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7 Rules for Great Technical Presentations : Page 2

One of the hardest things to do in life is to express your ideas to another person. While good communication skills are a 'nice to have' for most human interaction, when it comes to making software, they're crucial.


4. Forget PowerPoint; Tell a Story

Overreliance on PowerPoint slides has brought more presentations to its knees than a ring full of World Wide Federation wrestlers. Unless you are trying to illustrate a very complex technical idea, PowerPoint slides are a distraction.

The trick to giving a good presentation is having the ability to tell a good story. Storytellers have been around since time immemorial, well before radio, movies, and the Internet. You don't need PowerPoint to tell a story well. All you need is your imagination and the ability to stir the imagination of your audience.

Find the good story in your presentation, and then tell it in a way that matters to you. If your story does not matter to you, it will never matter to your audience.

5. Play Charades Often

Most people spend too much time talking in a presentation. While it is true that abstraction can be communicated best via the spoken word, words are not the best vehicle to convey the drama of an idea. Communicating drama requires more. Your position on the stage, the gestures that you make with your hands and face all communicate something to the audience. It's the drama of your presentation that makes it engaging.

One of the easiest ways to develop mastery of speaking without words is the parlor game, Charades. Charades is a game is which you try to get your audience to guess a phrase or term by using body movement only. You cannot talk. Once verbal language is removed from the scene, the presenter can, in a playful manner, develop all the other skills required to tell a story well.

No doubt playing Charades requires a certain amount of daring and peer approval. But the benefits are worth overcoming the fear of looking ridiculous. After all, it takes a lot of work to look ridiculous, more than can ever be demonstrated during a game of Charades.

6. Examples, Examples, Examples

Audiences love a demo. Audiences love examples. If you find you have a presentation on your hands that has no demo or is void is examples, you're going to have a very hard time keeping the attention of your audience.

Every time you introduce a concept, follow it up with an example. The more demonstration and examples you provide, the clearer your story becomes and the less talking you have to do. The more you "show", the better your audience will understand. Examples work! Use them early and often.

7. It Takes 3 Shots to Get it Right

It is the rare person that can deliver a great presentation right off the bat. Good presentations take rehearsal. Chris Rock takes years to get his stand up routine just right. Malcolm Gladwell memorizes every word of his talks beforehand in order to deliver a talk that appears off the cuff. Those in the know rehearse.

Whenever I am to give a talk, I plan on doing at least three run throughs beforehand. The first time I just meander my way through and give myself the luxury to make mistakes. The second time I get over my mistakes and try make an unflawed delivery. The third run through I find the way to make the presentation special. I pay attention to my pacing, my physical movement, the coherence of my message and the flow of my language. I watch my story arc-create engagement, build up to the point and then provide motivating closure.

Remember, the third time is the charm.


When it comes to making a great technical presentation, you are the expert actor telling a wonderful story that will change the way your audience thinks and works. Your audience wants to be entertained. The ways you move are just as important as the words that you use. Remember, the audience came to see you.

Technical facts, figures and illustrations are part of your presentation, but not the most important part. The most important part of your presentation is your audience. The second most important part is your story.

Don't let PowerPoint slides get in your way. Use slides to illustrate key technical points, but not to tell your story. The story is yours. You are the storyteller. The audience is the beneficiary.

And, remember it takes a lot of work to look ridiculous, far beyond the ability of the workaday technologist. So don't worry about it. Just tell your story and entertain your audience.

Bob Reselman has written numerous books and articles about computer programming and topics related to software development. Presently Bob is a Technical Process Architect at Edmunds Inc. Edmunds Inc. is a leading publisher of high volume, high availability, state of the art, Java based Web sites dedicated to empowering the automotive consumer. Experience Edmunds technology by visiting, www.Edmunds.com and www.InsideLine.com.
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