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Tips For Giving A Technical Powerpoint Presentation




Providing powerpoint presentations related to a project, your company profile, or your area of expertise has become commonplace these days.

Considering the importance of presentations and having done quite a few of them I would like to share some tips on how to go ahead with powerpoint presentations. The tips start with right from preparing the presentation to actually presenting it to an audience on a screen using a projection device.

1. Most technical presentations should be for a duration of a minimum of 45 minutes to 1 hour which would require a minimum of 20 to 25 slides. 30 to 35 slides are more the norm for a 1 hour presentation with an extra 15-20 minutes for interaction with the audience.

2. While preparing a presentation the following should be paid attention to:

a. Presentations should have a liberal content of illustrations and figures. The adage is "Pictures speak louder than words".

b. Use of various colors enhances the quality of the presentation. However, a technical presentation should not look like a page out of a comic book or an advertising leaflet. What that means is use colors judiciously and don't make it a hash of colors.

c. Use bullet points for short statements instead of providing lengthy paragraphs which the audience might find boring or uninteresting.

d. It is always a good practice to provide a slide with references for the books, articles and journals you have used to prepare the presentation.

e. Take care of the margins, font size and the font color for a slide. Aesthetics do play a role in enhancing the quality of the presentation.

f. Do not forget to provide a title to each slide. This helps the audience to identify and track the sequence of the presentation.

g. The last slide could be a "Thank you for your presence and valuable time". Expressing your gratitude to the audience for being present ends the presentation on a high note.

2. Coming to the actual presentation the following should be addressed:

a. Check the ambience of the room where the presentation is to be held. You don't want a sweaty, itchy or a shivering audience being distracted by the air conditioning of the room.

b. Check out the visibilityy and clarity of the screen from the furthest seating point of the presentation room. You don't want a protester from the backside complaining about the presentation not being visible.

c. Use a laser light to highlight a point on the slide. This helps in emphasizing a point on the slide.

d. Turning your back to the audience and continuing looking at the screen should be avoided. Maintain as much eye contact with the audience as possible. This ensures the interest and attention of the audience participating.

e. A break maybe in order during a lengthy presentation to refresh yourself and the audience. Tired people are not going to enjoy the presentation.

f. An interactive question answer session during the presentation should always be practiced. This sustains the interst and excitement of the audience and the continued participation of the audience. You may have the question answer session during the course of the presentation or at the end depending upon the subject being presented, the audience response and the flow and continuity of the presentation.

g. Do not get embroiled in an argument with the audience. If there is a question which is remaining unanswered keep it for discussion at the end of the presentation. In case you don't know the answer of the question put up to you, tell the person who has raised the question that you will revert back with the answer at a later time. However, don't forget to keep your promise of reverting back at a later time.

h. Last but not the least, express a big 'Thank You' to the audience at the end of the presentation. After all they set aside their valubale time to attend your presentation.

A lot of the tips provided above are based on experience of conducting a few presentations by me. But then there is always room for improvement and I would love to hear from people who are probably more well versed than me in giving public presentations. Let me have comments from the esteemed readers and members of the forum.

Regards,
Ankur.




I would add a key rule: one slide = one message.
Sheiko,

Yes, that would be ideal for the presenter as well as the audience. However, there are other things such as the subject being covered, the continuity or flow of the presentation and the presenter's own perception of the subject.

Many experts say that only key words should be presented on the slide and the rest should be discussed extempore between the presenter and audience. However, this may be true for very general subjects but not for a highly technical subject.

Anyway, thanks for your comment.

Regards,
Ankur.
Ankurji ,

I feel that you are right.

We should not assume that listener know everything. Technical presentation shall be around 15-20 min maximum as lengthy presentation is also not good.

Thanks for your tips.

Regards,

Jatin
Add little humour while presenting .

In the days before computers we used over head projectors and white boards but the principles were largely the same.

In the beginning we were left to our own initiative and a sad time the audience must have had of it.

First lesson learned:

Do not try to tell everything you know. It is important to get across key information some of which has a chance of being retained.

