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Ask Slashdot: How To Give IT Presentations That Aren't Boring? 291

Posted by Soulskill
from the napalm-can-liven-up-any-presentation dept.
Dmitri Baughman writes "I'm the IT guy at a small software development company of about 100 employees. Everyone is technically inclined, with disciplines in development, QA, and PM areas. As part of a monthly knowledge-sharing meeting, I've been asked to give a 30-minute presentation about our computing and networking infrastructure. I manage a pretty typical environment, so I'm not sure how to present the information in a fun and engaging way. I think network diagrams and bandwidth usage charts would make anyone's eyes glaze over! Any ideas for holding everyone's interest?"
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Ask Slashdot: How To Give IT Presentations That Aren't Boring?

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  • Bring pizza. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 16, 2012 @06:43PM (#39384165)

    Pizza automatically makes any meeting fun.

  • by clutch110 (528473) on Friday March 16, 2012 @06:43PM (#39384173)

    Car analogies, lots of them!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 16, 2012 @06:44PM (#39384179)

    Oh for crying out loud! You have been asked to review a topic, provide useful information such as an overview and where to find more details.

    Talk about future plans. Turn it into a discussion on additional needs.

    Being entertaining is not a requirement.

    • by rampant mac (561036) on Friday March 16, 2012 @06:54PM (#39384311)

      "Being entertaining is not a requirement."

      What do you remember most about Steve Ballmer's "Developers, Developers, Developers, Developers" speech? What he said, or the fact he was dancing around on stage like a sweaty howler monkey?

      • by Tom (822) on Friday March 16, 2012 @07:34PM (#39384771) Homepage Journal

        What do you think he wanted the audience to remember?

        Probably not the dance. So mission failed.

        Being entertaining is the point if you are in the entertainment business. Otherwise, be entertaining enough that the audience enjoys the presentation, but keep it subtle enough that it doesn't overshadow the content you are trying to bring across.

        • by CAIMLAS (41445)

          Amongst geeks, things like analogies go a long way.

          If those analogies have to involve explosions, so be it.

          That said, an explosion of that nature is only a severe example of the audience being engaged. Make the topics you address interesting and cool. You, and many of the developers working in your company, may not think that the software you develop is "cool", but it serves a function. If you've got many 'true' geeks in your IT team, chances are you've got cool things goign on in the background - deploymen

      • What I remember? His armpits. But I have no clue what the speech was about.

        I kinda doubt that was the idea. Unless he moonlights as a deodorant salesman.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 16, 2012 @07:44PM (#39384875)

        What I remember the most from that speech is that he is batshit crazy.

    • Maybe not, but it sure helps in maintaining interest in what he needs to get over...

    • by Auroch (1403671) on Friday March 16, 2012 @07:42PM (#39384853)

      Being entertaining is not a requirement.

      ... and yet, it certainly helps. Like deoderant. Not a requirement, but certainly a good thing to do.

    • by ancienthart (924862) on Saturday March 17, 2012 @01:39AM (#39387085)
      As a teacher who has to sit through two to five meetings a week, I'd say the most important tip is, if you can say it in 10 minutes, you don't have to use the full 30. If your boss asks you why you didn't fill the full time up, say "I scheduled 20 minutes so I could answer questions."
    • by unixisc (2429386) on Saturday March 17, 2012 @02:48AM (#39387295)

      It's not, but I agree somewhat w/ the OP. Having charts and numbers will make peoples' eyes glaze over, and one thing I learnt about presentations in my last job was using as few words as possible, and saying as much of it as possible w/ pictures. For instance, a diagram showing the network layout as it is currently, and then doing a transitions effect to bring in the newer layout would be that much more obvious to the audience.

      It's a good idea to anticipate the places that are most likely to invite the most questions, and plan for the most time to be spent there.

    • Being entertaining is not a requirement. Being engaging is. If you can be entertaining at the same time, bonus points for you. I've seen it done and it works really well.

      I saw something recently about training. When you're up in front of people for eight hours, six or more of them actually speaking, you can't get by on the things that work in a 15-minute presentation. Holding someone's attention for a quarter of an hour is a lot easier than holding it for the effective workday. Some useful ideas for p

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 16, 2012 @06:45PM (#39384191)

    And don't forget your RDF generator!

    Seriously, like him or hate him Jobs could present the most mundane subject and have people clamoring for more, so maybe follow his technique.

    • by CAIMLAS (41445)

      But how did he do it? That's the improtant question.

      He did that through a highly orchestrated, visceral presentation. Everything was very well timed: his speech was at a very specific rate and his vocal tone very melodic - even so specific as to flow with the animations of his presentations. He presented very minimal technical information, didn't get excited, and was matter-of-fact about everything. He was Selling the entire time.

      His audience was almost always very enthralled to start with, so I'm sure that

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 16, 2012 @06:46PM (#39384199)

    ...strippers. Problem solved.

