What We Learnt About Presentation

It was a busy week last week. We were invited by KDU Penang to present a talk on blogging (yes, our second consecutive time) on 28 June in conjunction with their Literary Day.

As blogging is our pet subject, we decided to present 7 blog tips in the allocated 45 minutes. The way we figured, it’s usually best to talk for 30 minutes and leave 10 minutes to field questions from the audience, if any. The 7 tips would be just nice enough to tantalize and yet, provide value to the crowd.

Last year, we gave an overview of what blogging was but we didn’t provide handouts or notes. This year, we took the effort to produce a free downloadable PDF file for those interested in the notes.

There’s a good reason why we declined KDU’s offer of helping us xerox our notes – it’s commendable to reduce paper usage and we want to see how many people actually downloaded the file (website tracking is lots of fun and is real solid science). We did not want to give handouts only to see them trashed; anyway, that’s a huge waste of paper.

Also, our presentation slides this year were (we hope) vastly improved. In our early days of talks and presentations (business and academic), we followed what everyone did.

Put lots of bullets and text on the Powerpoint slide.

Show slide. (Horror too if you turned around, back to audience and READ the words out. Don’t do that! Your audience isn’t illiterate. They can very well read for themselves. We have seen this happen at some academic conferences so even the learned do this.)

Watch as audience read the words instead of listening to us!

That made us stop and think. The reason we were there was to give value by speaking. If we were there to show Powerpoint slides and read them, it was better for us to just pass the notes around!

So this year, we took a good look at what we usually presented and told ourselves that we really needed to do some zen presentation.

We needed to communicate with the audience and this meant a few things:

No Barrier Please
We requested to speak with a handheld microphone. No more standing behind lecterns! The audience can’t see us and the lectern is a barrier between us and our audience.

Only the Skinny
We made slides with minimal text. The most we had were 5 words on any slide. The core message was encapsulated in those text. And each slide came with a huge photo to illustrate the point we were making.

Acting Becomes You
We rehearsed at least twice. A good, spontaneous talk which engaged the senses is not so spontaneous after all. Yes, like any good actor, we need to act as if it was effortless. But it isn’t effortless. It took a lot of brain juicing.

Thinking, mindmapping, picking out the best 7 tips to present, writing a skeleton speech, rehearsing, crossing out unnecessary stuff, and yes, timing and pacing ourselves too. You don’t want to go overboard and bore your audience to tears. It’s best to be succinct and then field questions rather than go on and on and have an audience waiting to jump out of the hall the minute you say thank you.

We cannot claim to be experts but we keep learning and improving the craft of speaking. And we learn from people who do know what they’re talking about. You can check out Garr Reynolds’ website on PresentationZen (lots of tips) or our favourite, Guy Kawasaki.

If you want to check out some photos or find out who else was invited to speak at KDU Penang’s Literary Day, go to Krista’s personal blog for more. Yes, the free PDF file is available for download at Krista’s blog.

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