What makes a good presentation

Working in the field that I do I have to present and receive lots of presentations. A few months ago I started to get really frustrated with the poor quality of people’s presentations. Sometimes, this was their speaking, sometimes it was their slides or materials. I decided that I wanted to change the way that I approached the whole issue of presenting.

Therefore, I have spent the last few months trying to improve my presentation skills, both in terms of speaking and the material that I use. One of the great inspirations for my change has been Garr Reynolds, whose book, Presentation Zen has really helped me to understand the good and bad points of design for powerpoint presentations. As a result of reading this book, I have started to change my approach. Here is an example of some slides I created which I have used recently in a couple of presentations I gave.

I have only used these slides on internal presentations so far, but they seemed to be received well compared to the more traditional approach. Hopefully, if he saw these, Garr would be proud.

The only problem I have with his approach is the length of time it takes to not only prepare the presentation content but also any accompanying handout (if required). I’m sure, as I get more used to this approach I will become quicker at it and can re-use much of the content.

Presenting, however, is not just about the slides that you use. In fact, sometimes you don’t even need slides. The most important part of any presentation is the message that you are trying to convey and the way that you get it across. I am currently reading Presenting to Win by Jerry Weissman and, whilst a lot of what he talks about is common sense, its amazing how many presenters seem to leave common sense at the door.

So, when watching presentations, how can I tell if the presentation is good or not. Simple, am I captivated? Lawrence Lessig is a fantastic example, as shown in the video below.

I’ve never heard Lawrence speak before and aren’t particularly interested in copyright (the theme of his presentation). However, for the 1hr 5mins that he presented, I was absolutely captivated. His combination of conversation and supporting materials made a very enthralling presentation. It just goes to show, a good presenter can capture his audience regardless of what he is talking about.