COMP 523

Presentation Tips

Given the number of presentations in this class, it seems appropriate to give you a few presentation tips.

The most important tip is "practice, practice, practice." Walkng through the topics that you are planning to cover IS different than practicing. Standing up and doing a dress rehearsal will create a polish and smoothness to your presentation that simply can not be gotten any other way. Trust me, "I know what I'm going to say" is not the same as saying it outloud. You want to present to someone; because you are working with teams, you have a built-in audience, but if need be speak to a chair, but do it outloud. And when you practice, use the visuals that you plan to use and do the demos that you plan to do.

Be sure that your presentation is structured in a logical way and that the sudience can recognize the structure. That does not mean that you need an agenda chart but it does mean that you need to transition the presentation in a way that the audience understands. If they start wondering how this relates to what you were just talking about, you've lost them.

The next most important point is the appropriate use of visuals. The audience needs something to look at other than you. Most people are visually oriented and if you don't give them something to look at, they will find something else to look at (their laptops, their phones, the homework for the next class, ...). On the other hand, do not give them so much content on the visuals that they don't need to listen to you. They can read the chart faster than you can speak it. If it's all there, they will read it and then "tune out". So what should be on visuals? Pictures! They may be diagrams, tables or graphs that help you explain your point; they may be bullet items -- think short phrases on -- to reinforce the key points of what you are saying. Or they mey be pictures that willgive the audience a visual to relate to what you are saying; this can be a directly relevant image or one that creates a humorous link for them. (Show me a penguin and I think Linux or a dolphin and I think phpMyadmin. There's a reason companies use logos!) Also think about how many visuals you want. Provide some variety, but don't flip so fast that they are ineffective.

Just as important as the visuals, is your enthusiasm and deportment. Be sure that you are excited about what you are talking about. If there are interesting things and uninteresting things in your topic, focus on the interesting parts. The audience feeds oiff of your passion and enthusiasm and is brought down by a flat presentation. Similarly, if you seem to not be talking the presentation seriously, neither will the audience. Think about your posture, where you are standing, where you are looking, and any behaviors that will distract your audience.

For presentations that include demos, a well-structured demo is the next most important component. We've talked about the danger of live demos. It is a risk-reward tradeoff. It is a good idea to have screenshots for backup, but the live demo is much more effective. Having an audience member help with the demo can also be effective, but only if it is well down. No one wants to watch you type or hassle with the operating system. You need to have everything ready to go. While you may want to show inputting data, just input a little. have the data you retrieve be more substantive and already there. Two other important points: make sure that the audience can see the demo and if you are using visuals at the same time, its better to have them on a second display rather than flipping between the screens. This can be a very effective tool if you are able to show what you are demoing while you demo it.

Finally, if you are giving a team presentation, it should feel like a team presentation. Beyond introducing yourselves, think about the role each person plays on the presentation. When one person does most the speaking or one person barely speaks at all, the audience notices!