6 Presentation Tips when you have a live audience

Lessons Learned from a seminar on genealogy

Recently, I attended a seminar at the Central Library titled “Writing up your Family History”. It was free, and it caught my interest, so I decided to go along to it.

During the seminar, I quickly realised that I was picking up so much more than just the subject matter.

6 Presentation Tips when you have a live audience

Commit yourself

This one is not actually a presentation tip. It’s something I do, if I can, when I’m in the audience.

During sessions like this, I always sit at the front of the room. There is a lot of value in this because I then feel that I am really involved.

As well as being able to see any slides, etc, clearly, and being able to hear the speaker clearly, I can “interact” with the presenter more. I make eye contact, and acknowledge that I am listening (with small actions such as head nods, etc).

As a result I feel that I am more receptive to what is being said.

Keep it Simple

The lady presenting was what I liked to refer to as a “library bod”. That is, someone who was fully immersed in the world of research and study.

In fact, she worked in the research section of the library. She was completing a PhD, and had written several historical papers, and was very knowledgeable.

However her language was simple, and the things she discussed were far from confusing.

Break up the presentation

The presenter broke her presentation into “chapters”. She would introduce the particular area that would be talking about with a PowerPoint slide (containing the title of that “chapter”, and then she just talked about it.

No further PowerPoint slides, no further distractions (however, I do comment further on this below).

Keep still

While the presenter was talking she stayed to one side of the room. She used her arms to help “explain” some parts of the speech, but she did not move around the room.

This meant that you could focus more on the message rather than the movement.

Know your stuff

Nothing new here. It was obvious that she knew her subject. I didn’t get a chance to ask whether she had practiced her presentation or not, but she certainly never faltered, or seem “lost”.

 Avoid “busy-ness”

I mentioned above that the presenter made minimal use of PowerPoint. She had a slide with the name of the particular area that was talking about, and that was it. This was left displaying until she changed to a new sub-topic.

Many of these slides, however, had impressive looking word clouds on them – in multiple colours. I found that I would try and read these, which distracted me from what was being said.

I think, in his case, just having the name of the sub-topic displayed would be enough.

Other observations

During the seminar, there were a few things that I found interesting.

The presenter was talking, at one stage, about styles, and the correct way to cite sources. She mentioned that there was a particular section of the library where books that covered these topics could be found. I found this interesting because, if it was me, I would turn first to the internet for advice. It did show the difference in the “worlds” we lived in. She works in a world of books, so her first instinct is to turn to a book. I live in a world of computers.

Another thing that I noticed was when she was talking about using Word to write material. In this case, she was expounding the virtues of the “Outline” function of MS Word. There was a screen shot showing on her slide, and she mentioned that his was the latest version of Word.

It wasn’t.

The screenshot was of Word 2007. However, this small error did not make one iota’s difference  to the material she was presenting, and, besides, the entire audience (apart from myself) were retired elderly people, for whom it would also not make one iota of difference.

All in all, I was really surprised by the seminar. I learnt a lot. Even some things about geneaology!


Want to learn more?

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The Power of Comic Books!!

In a more appropriate context, Rulah Jungle Go...


Comic Books are fun!

They are a great visual medium. And they are a great way to tell a story.

One of Jorge Cham’s latest editions in his PhD comic series is on an interview that was held with Keegan Lannon at Comic-Con. Keegan is a PhD student and is studying “the narrative of comic books“. (Yep – it seems that Comic-Con has an intellectual side.)

This edition struck me on many levels:

The Content

Keegan describes his study. It’s on how comic books tell stories. “What does the mind do as it scans across the page and sees all the words, and put something together. What can we learn about information and communicative process by the way narratives tell stories.”

Keegan has even created a Taxonomy of Word Functions in Comics:

  • Neurolingustic Text – Speech/Thought bubbles
  • Sound Effects – Motivated/Unmotivated
  • Narrative Text – Intra/Extradiegetic
  • Printed Text – Consequential/Incidental

Keegan provides an interesting description of the difference between films, books and comics.

One fascinating thing that resonated with me was the observation that Keegan made about the power of a graphic. People can write many, many words to describe something, when a good graphic and a caption can be just as powerful.

The Presentation

The way that Jorge put this edition together is amazing. Instead of just having a film of the interview, he made amazing use of various ways to present the information.

Jorge uses different ways of capturing various topics into panels. He also emphasises main points by adding speech bubbles, as well as extra drawings.

What could of been a mildly interesting way of capturing information from a PhD student is turned into something very, very captivating!

It’s a well spent 4 minutes and 43 seconds!

  • Comics for Learning

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The Truth about Every Presentation

This video  reveals the truth about every  PowerPoint presentation that has ever been made…



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Excellent point…Sucky PowerPoint presentations

How to avoid a PowerPoint presentation that sucks

Here’s an excellent presentation by Jesse Desjardins.

