A few days ago I was asked to review a presentation. It was written in English and the stand alone words made perfect sense, but when put together, it suddenly looked Russian and that was a problem because I cannot read Russian. That's when I realized the importance of some of the rules of presentations that I had heard from many people throughout my career.
- Dead or Alive : The first slide decides whether your audience stays alive or dies during the presentation. This slide has to have the meat of what you are going to say. If you need to describe a product, make sure that you state the problem statement, how the existing products do not solve it and how your product is the only solution. You ramble here and you kill the audience!
- Always KISS meaning Keep It Short and Simple. Long time ago, a person told me, "I am a really good presenter and am used to presenting one hundred slides in one hour". And I said, "Well that's great ! But did you check if your audience lived after that?" And we were never friends :). In an hour long presentation, a human's attention span is 20 slides. May stretch to 25. Anything more and and "duh"
- Pictures speak better than words only if the audience understand the them. Graphs and figures with many numbers and units actually frightens the audience! If you want to show data via graphs, make sure you explain what is it that you are measuring, what the ideal result should be and where your measurements stand. But in general, a lot of content in each slide means that audience is reading the slides rather than listening to what you are saying. If you have bullet points, may be have an image and one point on each slide. In this case you may take an exception to rule no 2. But tread carefully here.
- Engineers are superstars when they are not presenting. Unless they are trained in the art of presentation skills, they give the most boring and complicated presentations that are actually lullabies. A lot of times, even fellow engineers do not understand what the presentation was about. So please my fellow engineers, ensure that you rehearse your presentation in front of someone who has no idea what you are working on. If that person understands what you are saying then you really are a superstar.
- Dazzle not baffle: A colleague of mine used this phrase to get feedback for his presentation. "Either I dazzled you or baffled you" he said. Well that day he had dazzled everyone so we laughed about it. But to dazzle, you must, and there are absolutely no exceptions to this, you must ensure that you use correct grammar. You also need to get rid of the pause phrases 'Like', 'You know', 'I mean', 'Em-mm', 'OK so'. Some people clear their throat every time they start a new sentence and it really irritates the audience. You absolutely need to master the language in which you present. Throughout your presentation, the audience judges you and then forms a perception about you. For you to come out as an expert, you need to master the subject as well as the language in which you present.