Friday, April 15, 2011

What if Your Presentation Sucks

"That was all they let me do", "they edited out all the good parts", "hard to make developing code fun", "It's 25 steps and we need to get through it all". So what? Don't you still have your brain and mouth? Slides are just for archival material.

A Twitter conversation and a blog post later and see what happens?

Luis Suarez of IBM, the master of living without email, posted this yesterday. Titled, Improving Your Presentation Skills – Part Deux.

Luis points out some excellent ideas and references for speakers and presenters. Go read and listen/watch it all RIGHT NOW, I will wait patiently.

Welcome back!

So now you have some excellent ideas for presentations....except many of us are not freewheeling presentations on discussion topics. Many times we are performing instructional or deep technical sessions.

Yes, humor helps as does crazy animation of your body and gesticulating like crazy, but really you need more than this to truly have an enjoyable experience at a learning session.

Years ago when I was inside IBM we built demonstrations around a pub, bar or restaurant because it was a universal concept. Did not need to worry about generational issues, politics, translations, it just worked. Need a workflow to order more alcohol, track the number of cups used, validate the login at the cash register and you get the idea.

People do enjoy the story and the journey is what they will remember about your session, so much more than a piece of technical wizardry or wonder you showed them. Well maybe just me, my memory is horrible, else I'd be a developer by now.

So for my sessions at The View I have planned 2 out of the 3 sessions "themes" that should help keep a story line together. That and my editors, thanks Celia! I need to conjure up a 3rd but haven't finished it yet so the jury is still out on the best way to do it.

As an example, because someone will naturally ask, one of my sessions is about DDM and monitoring your environment. Take a car and all it's warning lights, aimed at preventative maintenance, now to think about which car to use. I can't adjust the whole look and feel of the slides, they frown on that, but the overall discussion and graphics will be tweaked to feel that way. Plus what I show on stage is not what gets distributed.

Usually I try to rig my demo server with some fun names and options inside it about the city we are in. Kind of like going to a concert and the singer says "Good Evening Miami or in this case Las Vegas".

Have fun and tell a story, even in the not so exciting "how to" sessions.


  1. Hi Keith! Thanks a bunch for the link love and for sharing such a nice follow-up! I surely agree with that there should be a distinction between presentations oriented towards learning, like technical deep dives, or hands-on, demo ones, etc. etc. and general presentations. I think their aim is totally different and with a specific purpose separate from one another.

    I see the technical sessions more of a peer to peer learning network and their related activities where folks are coming along to learn about a rather specific subject knowing the more knowledge folks would be in the room. I think these kinds of presentations are more open towards a much more "traditional" method of delivering a presentation, specially, since in most cases people would need to walk away with a learning or two.

    Thanks for making that point and for sharing that wonderful story! I should remember it for the next time! :-D

  2. Luis, Humbled to know you and follow you. Agreed, instructional sessions are harder to "have fun" but it can be done.

  3. Hi Keith! Thanks for the follow up! I actually don't think they are harder to have fun with; quite the opposite! You usually have plenty more time to help develop relationships with the audience and therefore making it more relevant and closer to them, which is why I think they are very worth while! I have given sessions like those for many years and it's always kind of rewarding knowing you had 60, 90, 120 minutes or more and before you realise you have doubled that time and people are still around!

    That's where the fun part starts! I love those technical sessions; they are amazingly engaging and could be so much more interesting than a 20 to 30 minute presentation. For sure! :)