  • Simple. (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 16, 2012 @06:46PM (#39384201)

    Fire one person at the end of every presentation.

  • Voice (Score:5, Informative)

    by ShakaUVM (157947) on Friday March 16, 2012 @06:46PM (#39384203) Homepage Journal

    Walk around. Vary the intonation of your voice. If you need to use PowerPoint, don't make it text heavy, but just put up the brief points you want them to memorize.

    I give 10 or 20 workshops every year around the country, and I can usually capture the interest of an audience without needing PowerPoint.

      • Wave your arms around in a threatening manner.
      • Divide the talk into rounds and then enlist the aid of an attractive coworker to hold placards showing the current round
      • Break out into a song and dance number
      • Free gifts!
      • Steven Wright monologue
      • Contests, contests, contests
      • Cry through the discussion asking 'Where is this company going?'
      • Wear a clown suit
    • I give 10 or 20 workshops every year around the country, and I can usually capture the interest of an audience without needing PowerPoint.

      That's the key. PowerPoint is all to often a crutch, with slides that have more toner on them than whitespace and presenters that read the slides. Ditch PowerPoint. Decide what you want to say, and talk to the audience. Use a flip chart or whiteboard for drawings.

      If you do use PowerPoint, use it as a memory joke. Keep slides simple - no font less than 32 point, a few bullet points; and then talk. I regularly do presentations, and a 1 hour talk will have maybe 6-8 slides max; including the cover.

      People wan

    • Re:Voice (Score:5, Informative)

      by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Friday March 16, 2012 @10:39PM (#39386209) Homepage Journal

      Walk around. Vary the intonation of your voice.

      Yup, and *talk* to them. Tell them a few funny stories. Give them an understanding of what you do but also who you are.

      Despite the dour advice I'm seeing from those on the Slashdot suicide watch, you have an opportunity to sell yourself and your group to the rest of the company, and learn how to do it on company time - so allow them to like you.

      Even if you don't stay with this company, those skills are transportable. That you're even asking the question shows that you've got some ambition beyond the basement-dwelling naysayers.

      You might even watch a few 90's Steve Jobs presentations. Say what you will about the guy's motives, but he knew how to capture an audience.

    • Don't use powerpoint. Even the military has acknowledged that powerpoint makes you stupid (just google it).

      If you can't speak without anything more than a list of the main points you want to cover, and maybe a marker board to draw diagrams on, then please ST*U and get someone else to do the presentation.

      And try to keep it under 10 minutes - you can use the other 20 for Q and A.

      The 3 rules:

      1. Tell them what you're going to tell them (30 seconds to 1 minute, the "Intro")
      2. Tell them what you're there t

  • An Idea.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SuperCharlie (1068072) on Friday March 16, 2012 @06:47PM (#39384215)
    Make up a bunch of cards with servers names, routers, etc.. all the infrastructure pieces.. then hand them out randomly as people come in..once everyone is in.. make them recreate the system.. maybe get some string for wires.. make it physical, involve the participants and it wont be boring..
    • Re:An Idea.. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by timeOday (582209) on Saturday March 17, 2012 @01:26AM (#39387021)
      I feel you have it completely backwards. Like the submitter, you're assuming the point of this is for the other staff to understand how the network is designed, or how much traffic it carries. DON'T DO THIS.

      To your users, your computing and network infrastructure "is" what it does. Focus on the services you offer. Let them know if you can set up internal wikis (or sharepoints), automate backups, or generate reports that people might be generating by hand. Conversely, too many people are coming to you for something they could easily be doing, show them how easy it is.

      Please don't make yourself look bad by trying to make it an intro to network design course.

  • I work in an academic genomics laboratory, and our tech staff are on the lab meeting rotation schedule. What they generally spend that time doing is presenting tutorials on interesting things you can do with our computational and networking infrastructure. For example, our admin implemented a really slick remote access server (Sun-branded, I think) and it was a nice chance for him to give a live demo of something that, at this point, a lot of us find useful. (Also a good chance for him to show us that he
  • by scsirob (246572) on Friday March 16, 2012 @06:49PM (#39384235)

    The very worst thing I see when someone opens a presentation is "Slide 1 of 50+". If you do want to use slides, use them as a guide only. A single picture is lots better than 20 bullet points. And for heavens sake, Do Not Read The Text To Us!!!

    Make sure you know your subject, prepare 4 slides max and talk about your subject. Start with a question or quiz to engage your audience. Trick them into a 'Duh...' moment. Get interactive and don't be afraid to say "I don't know"...

    • by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Friday March 16, 2012 @07:29PM (#39384715) Homepage
      I don't think "Do Not Read The Text To Us" can be emphasized enough.
      • by OAB_X (818333)

        Emphasizing the emphasis!

        I already know how to bloody well read thank you.