He makes some really great suggestions. So much so that I wanted to capture it on my blog. I just hope that more people actually “get” what makes a good PowerPoint presentation.

I just hope that more people actually “get” what makes a good PowerPoint presentation.

You Must Comply

I realise, however, that many people need to comply with some “corporate” standard. And, sometimes a PowerPoint presentation is created to be read, or viewed, at a later stage when the presenter is present. I’m not quite sure how to fit those types into the concepts that Jesse (and many others) are promoting.

And, sometimes a PowerPoint presentation is created to be read, or viewed, at a later stage when the presenter is present. I’m not quite sure how to fit those types into the concepts that Jesse (and many others) are promoting.

I’m not quite sure how to fit those types into the concepts that Jesse (and many others) are promoting. But if you have any ideas, please share them with us.

Watch Jesse’s presentation, and have a think about how a “corporate” (or a “stand-alone”) presentation can be created using these ideas…


You suck-at-power-point-jesse-dee-101103032057-phpapp02 from Beth Whelley


Want to learn more?

Below are a selection of resources that I personally feel are relevant to this blog post, and will allow you to get more in-depth knowledge. I do earn a commission if you purchase any of these, and for that I am grateful. Thank you. (Important Disclosure)


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Tips for creating Great PowerPoint slides

When I was at the European SharePoint Best Practices conference in London this year, I had the pleasure of meeting Ruven Gotz.

Ruven is a is a Senior Consultant & SharePoint MVP with Navantis, and gave an excellent presentation on “How to organise effective requirements gathering workshops“.

The subject was interesting, but what I was really impressed with, was the style of Ruven’s PowerPoint slides. They made me listen to what Ruven had to say (rather than switch off and just read what was on the screen).

Ruven’s style impressed me so much that I tried to emulate it recently. It wasn’t such a success.

Thankfully Ruven has just written a post on creating excellent powerpoint presentations.I strongly reccommend that you go to his site and have a read.

Ruven’s post: Can you read that at the back of the room?

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FirstDoc User Group – Vienna

I’m going to the FirstDoc User Group (FDUG) conference in Vienna, Europe, this year. (For those that are not familiar with FirstDoc, see the links at the bottom of this post).

Every year CSC hold the FirstDoc User Group conference – first in the US, and then in Europe.

I’m looking forward to it. I’ve been ask to present there so it’s time to put the old thinking cap on, and come up with an interesting way of presenting information. (I don’t want to bore people).

The agenda for the Europe conference hasn’t been posted yet, but the one for the US conference has.

The keynote speech will cover CSC’s Long Term Product Strategy. This will be interesting, as the ECM world is very much a lively, ever-changing thing at the moment, as each large EMC vendor morphs, and adapts to meet the ever-changing environment bought about by such things as SharePoint 2010, and cloud computing.

Next on the schedule is a case study – “Global Deployment”.  This will also be interesting as international companies are, and have been for awhile, looking at the challenges of multiple sites, located in disparate locations around the world. The challenges don’t just include the hardware side of distributed systems, but also taxonomies and metadata (ensuring that everyone uses the same vocabulary), etc.

In the afternoon, there will be a panel discussion by representatives of some of the large Pharmaceutical companies on Collaboration, and SPX. SPX is CSC’s technology that allows users to interact with their FirstDoc system from SharePoint. It consists of two parts – SPX web parts, and Wingspan’s DocWay server component that resides on a web service server (see my earlier post for details on this).
I’ve been involved with this technology for the last 4 years, and I am curious what will be covered here.

Later in the day there is also a discussion on FirstDoc Performance metrics.
Now, this is something that I would be very interested in.  How do you actually measure the performance of a system, especially when there are so many parts involved? For example, if a user is in SharePoint, and they use SPX to access documents that reside in a Documentum docbase, there is so much going on. If performance is poor, how do you actually pinpoint where the bottleneck is? I know that there are ways to get information back on the activities that occur, but this involves making some changes in the configuration, and is not really a simple thing to do. If I was there, this is one session where I would be scribbling notes. (I know – in these days, I should actually be typing notes into my iPad2).

At the end of the first day there will be a User Only session. In the first FDUG conference 2007, this session caused a little bit of concern. The idea was that the users would have a chance to talk frankly with the users about FirstDoc (at that stage FirstDoc was the name of the company also – it was bought by CSC in 2008.) However, the fact that there was someone from FirstDoc present in the room did not engender a feeling of openness. At later conferences this was less of a problem.

On the second day, there are more strategy, and users sessions culminating in product demonstrations.

Naturally there is also a social event planned, and this really gives the attendees the chance to mix, and get to know the others that are using the CSC products. There is an opportunity to share, and learn, from others who may be dealing with, or have dealt with, similar challenges.

