Friday, March 23, 2007 8:34 AM
6 Ways to Mess Up Your Next Tech Presentation
I was at AjaxWorld this week with Dave. One of my goals there was to get some ideas for my Ajax presentation at AIIM in April, but the biggest thing I got out of it for that were some examples of how a presentation can go wrong, and it made be a little nervous. Don't get me wrong, most of the presentations went very well or at least as good as planned, and I got a lot out of it, however, there are still some lessons learned.
Here are the easiest ways to mess up your next tech presentation:
- Don't bring backup equipment. There was one flame-out presentation that couldn't even start because the presentation laptop didn't work. Kind of surprising, since we all had the presentation PDF on our conference CD -- not sure what was up with that.
- Try to write code. I have given tons of presentations where I wrote code live and it's hard. You have to write it all out beforehand and be prepared to cut-and-paste if you have to. It's especially hard if you are using a scripting language because you don't get help from a compiler. For a developer product, presenting to developers, you have to show code, but no one is expecting you to write it from scratch. Adobe and Microsoft both used IDE tricks to make it look like they were writing code live (keyboard shortcuts, completions, and prepared snippets) -- that's good enough. You can even joke about how it's all canned. What you can't do is debug your code in front of hundreds of people for 20 minutes.
- Don't practice. The easiest way to look bad is to give the presentation for the first time live. You must practice to give a good presentation. Learn how to move around a little, use voice intonation, and generally be expressive. The point of being there is to convey human emotion -- if you don't do that, it would be better for me to just read your whitepaper.
- Don't prepare. Kind of like not practicing, is not making sure your demo is flawless, and that you can react and fix any problem or work around it. You need to know when you have to punt on your demo. Make movies with a tool like Camtasia, just in case things go wrong.
- Give a purely product presentation. I know you're here to sell me something, but first make me interested. You should be teaching me something that happens to involve your product. If it's just a sales pitch, I'm going to check my email.
- Read me your slides full of bulleted text. If all you are is a voice synthesizer for PowerPoint, then what do I need you for. Get rid of all of the text and just talk. If you need notes, put them on the podium.
Who was great:
Dave Wolf from Cynergy gave a presentation titled: It Takes A Village: Building a World Class RIA Development Group. I wasn't particularly interested in the subject before he started, but I was by the end because he made it engaging. His slides were beautiful, he wasn't tied to the podium, he is expressive, and overall gave a great impression of himself and his company -- and since they sell services, it was an effective sales job.
I really liked all three Google presentations and the Google power panel -- Adobe and Microsoft both gave some impressive talks -- they were standard high quality presentations -- I also liked Luis Derechin's talk, it made me go want to hunt down this article about Tacit workers from McKinsey that he spoke about. Like Dave Wolf, he was a talented presenter -- could have done with less product demo, but it wasn't too bad.
I didn't go to Dean Allameng's talk, but I met him in Cosi and learned more about his topic, RDF, in 15 minutes than most of the sessions were able to accomplish in more time. I don't know how it translated to the talk, but one-on-one, he was pretty good.
Here are some of my favorite links on giving presentations: