This happens to me often. I read an abstract and then cannot wait to attend the presentation. However, about five minutes into presentation, I realize it's going to be Death by PowerPoint. If you have experienced this situation, it can feel like a prison!
Instead of learning a cool new technique, I find myself making To Do lists on the conference brochure or working on my Angry Birds score. Let’s face it, some of the topics we discuss lean toward the dry side. However, the SAS Global Forum is full of colleagues who think these dry topics are interesting! So how do you deliver a presentation that keeps interest?
We all like puzzles or little mysteries to solve. You may think – how can I make a mystery about SAS code? You type the code and run it - nothing that requires Sherlock Holmes. Remember not all mysteries require a dead body; some are more subtle but still have the same impact.
So, let’s figure out how to add mystery to your topic. If your paper is about writing efficient code, how about starting the presentation with a picture of an impatient person? You could introduce your subject matter that way instead of just cutting-and-pasting the abstract in the slide. If your topic is about troubleshooting techniques, you could have a log with the error and begin your presentation. This is one example of how using a picture introduces mystery. The audience wants to know more – why is the person impatient? What’s wrong with the log? Ah, elementary my dear Holmes!
A presentation is about demonstrating expertise on the subject matter. Think about what happens when the audience sees the slide on the left. First, they start reading the text. They can read faster than you can speak so the audience already knows what you are going to say!
You might be thinking – how is that problem for me? Well, at some point someone will think, “I need to bounce. I don’t need this joker to read his paper to me.” My point is this - your audience wants to hear your explanation and learn more about what the paper did not discuss. Keep your talk at the summary level and create some mystery.
Communicate Key Concepts
Garr Reynolds, author of Presentation Zen, has excellent ideas on organizing your information so it is effective and interesting. One tip is “Start with the End in Mind” – what is the purpose of your presentation? What do you want the audience to walk away knowing? Don’t say “transfer knowledge”-you can accomplish this goal by publishing your paper.
Ask yourself - what is unique about my topic/method or what three things do I most want to communicate from my paper? You can build your presentation around those three points using as many slides as you need. Possibly, you want to consider a demonstration of the method.
Use the 7x7 Rule to Start
A common suggestion for slide preparation is the “7 x 7” rule - limit each slide to seven lines of seven words each. However, that is still a lot of text. Consider the following slides, which follow the rule, but the one on the left uses the rule I like – limit yourself to six words and limit the bullet points.
Again – it is about you connecting with your audience. [More tips from Garr]
Here are books that discuss preparing topics for presentation:
- How To Deliver A TED Talk: Secrets Of The World's Most Inspiring Presentations by Jeremey Donovan
- slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations by Nancy Duarte
- Presentation Zen Design: Simple Design Principles and Techniques to Enhance Your Presentations by Garr Reynolds
Here are some other resources from around the Web:
- Pimp my PowerPoint – eight PowerPoint presentation tips!
- Presentation Zen Tips from Garr Reynolds
- Presentation Tips
- How to Present Technical Information Effectively