I’ve had the opportunity to give numerous presentations at work, and recently, have started giving presentations at the local .NET user group. I’ve gathered a few tips, some I’ve (painfully) figured out myself, and some graciously passed on from co-workers.
Ensure that you get to your presentation location early, especially if you are using the network or a projector. These two elements add unknowns and configuration hassles that are sure to take longer than you think. Even if you are presenting at a location you’ve presented at many times, get there early. Nothing is worse than showing up just in time for your presentation only to find out that the computer that is always there, isn’t. Trust me, it happens.
It helps to know what you’re going to talk about ahead of time. Practice your presentation at least once, if only mentally. Be knowledgeable in your topic, as questions will likely come. Know how long it will take to get through the material. You don’t want to be the proverbial deer in the headlights.
Prepare your computer
Consider creating a demo user. Your daily user account, especially if a personal laptop, may disclose personal information or stuff you’d rather not show your audience. Especially if your audience is your client. And your laptop name is SpongeBob. Do realize that you may need to setup your development environment again. And that can cause issues. But ideally, that only has to happen once.
Don’t play hide and seek
Your audience is there to see something you are presenting. If you are hidden behind the computer, you won’t be as engaged with your audience. No matter how good your material, a voice from behind the computer will be tough sell.
What are you doing?!
You want your presentation to be remembered for what you presented. Not that nervous hand movement, not the fidgeting, and not the fast talking. In short, remove the distractions. It’d also be nice to remove the “um” and “likes” from your vocabulary.
Your mom was right. It does matter what you wear. If you are presenting to clients, consider dressing your best. Also know what their dress code is. If they have casual Fridays and you roll in dressed in a three-piece suit, you may be done before you start. If your audience is a user group or similar presentation, consider something a little more casual. Too casual and you may lose credibility. When in doubt, see what others before you are doing.
Say what you will about PowerPoint, but chances are some sort of presentation software will be a part of your presentation. If borrowing a computer, make sure it has the right software to display your MS Office 2012 PowerPoint XP Ultimate Edition file. PDFs also work.
A second thing to consider is your content on your PowerPoint. Know what is coming up. Have a printed outline to refer to, with speaking points in case you get lost.
If doing a demonstration in code, or demoing an application with complicated data entry, consider setting up “checkpoints”. If you get behind, run into problems, or can’t remember the exact way to get that rare-but-awesome scenario to occur in your application, you aren’t helping your cause. Compare this guidance to the cooking show that cooks a turkey in sixty minutes.
No happy clicks
When showing an application or the depths of some menu tree, don’t have a happy mouse. Move slowly so users can see what you are doing. Explain the actions verbally and any behind the scenes functionality.
Projectors show your picture really big. But if you are running 1080p with tiny fonts, half the room won’t be able to see it. Zoom in your application, or lower the resolution of your computer. Many IDEs have zoom modes built in. In Visual Studio 2010, just hold control and scroll the mouse wheel.
Plug in your laptop
Unless you get five or more hours, plug in your laptop. You don’t want to risk your computer shutting off. Which reminds me, make sure all your Windows Updates are installed. I once had a computer force reboot in the middle of a demo. It gave me a five minute countdown. I had ten minutes of material left.
Plan to stay afterwards to answer questions. Say thanks to anyone providing feedback, both good and bad.
Respect others’ time. Start on time and end on time. Speaking of which, this post has run a little long…
Got a tip I missed? Let me know!