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IPFS News Link • Communications

Deliver the Perfect Presentation

• Wired
The success of any presentation relies on a few factors: great content, an engaging presenter, and a seamless technical performance. Here's a primer on how to combine all three for a knockout presentation.
Study the masters.
Before you even start building your presentation (or "deck"), study the masters: Steve Jobs and Al Gore. They're both famous for turning a potentially dry format -- a slide show on a stage -- into a powerful and inspiring performance.
Just cue up a video on the web of Jobs or Gore presenting. Within a few minutes, you'll understand why both are known as "rock star" presenters. They move around the stage, making eye contact and speaking directly to attendees. They speed up their vocal delivery to build momentum, and slow it down to drive emphasis. Their slides are full of impressive graphics and facts that illustrate their points. They're passionate. They're confident. They're funny. Watch them work and analyze why they're so good. It's a great tool for creating your own presentation.
Ditch the podium
Here's your new mantra: walk, talk, and engage. Pay attention to the way Jobs and Gore walk across the stage as they address the crowd. They're dynamic. They use hand gestures. They stop, make a point, deliver a slide, and move on. They're constantly engaging the audience.
Design, design, design
Don't rush to the computer to start writing your presentation; design it offline first. Work out the main message of your talk and build your presentation around it. Using one piece of paper per slide, write some quick notes on what the audience should know after that slide has been presented. Once you have decided what the audience should know, you can go back and design how you are going to tell them. Engaging talks make use of stories, images and restraint. Weaving your set of slides into a logical narrative will fix your ideas in the minds of the audience long after the talk has finished. Images are more easily consumed than lists of text. In this experiment, two groups of students saw equivalent presentations and the group that saw more slides, with less text per slide, retained twice as much information as the other group. Knowing what to leave out is key. What is not on a slide is as important as what is. Restrain yourself. Less is definitely more.
Another great way to plan and design your presentation is creating a MindMap first. There is a lot of great open source/freeware software around to do just that (Freemind, Cmap Tools, iMndmap, yED, Xmind, ...).
It'll help you make up your mind about WHAT you actually want to say in your presentation and HOW to deliver it.

Practice, practice, practice
Once you've built your deck of slides, it's time to practice. Sit in front of a mirror with your laptop at your side. Start from the beginning and work through your deck, presenting to yourself in the mirror. Make clear statements, but don't simply read what's on the slide -- this is a presentation, not a read-along. Create transitions that lead the audience into your next subject. Maintain a conversational and natural, yet confident tone. Be yourself -- don't speak or act like you think a presenter should. Imagine making eye contact with people in the audience when you're making a key statement.
Once you're comfortable in front of the mirror, ask your family if they will act as your audience. Use your laptop and a pocket projector to project your slides on a wall. Act as you would on stage: walk across the living room "stage," make eye contact, and speak directly to your audience. Then ask for feedback. Your wife may notice you're speaking too quickly; your son may point out that your slides are difficult to read. Though it may be slightly embarrassing, this kind of practice saves you from making bigger mistakes in front of a much larger, less sympathetic crowd.
Time everything
Find out what the allotted time is for your presentation. Then use a watch, or other timer, you when practice. And do it every time you practice. Set an agenda so you know what time you need to be at certain slides; this lets you micro-adjust during your delivery. If you go consistently over—or significantly under—your time limit, adjust your content or your delivery accordingly. Keep practicing and adjusting until you can deliver on target.

Start and end with a contact slide
The first and last slide in your deck should always have your name, e-mail address, phone number and appropriate web addresses. People should be able to contact you easily.
BYO equipment
Technical difficulties can drag down even the best presentations -- a projector isn't working, the client's laptop is on the fritz, or the file you sent via e-mail was "lost."
Be self-sufficient. Bring your own laptop, a USB stick or SD card with your presentation on it, and carry a pocket projector. They are small and light enough to not weigh you down, and you can plug a USB stick directly into one and present without a laptop if you need to.
With all those elements in place, you can plug in, fire up your presentation, and project it without any additional assistance. (Remember to practice with the same gear you take to the presentation. This isn't the time for last-minute surprises.)