about the question but lets you stay on track with your presentation. You can go back at the end and address the items on the pad, or deal with them after your presentation.

    "I don't know but I will find out for you" is an acceptable response, provided you don't have to use it too many times in your presentation.

  • Two killer phrases I always have to watch myself for:

    1) "and, uh" A silent pause to breathe and collect your thoughts is infinitely preferable to multiple "and, uhs."

    2) "like" (when not used as a verb, but as a pause or substitute for the word "is"). This is one I'm guilty, guilty, guilty of. Again, I find it's helpful when I remind myself to slow down and focus--the likes tend to pop in more the more rushed I get.


    Megan Keane

    Follow me on Twitter: @penguinasana or connect with me on my website.

  • On that note, every organization has a number of "watered down phrases" that are so overused that they have lost all impact. If you want to keep your presentation "fresh" then try to resist the urge to use the (insert your buzz words here) phrase any more than necessary.

    People will maintain their attentiveness if your presentation does not contain a lot of the "same old stuff". On the other hand you will lose them quickly if they get the least bit of notion that they have heard it all before.

    Tim Claremont
    Systems Administrator
    Rochester, NY

  • And for pete's sake, sound excited about what you are presenting. If you aren't interested, your audience won't be. 
    NonProfit Technology Consulting

  • Thanks to Beth Kanter for pointing me to theSlideshare "Death By Powerpoint (and how to fight it)". Definitely worth checking out.



    Forum Moderator
    Robert L. Weiner Consulting
    Strategic Technology Advisors to Nonprofit and Educational Organizations
    robert [AT] rlweiner [DOT] com

  • Don't rely on your laptop or projector. Have a backup plan in case the computer fails, the bulb burns out, or the power goes out. Print out your slides and notes and be prepared to switch seamlessly to your paper backup in case of technical failure.