How to give great presentations – 4 Tips

Posted on April 19, 2011


better_presentationsI had a blast at the Boston BarCamp 6, held on April 9 and 10 at the Microsoft NERD Center in Cambridge. BarCamp Boston is one of those unconferences, meaning it’s organized on the fly by the attendees and for the attendees. BarCamp is one of the geekier unconferences, with a lot of the presentations about programming. But, there’s something for everyone. I’ll be doing a series of blog posts about the sessions I attended.

The first session was called, “How to give a presentation that people will learn from.” Jonathan Vaudreuil presented. Jonathan works with start-ups and small businesses on sales and marketing strategies.

Jonathan highlighted three key ideas for giving great presentations.  The fourth idea is mine.

1. Break everything down into 7-10 minute chunks.

The brain needs time to process what it has just heard. After about 10 minutes of talking, you’ll start to lose people. You then need to do something at that 10 minute mark to get people’s attention again. Using an effective transition into your next concept works well. Tie the transition into people’s emotions.

Jonathan illustrated this perfectly as he started his presentation by asking the audience if they remembered being back in school and daydreaming during a boring lecture. Then all of sudden realizing that you’ve missed most of the lecture and panicking that you’ve missed something important.  This was definitely something most of us could relate to.

2. Tell a story to make your point.

Why is this topic important to people?

What problems to they have and how can you help solve these problems?

What gets you excited about this topic?

If you don’t have story, use a proverb or a one sentenct lead.

People relate to stories.

3. Present the big idea first , then go into the details.

People will at least hear the main point before they start to lose attention.

And last but not least, my personal advice for giving better presentations:

4. Go easy on the Powerpoint.

Use bullet points for goodness sake! Don’t recreate your entire presentation on your slides.

Bullet points are for highlighting the key points; they should be short; one sentence at the most.

Even better yet, forgo Powerpoint and talk from the heart.  Jonathan did this and it was very effective.

Do you have any  tips on creating great presentations?  If so, I’d love to hear them.

Photo courtesy of o5com’s Flickr Photostream under Creative Commons Licensing.