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Presentation Howto

Content:

1.  Research your Subject

What is your Presentation About?

When you're asked to present a certain subject, chances are that you're a lead in that domain. That doesn't mean you know what to present to your audience though. What does the audience want to hear? What do you want to disclose? What is important enough to be mentioned to the audience?

Know your audience is the key element of a good presentation. A presentation prepared for a developer audience won't have the same outcome on a regular user audience.

Developers are interested in the technologies used, the standards that your project embraces (interoptability), the decisions made when choosing between different options.

Users however want to know what the project does for them: What are the benefits? How is the migration handled? What do they lose when they go with your vision?

Collect the Necessary Resources

Research also means literature research. Search for information on the Internet regarding the subject of your presentation. Make sure you understand the ins and outs of your subject and are able to anticipate frequently asked questions.

Write down your resources; you will need them later on to inform the audience where they can find more information.

Ask for Community Feedback

Do not neglect the feedback from the community. When, after your presentation, you ask for questions, chances are that you will receive the same questions as you encounter on the public forums or discussion groups. Anticipate these questions!

2.  Know your Time Schedule

What is your Allotted Time Frame?

When you design your presentation, take the total amount of allotted time into account. Calculate 3 to 5 minutes for questions and 2 minutes for switching presentations. Also, make sure that you have no more than one slide per two minutes.

Rehearse your presentation sufficiently. You will not receive more time from the chairman, and having a presentation interrupted in the middle of an important slide is plain annoying.

Keep in Touch with the Chairman

Ask if it is possible to test the accommodation (projector, microphone, ...) beforehand (for instance the day before) so you can anticipate possible hardware incompatibilities. Nothing is more annoying than wanting to start your presentation only to find out that the projector is out of sync when you attach your laptop.

Also contact the chairman one hour in front to show him you're around and available.

Also ask if (and how) you can have a backup solution ready in case Mr. Murphy says hi. Export your presentation to some common format and have several backups in your pocket.

3.  Structure your Content

Be Redundant

Start your presentation with an explanation on what you will be talking about. Then talk about it and close with a short summary on what you talked about. This is extremely important: it focuses the audience. At no point during the presentation should the audience feel that you have said something that will not be explained further.

Plan your Slides

Plan a slide-by-slide structure before sitting behind your PC. Fill out a story board and use a common summary technique (such as Mind Mapping) to grasp the essence of the presentation.

Use it, don't Read it

A presentation needs to be used to guide you through the information you want to deliver. It shouldn't be read like a book. If the presentation contains everything you want to say, then there is no need for you to be there.

4.  Make your Presentation Readable

Be Careful with Fonts

Use sans-serif fonts (such as Arial or Helvetica) and 24 - 26 points font sizes. Keep titles short and avoid paragraphs in the slide.

Be Careful with Colors

Use consistent coloring throughout the presentation. Only use colors when they mean something (for instance blue -> loss, green -> good). Do not use more than 4 colors in a single slide.

The Joy of Six

  • Use bullet points
  • Start each point with a capital letter
  • Limit your slide to at most 6 bullet points
  • Have at most 6 words per bullet point
  • Don't use ALL CAPS
  • Restrict nesting to at most 2 levels

Keep it Simple

When you use images, limit the amount to one to three images per slide. It is also preferred to use a number of simple images instead of a single complex one.

Use an Intelligent Layout

Number your slides.

Only use the top 2/3rd of the slide for the real content. In some environments the bottom 1/3rd of the screen isn't fully visible to the entire audience.

Be Gentle with Effects

Don't let the special effects distract the attention from the presentation itself. Only use a single transition effect for the whole presentation.

5.  Proofread, Spell-Check and Confirm

Use a Spell Checker

Interesting or not, a presentation with typos or grammatical flaws is a show-stopper. Use a (or multiple) spell checkers while writing your slides.

Use a Peer Reviewer

Have people read your slides or rehearse your presentation with them.

Print your Presentation

Be sure that your presentations are easily printable.

6.  Deliver your Presentation

Speak

Speak slowly and clearly. Use short sentences.

Show

  • Stand up straight and face the audience
  • Use gestures, but not in an excessive way
  • Make positive eye contact; keep eye contact for 3 to 5 seconds per person
  • Use a laser pointer; right-handed people should stand with the slides to their right

Answer

Repeat asked questions and think before you answer. When you do, answer to the public and not only to the person that asked the question.



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Page updated February 15, 2004

Summary: Learn to write and structure Gentoo presentations.

Sven Vermeulen
Author

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