Technical Presentation Tips

I recently posted this on Stack Overflow, thought I’d repost it here too.

Some random advice on delivering technical presentations:

Consider your audience. Is it an all technical audience? If you have a mix of technical and non-technical people, it’s a good idea to start at a high level (conceptual) and then move into the more technical realms.

PowerPoint slides can be helpful if they are appropriate or if they illustrate a concept or help underpin a point you are trying to make. Don’t read from them, they should be used to jog your memory as you discuss your presentation.  I like to use PPT slides as “palm cards”.

Is it a one way street? Are you going to look for audience participation? This can be handy in livening up the event. If people feel like they are part of a presentation, it can make people feel more at ease (and likely they’ll walk away with some valuable knowledge).

Beware the demo gods! Keep fully finished solutions/samples ready in case it fails on the day. Worst case scenario: screen cap a working solution. Don’t try to fix a broken example in front of people, it just looks bad. Apologise, present your fallback (finished demo/screen shots) and move on.

Finally, Regarding presentation delivery, here’s a few "generic" tips:

  1. Try to establish eye contact with the audience,
  2. speak clearly and ensure everyone can hear you.
  3. Know your material (don’t be surprised by content),
  4. Rehearse or at least walk through any technical demonstrations in advance,
  5. Use a "clean" Windows profile (if on Windows),
  6. Ensure Outlook and IM programs are closed (nothing worse than an ill-timed IM message)
  7. Ask for questions/invite comment (perhaps at the end if it is convenient)
  8. Provide handouts if it adds value
  9. Add humour if it is possible, it livens the mood of the audience if delivered properly a. Ensure your sense of humour is appropriate 🙂
  10. Ensure you have an introduction, a middle and a clear summary

Bonus: consider screen resolution, font size and contrast.  People should be able to clearly see text from the back rows!

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