9 Tips how to give a technical presentation

Everybody can give a good presentation, if she is willing to invest enough time. Here are tips for giving technical presentations.

This means it’s about cold, hard facts. Most of these talks are bad and boooring. A good presentation is hard work, no trick.

1. Buy a book about rhetoric

It is not enough to read one article to give an interesting presentation. Who wants to be a good speaker has to look into speaking.

You could start with the classical The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Speaking.

2. Content is king

You need content. If you don’t have anything to say, keep quiet. Many presentations are quite unsubstantial and need a flashy presenter. This doesn’t apply to us.

The content must be tailored to the audience. What knowledge can you take for granted? Underestimate the knowledge, but never underestimate the intelligence of your audience!

Fill your presentation! Every minute they listen to you, should be worth it. Every sentence must be important.

You often hear the first n seconds are important. They are not. Nobody will leave the room after 60 seconds, but often i know after 60 seconds, whether the speaker intends to fill or use his time.

3. Slow and clear

We’re talking technical presentations. Not wedding oration, not sales pitch, not advertisement, not political speech. This means to omit the filling stuff and go right to the core. This should be also true for the other occasions, but it’s essential here.

Don’t say the same three times in a row with different phrasing. It is better

to speak

slooowly

and clearly

one sentence

after another.

Don’t read your content. Not from paper, not from beamer, not from screen. You have practiced enough to know your text by heart, haven’t you?

4. A good presentation has a climax

A good presentation has one -exactly one- climax. Try to summarize your content into one sentence!

Now minimize that sentence! It should have no comma and no “and”. Imagine your audience would memorize only one sentence from your talk – what would that be? You can say this. “If you keep just one thing in mind from my talk, keep this: A good presentation is hard work, no trick.

A good presentation has one -exactly one- climax. Don’t fear repetitions in this case. A good presentation has one -exactly one- climax.

The climax determines the rest of the content. Thus if you have your climax, you have a criteria, where you could shorten your talk.

5. Humor is permitted

Yes, you can joke. A funny picture to lead to another topic is permitted, as long as it isn’t too much and on topic.

Don’t laugh yourself! A speaker better has a wry sense of humor.

6. Slide design

You can find good tips at Presentation Zen. A nice rule of thumb is 6×6, though i favor 1×6.

Especially with a technical topic one is ensnared to use bullet points. It doesn’t help. It doesn’t stick. As the speaker, you will read the list point by point, with some intermediary “and” and “uh”, and bore the audience. Do it like Steve, not like Bill!

Animations? Cease and desist!

7. Darned technology

Beamers video projectors and laptops sometimes don’t get along with each other. Computers break. Shit happens.

Show up early and test the real equipment! Don’t trust this test and always carry an USB stick and your slides in pdf form with you.

Live demos are risky because of this. Sometimes it is worth this risk, sometimes it is not.

If it breaks, it’s your fault. Maybe it isn’t, but from the audiences point of view, it’s only you on stage. That directly leads to the next point:

8. Don’t apologize

Who is on stage doesn’t apologize. At least don’t say more than a quick “sorry”.

It doesn’t matter who or what is at fault. It is the responsibility of the speaker to cope with it. It only hurts your presentation in the end.

If you are quick-witted, you may joke about yourself, but return to the agenda as soon as possible!

9. Practice, practice, practice

You can’t practice enough.

The only exception is that you sound like you have practiced more than enough.

If you haven’t practiced enough , you can’t watch your audience. You can read people, whether they have understood, what you just said, or whether you should repeat that. Eye contact happens automatically. Even the “uh” will disappear.

A good presentation is hard work, no trick.

Published in: on September 12, 2007 at 9:09 am  Comments (25)  

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25 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I’d add the point, that giving the handle of the presentation to the auditory WILL end in a tragedy.

  2. Excellant article!
    I learned and to me a day without learning at least one new thing is a loss.

  3. nice article.. i sld have read it before giving presentation for my project.. now when i look down my presentation was more like a social presentation thn technical one

  4. a friend of mine used to give a lot of presentations, some technical, and some to upper management. he described the difference: “in a technical talk, present one key idea and make sure everyone understands it. in a management talk, present no ideas and make sure everyone feels good about it.”

    that boy went far.

  5. Thanks for your comments and encouragement. That’s a big part of what keeps me writing this stuff.

    On reddit ThomasPtacek gave some more advice.

  6. Also loved the article, thanks for putting together this stuff and keep writing this quality pieces :)

    Regards,

    Antonio.
    Lima-Peru

  7. excellent… csharp and precise…. the links u provided are actually great… tx a ton…buddy…

  8. Funny I should read this now because I’m giving a presentation on jazz today. This is pretty helpful.

  9. that’s the most boring and unoriginal advice i’ve read in ages. if you up for it and fancy a presention duel across the pond just let me know
    pp

  10. apologies. ‘re missing after ‘you’
    i’m rubbish at typing
    pp

  11. yes, is true.
    A good presentation need content/practise.

    I think do not write too many words on the slide will be essential too.

  12. Great list. If you are presenting for technical training, I would add the use of review and signposting.

    Reviewing is obvious. Periodically stop and review the content that you have covered so far. Repitition will help the learning process.

    Signposting. Signposting is overviewing the whole presentation, and then referring to this overview as you talk about your topics.
    Example – During our talk we will talk about 1, 2, 3 and 4.
    After you have discussed a couple of topics. We have discussed 1 and 2, now we will discuss 3.

  13. you’re article is very helpful. i’ll make use of your points next time i have a presentation :>

  14. Thank you, Andreas. Pretty useful tips from your article. Being apologetic doesn’t buy you votes, but doubts across the room… JT – http://effectivetraining.wordpress.com

  15. Short and Precise – good post. Keep posting more…

    Haider

  16. Really nice. I would add the aspect of the talking itself: eye contact, loud-enough voice, tone. Listening to a presentation in which the presenting tends to murmur to himself or look at the ceiling instead of making ey contact with the audience is certainly not fun! Perhaps you could write a separate article on this?

  17. Quite useful tips. i’m also a computer science student and have got my final project coming up in a few months. I have this problem of not knowing what to do for that one… some tips on choosing a topic for final projects, perhaps? :)

  18. Hey Andreas,

    Cool article. It’s sweet, succinct and sensible…
    I’m a comp sci student and newbie part time lecturer, so I’m going to try to keep those tips in mind during my next class.

    I’m new to wordpress and I just happened to stumble across this post by accident… But I thought to myself, “what a coincidence!”, since it was only yesterday that I got my hands on an Effective Presentation video course (with Jeff Van West) from Lynda.com.

    That course focuses on making presentations in general (not just technical presentations), but I thought it was worth mentioning, since I think it is another great presentation resource. Jeff seems to know what he’s talking about and walks you through a step by step process to go about creating and delivering a presentation.

    I’ve barely started the 11 hour course, but he mentioned his 4 rules (which are somewhat similar to the 9 tips you mentioned) and how to go about implementing these rules.

    His 4 Rules to Effective Presentations:

    1) CLARITY
    Knowing exactly what you want to say (and not to say)

    2) SIMPLICITY
    Keep it as simple as possible for you audience to understand and no more

    3) BREVITY
    Never use two words when one will do
    Remove redundancies.
    If there is a second example, it MUST show something new from the first
    The second exercise must teach a new task or contrast a last point.

    4) HUMANITY
    How to build trust with you audience?

    Anyway, please keep the interesting post coming Andreas.

    Oh… if anyone is interested in the course that I mentioned, you may check it out at:

    http://movielibrary.lynda.com/html/modPage.asp?ID=192

  19. [...] This is from Andreas Zwinkau’s tips on technical presentations. [...]

  20. JFYI, Andreas: ‘Beamer’ is a German word. An appropriate English term would be ‘video projector’. In the English-speaking world, a ‘beamer’ is a BMW car or maybe something from Star Trek.

  21. Back from Paris. Thanks for the comments (and critique, nex)

    Presentation is not the main topic here, Anung, so currently i don’t intend to write more about it. I hope the all the links are help enough. Sorry.

    For a topic, mustaine, you should rather read about the important problems.

  22. [...] presents 9 Tips how to give a technical presentation posted at figuring out computer [...]

  23. [...] Октябрь 2nd, 2007 Я уже сообщал ссылку на исходный вариант, но вот решил сделать перевод – как [...]

  24. Very concise and to the point….very good post dude….keep bringing in more…..

  25. nice artical…learn a lot from this..


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