Month: July 2007

Total 22 Posts

How To Present Well: Build Your Slides

Only here, at the end of our process, handouts complete, outline complete, am I ready to introduce PowerPoint Keynote to our system. The presentation is all but locked at this point. Keynote has very little room to mess things up.

But we need to get it out there, out into the open, intervention-style, that 90% of the time we use bullets, we use them to help us remember our presentation. 90% of the time you throw up a slide like this:

It’s because it helps you keep your presentation on track.

But presentation is very nearly a zero-sum game: anything that makes your experience easier as a presenter makes the experience more difficult for your audience. Any weight you shoulder, whether you’re memorizing or note-carding your talking points, whether you’re doing more with your handouts than printing out slides six-to-a-page, makes your audience’s experience more rewarding.

So I move carefully, evaluating each slide, wondering inwardly if slide x benefits me or my audience ’cause very rarely is it both.

Slides are only here, in this specific presentation, because there are things I have to show. I bust these clichés up, many times, by deploying careful visuals, some of which I have to recreate. I have to show them math basketball, fake or legit, miscellaneous questions, the pentagon problem. I have to show them these things.

I have to show them Kelly.


How To Present Well: Start Over

So we still haven’t touched the slides yet, which you oughtta find odd, particularly given my usual enthusiasm for slide work. Short of rehearsing rehearsing rehearsing, creating complementary visuals is the last stop in my process, only because, if my presentation can’t stand alone on text and speech, visuals won’t save it.

But we’re in a really good place. Fact is, even at this premature point, given what we have, I’m pretty sure our presentation is untouchable. We’ve got great handouts and a coherent outline. (Though I only posted the brain-dump draft of the outline back there.)

But now we throw the outline away.


How To Present Well: Build Your Handouts

Far harder than delivering the presentation is creating the handouts. It’s the hardest part of this entire process short of cooking up that awesome title two episodes back. Stay close.

We may have lost most presentation designers right here, in fact, ’cause when it comes to handout design most of them max out at hitting Print from PowerPoint’s file menu. These presenters take a low-resolution medium (PowerPoint slides; only a few lines permitted per slide) and port them to a high-resolution medium (paper; lots of lines permitted per page) without scaling up the content. An opportunity tragically missed.

Furthermore, lemme ask you, as a conference attendee, how many of those packets have you kept a day past the presentation? A year? We could work out some numbers real quick on the back of an envelope reflecting paper waste but the result, regardless of our estimations, is kinda sad, right? No one keeps those things.


How To Present Well: Think Less. Type More.

I started something in GoogleDocs and didn’t stop for five minutes. Put down your thoughts. Group thoughts into sentences, sentences into paragraphs. Schedule paragraphs so they don’t stray too far from the through-line.

For example, I wanted to discuss the cliché of good teachers assigning gross, indecipherable handouts to students and then expecting neat, decipherable work. That one’s several degrees off the trail, though, so I made sure to refresh our through-line immediately before and after it. It’s a dance. Leaving, returning. Expanding, retracting. You’re flirting with the through-line the whole way through.

This whole step would go without saying except so often it’s our tendency to build our presentations from the PowerPoint Keynote slides up. But Keynote has an immoral tendency to linearize complicated arguments, to break good thought into retarded bullet points. Keynote is still a couple days out.

Here is my brain dump, everything that struck me as interesting or worth sharing, listed in bullet points that do not proceed orderly from one to the next: