Exposing your idea supported by a presentation can be considered a form of art. It implies a creation and an exposition moment; like for any other artistic creation process an idea drives the conception and a good dose of practice can help to better describe the artist intention.

For this reason, during the years, I tried to develop a personal “Aesthetic Theory” of Doing A Presentation. In this “Theory“, beauty is related to three different but related factors:

  • efficacy
  • clearness
  • simplicity

To arrive to our goal, that is get as much closer as possible to the beauty, we can distinguish three different moments:

  1. Analysis time: it starts with your commitment to write a presentation, till the moment you start doing it.
  2. Creation time: it is all the time you spend creating the presentation.
  3. Presentation time: it is the moment of the truth, when you go live with your presentation.

Analysis time

Now you know you have to work on a presentation, your scope in this phase is to support the creation and presentation time by finding out all the necessary information required to do a good job. For example you should start going around to talk with the right persons and ask:

  • What is the goal: that is crucial; be sure you understand what attendees expect to get from the meeting, and write a few questions that represents this goal. At the end you will be able to judge if it has reasonably answered the good questions.
  • Who will attend the meeting: set the amount of information, the technical language and the style of the presentation in relation to the expected audience. Do not bother project managers with Java Classes diagrams and do not show ROI and investment diagrams to business analysts.
  • What is the timing: use mathematics, always! You have 10 minutes? if you prepare 30 transitions (slides) you will have only 20 seconds for each. Consider this at the beginning and correctly dimension the presentation to fit in the time.
  • Is there any reusable artifact: search previous presentations, try to reuse diagrams. Do not invent but reuse. The same concept should always be shown within the same layout to create standardization.

Creation time

You can create your presentation in plenty of ways, just drawing or sketching on paper, using MS Project, Prezi, Flash, JavaScript… it does not matter what you use, choose the one you dress better, those tips are always useful:

  • Create an Agenda: put yourself on the place of your listener, would not you like to know before jumping in it how long will last the presentation? And how many arguments will be discussed? And if there are planned pause? And if there will be some interactions?
  • Create an attractive narrative flow: a presentation is not simply a list of things put together, it will not work if there is not a narrative flow in it. Just like when you are watching a movie, if it starts with the end, what would you expect to see in the remaining 90 minutes? For example: if you know what really interest your listener, create a crescendo and bring it slowly to that piece of information. This will help to keep high the attention (does not it work with the Maurice Ravel Bolero?)
  • Put explanatory titles: whenever you are showing a piece of information do not forget to put a good title that express the content of the information. Avoid cryptic titles that just brings to confusion.
  • Avoid jumping slides: do not create slides that jumps and breaks the normal flow, is like using goto in your code!!!
  • Standardize, Harmonize: Titles, colors, texts, pictures, diagrams… all artifacts should be standardized or harmonized to create a nice view experience of uniformity. Even if is simple, avoid to put together different presentations or you will finish to create a Frankestein presentation (monster).

Presentation time

Finally is the day, you are sure of your arguments, your presentation supports it well and you have attendees in front of you. Do not forget to:

  • Expose the Agenda: you wrote an agenda so do not forget to expose it now, it can seems stupid but is not! Say how much time it will take, how many slides there are, how many arguments you will discuss. All that will help your listener to keep high attention because he knows what he will expect.
  • Read titles: you also wrote titles, your listeners will read them so do not forget to take some time to read it together with him and give extra explanations if necessary.
  • Expose each slide: whatever is in your slide will take the attention of your listener, so do not simply pass and ignore it; actually you should explain all is there, because if you added it means that it has importance. Otherwise it means you are adding artifacts for nothing?
  • Follow the agenda: avoid to jump to slides that are at the end, or change at run time the flow. Follow the agenda and everything will be more clear.
  • Answer later if possible: it is normal, we want that: finally you have questions. If those questions are answered in later slides answer that you will cover the topic later, otherwise note the question and answer at the end. If necessary you can answer at run time but avoid to open big discussions.
  • And last but not least remember that a presentation is not your personal show. So do not forget to put all your efforts on listening both verbal and non verbal languages to grab good feedbacks.

What is your opinion? Surely is not a complete list, there is more and more to discuss, so what would you add?

Marco Di Stefano (21 Posts)

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