Making of a Presentation22 Sep 2013
Yesterday I gave a presentation on Test Automation in an event arranged by a college. My first participation as a presenter in some special event.
While preparing for the presentation, I took notes on things that I did. I wanted to make a standard procedure and have a check list ready to refer next time I prepare for any presentation. This post is about my observations while I was making the presentation.
- First of all I wasted a lot of time in searching for a good power point template. I knew its the content that matters and not the cosmetic things but still I wanted a good, professional template. I didn’t find many. The one that I liked was paid and too costly. Finally I settled on to one decent, free template. I liked its color scheme and it looked pretty professional. Later I realized its the same template that Steve Huffman had used in his presentation. Great minds think alike, you know ;) I should have 2-3 more templates ready with me so that I don’t waste time on selecting the template next time. Its the look and feel, color scheme and ability to draw diagrams in the same color scheme that I look for in the template.
- Once I decided the topic for my presentation, many ideas immediately started rushing in my head. I could cover this, I could cover that, I could give this as an example and so on. They came all at once to me. One good thing I did was I opened my notepad and started typing whatever came to my mind. It pretty much set the agenda for my presentation. I should do this next time I finalize on the topic for the presentation.
- Next, I spent lots of time searching for good material on the topic. It was not based on my experiences as such so I had to refer lots of material to include in the slides. And I searched on few non-common sites for the material. It surprised me because I would not have normally thought of visiting those sites. Here’s the full list:
- Unless you are the pioneer of the topic, you would read lot of material on the topic. Your initial objective of reading is to judge the quality of the material and discard stuff that is not useful. In the process you note down which material could help you in preparing which part of the presentation. Like while talking about Agile and Automation I referred a completely different white paper found on some other website.
- Once you have finalized on the material that you would be referring for the presentation, start reading it. Thorough reading should be done. In the process you start selecting the topics, summaries that you think could be used for the presentation and start creating slides with headings on them.
- Start filling the slides, while re-reading the material and note down the sentences you want to cover in your talk.
- Spend good time on drawing the diagrams from the material in the color scheme of your slides. Do not copy paste the images from any material. It spoils the theme of the slides.
- Iterate over the process still you feel comfortable with the content of your presentation and amount of research.
- Note down the source of all the material referred and ensure they are listed on one of the slides.
- Finally, take printout of the slides and start writing on them points that you are going to say. Don’t write sentences, just few words telling you what you are going to say. These are the notes that you will keep with you during the presentation.
- The whole objective of the preparation should be to go away from the reference material and put things in your own words. You should not have to memorize any sentence. That’s a sign of danger. Everything said should be from your understanding of the topic. If possible try to make it sound like a story or some kind of a flow.
- One week before:
- Select the dress you would be wearing. Do whatever is required for making it ready for the presentation.
- Get your shoes ready for the presentation.
- Get a hair cut if required.
- Know the place where you would be giving the presentation. Know the route, how you would be reaching there and how much time you would need to reach there on the day of the presentation.
- If possible visit the place where you would be giving the presentation. I have always found it useful to know where I would be standing, where I will keep my notes, where the mouse, key-board would be.
- If its possible to visit the place, know where the rest room is, find a temporary place where you could sit and relax once you arrive for the presentation, where you could keep you bag and other stuff not required during the presentation.
- As described earlier take printouts of the slides and make notes on them.
- One day before:
- Be ready with your opening line without any confusion. Whatever it is, try not to change it. I use “Hello everyone, thanks for having me here. I’ll be talking about..”. Prefer “Hello everyone” over “Good morning/afternoon/evening” simply because it does not involve effort to know what time of the day it is. Your presentation may get delayed from morning to afternoon. You don’t want to get that wrong so avoid it altogether.
- Practice Session 1 - Practice giving the presentation out loud in your words. You should be able to explain the topics in your words without referring to the material. Note down the mistakes that you do, words/topics that you didn’t want to say. Correct the errors in the slides etc.
- Practice Session 2 - A quick practice session deliberately avoiding the mistakes made earlier. Remember the complete flow of the presentation in your head, with sequence of slides and sequence of points to be covered in each slide.
- Shave. You don’t want to do it in hurry so don’t do it on the morning of the presentation day.
- Clean your spectacles.
- Change the desktop wallpaper of the laptop you will be using for the presentation. You don’t want to distract your audience just before you start the presentation.
- Backup you presentation slides on Pen Drive, Laptop and Cloud.
- Keep a nice working pen with you.
- Watch a video presentation/talk of somebody that inspires you or even of whom you would like to imitate. Notice how they started their presentation, how they ended it, how they moved from one topic to other, from one slide to other, how they took Q&As etc. I watched Steve Huffman’s presentation couple of hours before my presentation and that’s when I noticed he too was using the same template that I had selected for my slides.
- Put spare laptop charger in your bag.
- Keep small water bottle with you that you could carry during the presentation.
- During the presentation
- One of the problem that I faced in my last tech talk was that my throat went completely dry just before I started talking. It was so bad that I was thinking of giving up the presentation. This time I solved the problem. I carried a small water bottle with me during the presentation and it helped. Its just that I couldn’t find proper timing to pause for drinking the water. It always felt awkward to drink water in middle of all the talking you were doing. I think I should have my pause timings planted in the presentation. For ex I could pause when a new slide with some diagram is displayed. I can ask the audience to take a look at the diagram while I take a quick drink break. Or I could ask them some question/quick poll, or ask them if they have any question and drink water while waiting for any answer.
- Keep your opening line ready.
- After the presentation:
- Don’t forget any stuff that you received at the event especially any memento etc. I forgot the one given to me! It feels rude to the organizers.
- Immediately after the presentation, you know precisely how it went and more precisely what mistakes you did. Write them down before you forget. Write a blog post about it.
- Complete any communication that you are expected to close. Like mailing the slides/pdf, sending thank you note etc.
That’s all I have for now. I am sure I’ll come up with new suggestions next time I prepare for a presentation. May be I’ll update this post then. Or may be I’ll write a new post.
Hope future me finds these suggestions useful.