 

Try to discourage note taking by having comprehensive notes available and announcing this at the start.

Then such note taking will be minimal.

People taking notes are often writing down the last point while you are talking about the next.

Give out the notes (power point has notes pages) only at the end or they will read the notes during the presentation and not pay attention to you - and they will get ahead of you.

 

The presentation is an interaction between you and the audience.

Best for power points is to have a podium facing the audience and the presenters version on the laptop on the podium. Be aware of audience reaction. Develop a  confident well paced delivery.

 

Avoid Kindergarten reading classes. There is nothing more likely to send an audience to sleep than to put up slides whether bullet points or lengthy text and then read it to the audience.

The bullet points are your talking points. They headline a sub topic.

But if you publish your presentation anyone who did not attend but who reads the presentation will most often find it gibberish if all it contains are the bullet point slides. What is often missing is the discussion that accompanies each slide. This is the purpose of the notes pages and/or an audio track which can record your discussion.

 

MS Power Point is sometimes confused with Power Points, which is a marketing label for a method of presenting which helps lodge key data in the audience mind.

 

The principle is simple, it targets the primitive brain stem which is responsible for the emotional response. So it demands repetition.

The presentation should have a beginning where you tell the audience what you will be presenting to them (first repetition). Then the presentation during which you give them what you promised (second repetition) and then a summary where you show that what you originally promised was delivered (third repetition). This is pretty effective because on this one presentation during which i was in the audience I retained, all these years later, the salient points of the method. As you may have guessed I was by then working for a company that didn't assume you could make it up as you went along but could benefit by help from the experts.

 

MS Power Point is an excellent tool but overly rich in features.

Nothing distracts or annoys so much as over use of transitions and sound effects. Adopt a style and stick with it and keep it simple. Your audience should be impressed and educated/informed on the topic not by the way you use Power Point. I also avoid all those clip art bits and pieces MS programs come furbished with. They are all rather naff.

I use origional illustrations. I use animations where possible and have discovered the value of flash over wmv etc. Even if it means linking out of Power Point to the other material.

 

It is also important to know what your presentation will be used for. If it will only ever be you using it that is quite different from where first you will present to an audience of people who may then have to use it to present to others.

 

Above all, rehearse.

Rehearse as often as you like and edit the presentation as you do so but at some point you must finalise the presentation and concentrate on becoming comfortable and consistent and ensuring that everything flows. There is nothing so bad as being surprised by one of your own slides and wondering why you included it. Try rehearsing to a cam corder and play back your presentation as if in the audience.

 

One course we had emphasised to us the need for attention grabbers. In one course we were all tasked with preparing a short presentation to be given then analysed. Then we would be asked for a revised or new presentation.

 

One of us presented on Condition based monitoring and dull it was till somewhere in the middle he mentioned that Boeing had determined that 80-90% of failures were the result of routine maintenance. I thought that this was an excellent attention grabber and said as much and expected that he would make better use of it in his new presentation.

What a great opening statement for a presentation on CBM.

But he wasn't receptive and he buried it again. All I remember of that presentation was the attention grabber.

 

I now spend far too much time working and reworking the presentations and on rehearsing. On the plus side, one paper I gave at a conference was reported by the organisers as the paper most of the audience felt was the best.

 

On length, being given a time limit of 20-30minutes is a great inducement to hone the presentation and cut out excessive and redundant material and while you cannot assume the audience knows everything you do have to credit them with having some fundamental level of understanding or they wouldn't be there. I always find I start with 30-40 slides and need an hour plus but the time limit encourages a lot of healthy editing.

 

Oh, and do not leave slides up for too long.

Much good use can be made of a black screen or a blank slide. With no notes in front of them and nothing to read on the screen the audience has little choice but to either sleep or pay attention to what you are saying. This is one area where transitions are useful - to bring up and then dim the bullet points as you get to them (but when you use such features, use the same feature all the time. Don't play with the range of options available to you).

 

It is surprising how good actors are in films when they are seen giving presentations. One of the hints given by others to me was that sometimes taking public speaking classes helps a lot. 

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