Thursday, 17 June 2010

Getting Presentations to work for you

After getting a bummer on a few lectures, I finally figured out a few tricks the hard way. Keep the audience restricted to a number who are most likely interested in the topic of the presentation. Human attention span is impressively short, if I have a 50 slide presentation (even if it were pictures) I know I need to cut down and focus. I find a 15 minute time line useful to have focus on a topic. After this I've learnt to move to an activity, usually a game or something that everyone (including me) thinks is fun. Everyone gets involved for a while. Then we get back to another 10 or 15 minute presentation. I looked up Guy Kawasaki's 10/20/30 emphasis.

Pictures are good on slides but animations (relevant to the topic) on the pictures are even better. Background music that's soft, almost barely audible also helps. Presentations in the afternoon are meant for sleeping. Activities can happen any time and a short message while everyone is at play is a nice trick to squeeze a presentation in. I've managed 6 hours with the tricks for one full day. The most important thing is to get feedback. The first session ought to be short and only for feedback.

If you can have a video of yourself presenting, that's cool, it gives you the right view of what's going on. Everyone (if they're old enough) can give their opinion on the presentation (Feedback forms ought to be short and easy to fill, no "writing text", just check boxes or simpler stuff.) I figured out that getting voice to work with the environment's audio setup (with or without a microphone), the presentation system, any video backgrounds or music or sound effects (used sparingly) ought be checked out.

Everyone (kids and adults) like to play or do something which fits their idea of fun. A presentation works if people get involved by doing something more than talking. Breaking my earlier rant on this topic, people generally pay less attention to a presentation prepared earlier because they never saw us spend time making one. Surely they aren't imagining how hard it would've been when they see the presentation. The only answer to this is to make presentations with lesser effort graphically.

Here are the things I've finally figured to stay out of. Never start the presentation by starting your favorite presentation software. This used to be magicpoint, later I tried out Microsoft PowerPoint for all the cool effects and made this mistake. The Presentation ought to be made as a story board or a flow diagram on paper and has to be imagined or acted out before creating the cool aid. I found a few programs like SmartDraw which claim to help creating story boards without actually showing any presentation. I haven't used them, but I guess that'd be cool. I am also trying to figure out what Tom Hanks (playing Robert Langdon) in the movie The DaVinci Code uses during his introductory presentation on symbology in the movie. I haven't seen the movie on HD, so I can't guess from the stills.