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Next Post: FDUG – Europe – Review of the Agenda

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Frikkin’ Presentations

I’m trying not to get into the habit of just using someone else material as a post (even when giving them all the credit).

I know I’ve done this a few times recently. It’s because I have come across something that I really want to share.

This is one of those times.

Below is a link to an article entitled “Top 20 Reasons Presentations Suck and How To Fix Them“. Even though the format is in a series of slides that you have to click through, which I (and, looking at the comments, others) found annoying, there are still many good points made.

According to the text on the last slide “The more people who read this post, the fewer sucky presentations we’ll ALL have to sit through.”

So, have a look…

Top 20 Reasons Presentations Suck and How To Fix Them

Thanks to @The14Folder, who tweeted about this originally.

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Predicting User Acceptance

I‘ve been asked to help a friend with the design of a portal. Not just any type of portal, but one that will provide an alternative to using the standard “thick client”.

So, I started thinking about what I can do to really “sell” the portal to the users. What will make them WANT to use it, instead of the client that they are already familiar with.

During my studies for the AIIM course (mentioned in earlier posts), I read about the TAM.

The TAM is short for “Technology Acceptance Model“, and is a model that proposes that application usage and adoption can be predicted based upon two factors. Here is what the basic TAM looks like:

TAM User acceptance Technology Acceptance Model Percieved Usefulness Ease

So let’s look at it closer:

Perceived Usefulness can be defined as “the degree of which a person believes that using a particular system would enhance his or her job performance“.

Perceived Ease of Use as “the degree of which a person believes that using a particular system would be free of effort“.

These, together, influence the attitude of a user to a system, which in turn determines behavioral intentions and leads to actual system use.

So – what did I think of this when I first saw it? I thought “Duh!! That’s obvious.”

But then,as I though about it more, I realized that it IS obvious – if a user thinks something is going to make their job easier, AND they think that it will be effortless (not having to learn a new system, etc), then, of course, they are more willing to use it.

Now, the title of this post is “Predicting User Acceptance”. Because this is a model, lots of different values can be matched to each of the parts of the model, so that the outcome gives a mathematical value for the user acceptance.  That’s definitely gives something measurable. There are, in fact, a couple of documented examples where the TAM has been used to predict intranet/portal usage. I want to go into these in a future post.

Till then, the simplicity of the TAM has helped crystallize, for me, the real essence of user acceptance:

  • “Will this make my job/life easier?”
  • “Does it require effort to use?”

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Captain Kirk is killing Innovation

Captain Kirk is killing Innovation

Scott Berkun’s presentation

Once upon a time, Scott Berkun  gave a presentation on the Mythology of Innovation

I was really inspired by Berkun’s presentation. I watched it once, and then again, and then tried to make notes of what he was saying during the presentation.

Berkun talks about how much of what we know about innovation is wrong as he explored the history of innovation and creative thinking.

The notes I made take up eight pages. These are available via the links below. However, in a nutshell, Berkun points out that innovation is not some magical thing that just happens. It requires a lot of hard work, and a lot of failure. Often when we look at someone/something successful, we don’t see the work that was put in to get to that point.

Mythology of Innovation

Berkun gives many examples of people who are famous in history for their discoveries and points out that it is the “mythology” surrounding the discoveries.  We remember the discovery without being aware of the hours put in to get to that it. Two examples he gives are Newton who is remembered for discovering gravity when he got hit on the head by an apple, Archimedes who cried Eureka! when he was in the bath.

Two examples he gives are Newton who is remembered for discovering gravity when he got hit on the head by an apple, Archimedes who cried Eureka! when he was in the bath.

He goes onto to illustrate how failure is also a part of innovation. The Colosseum in Rome is lauded as being an amazing piece of architecture and shows what great builders the Roman’s were.

However, we don’t get to see the attempts that failed. They don’t exist anymore. Remaining are just the attempts that were successful. There are several modern examples also that include Google, Apple, Flickr.

Captain Kirk is responsible!

At one point in the presentation, Berkun claims that James T Kirk is responsible for killing innovation. Why? Because James T Kirk is the only modern day icon for exploration that we have today. The main story of exploration that is widely known is that of Captain Kirk, and the Enterprise and it’s ongoing mission to seek out new life, etc, etc.

The problem with this is that within the first few opening minutes of the program Star Trek, a new planet has been discovered. And then with the next few minutes, something exciting has happened. And so it goes on.

We don’t get to see the boring bits. We don’t get to see the time spent just trying to find a new planet. And this is what happens a lot in real life . A new “discovery” is being made. There is a lot of excitement, and then…nothing. This is because it usually takes years, and years, and years before the new discovery is something useful, viable, or commercially profitable.

As I mentioned, Scott Berkun’s presentation really caught my attention. He had a very dynamic way of presenting this information. I recommend you follow the links below to learn more.

My Notes from Berkun’s presentation

Scott Berkun’s presentation on YouTube

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