Friday, February 26, 2010

Perfect your Presentation - Get rid of slides randomly?

[This is another guest post by a reader who as been there from the very beginning - about two months ago. You too can send a guest post hit up the comment links below.]

This fits in with the post about Gladwell writing out his entire talk and then memorizing. He basically practices a lot before speaking. The following tip came from LifeHacker and was written by Alex Croft. His overall idea is that if you know your talk well then if something goes wrong you can still make the talk stick. His intuition is to practice this by having someone remove a random slide (or note card) form your presentation - can you still get through it without going through the Uhhh ohh Umm - or giving the AV guys the Neck Crane? (Seriously if you don't now what the Neck Crane is you need to click on that previous link). We have all been there where the video will not play on the powerpoint, or that codec which you tested a hundred times before the talk will not work, or the mic go off - but if you practice it ahead of time you can make it stick.

I was at a microbiology seminar this afternoon where a researcher was giving a presentation via PowerPoint. After a few slides a crucial diagram failed to show up over the projector. I would have gotten flustered and cursed the Microsoft Office for Mac gods. This presenter didn't though. She just walked over to a nearby whiteboard and drew out the entire diagram from start to finish, explaining as she went along. This turned out to be a much more effective way to describe her system than even a perfectly constructed PowerPoint slide ever could. Even more effective? Everyone was impressed how well this presenter knew her stuff—it was a very complex diagram.

It's one thing to follow something already on a PowerPoint slide. It's another to recall it completely from memory under pressure and technical malfunction.

This got me thinking. A spectacular way to practice a PowerPoint presentation would be to have someone eliminate one of your slides, or a section of a slide. Then, run through that altered presentation and see if you can compensate for the missing material. This will make you feel more confident about your presentation, and help you avoid being flustered if everything doesn't run smoothly. You know you can never trust a PowerPoint.

We all know that practice makes perfect, but this method takes it one step further—being able to practice your presentation with slides is one thing, but knowing the material so well that you don't even need the slides really shows your stuff (and, if you do have problems, it shows that you know how to keep cool under pressure as well). Got any other tips for perfect presentations? Share them in the comments.

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