    • by Ambvai (1106941)

      4 slides seems a bit brief; I tend try to space things out such that each content slide stays up for 3-4 minutes.

      Remember that the slides are there as a visual aid and for the printouts. (Which, hopefully, they'll be taking notes on if necessary.) Keep it visual and to brief.

      Related to the previous point, make your visuals distinct and arrange it in a form that gets your point across without being misleading. (Or at least misleading in a subtle way that emphasizes the point, like zooming in a bit too far on

    • by Darinbob (1142669) on Friday March 16, 2012 @07:51PM (#39384921)

      It should say "Slide 1 of 2". Then people will sit up and pay attention, hoping for a short meeting. Then next slide says "Slide 2 of 2". Then the next slide says "Slide 3 of 2" and everyone laughs. And so on.

    • by kiwimate (458274)

      All good points. Avoid the screen of text type slides. Make sure you talk to the bullet points, rather than reading them.

      And rehearse your talk a few times. Make sure you know what you're going to say and can say it without looking at the screen (and away from your audience). Find an empty conference room and run through your presentation. Out loud.

      You might feel silly, but you'll come across as knowledgeable and confident. Professional speakers will charge you thousands of dollars to tell you that it's ult

  • by DigiShaman (671371) on Friday March 16, 2012 @06:49PM (#39384243) Homepage

    And lots of it. Sexist and shallow, I know. For all you gals out there, well get some hunks out there too so you're not left out. Give your local Hooters a call and see if they will cater. They won't remember the whole point of the meeting anyways and you'll no doubt get the funding you need. Epic win!

    I'm kidding of course. Well, sorta.

    And people wonder why HR dept hates me.

  • Record Yourself (Score:5, Interesting)

    by eljefe6a (2289776) on Friday March 16, 2012 @06:50PM (#39384253) Homepage
    Record a video of yourself giving the presentation. You will see the some areas you can work on. Put the video on YouTube and ask your friends/family for feedback.
  • KISS (Score:5, Insightful)

    by craigminah (1885846) on Friday March 16, 2012 @06:50PM (#39384259)
    Just keep it simple, minimize the number of PowerPoint slides, and brief things that may be relevant to the audience. Analogies always help so the "car analogies" comment is a good tip. I used to teach satellite communications principles and theory (e.g. orbital mechanics, decibels, satellite antenna design, RF propogation - all boring stuff) and noticed once PowerPoint was turned off and I interacted with everyone they recovered from their comas and things went well. You don't need to be a comic, juggler, clown, etc. Just keep it simple and stop at 30 minutes.
    • As we used to tell people in training them to be trainers, "The mind can only absorb what the butt can endure." Or, as my father-in-law used to say, "Stand up, speak up, shut up."
  • I was in one on Microsoft's campus with people from various companies, and this one douche thought he was being very clever by repeatedly using Chef Emeril Lagasse's "BAM!" schtick. People laughed the first time. After that the boredom was replaced by irritated hostility.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'd show your firewall logs. Most people have never seen them, and it has the added benefit of showing management that you are vital to protecting the system.

    Of course, there's a chance they may freak and insist on a 100% cracker-proof network... Only you can judge what sort of people you work with.

  • There isn't one (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 16, 2012 @06:52PM (#39384291)

    This is business, not a stand up routine. If you want to have a good presentation:

    1) Limit your audience to those who need/want to know what you're presenting
    2) Tell them what you know concisely and clearly.
    3) Do not get bogged down in details or let people rathole.
    4) Have good answers for the questions people are likely to have.

  • by Manip (656104) on Friday March 16, 2012 @06:53PM (#39384297)
    The real question you should be asking is why you're holding this event to begin with if everyone attending has no interest in the material? It just sounds like a thirty minute waste of everyone's time or just a way to make you feel like you're contributing more or something.

    While there are certainly things you can do to make it more interesting (relate it to their day to day, average e-mails sent per employee, average pages accessed in a day, etc) you really can't do the impossible without making the entire presentation about something else entirely.

    My only suggestion would be to not "read from the slides." Material should either be coming out of your mouth OR on the slides, never both. It is fine to describe a graph on the screen or a diagram, it is horrible to read out a paragraph of text.
    • typical management bullshit.

      don't worry about keeping their interest. you are not an entertainer and not paid to be one. don't even try.

      do the thing your boss asks and then be glad its over.

      bosses who force this really suck. but a job is a job.

      but its JUST a job. once you do your 'needful' you've met your obligation.

      don't try to entertain. they don't want that, either. no one wants to be there; realize that. mgmt gives you an assignment and it also shows how clueless they are.

      a job is a job but don't

      • don't worry about keeping their interest. you are not an entertainer and not paid to be one. don't even try.

        It's possible that he's not resigned to be stuck in this job for the next 65 years and can spend company time learning how to do a good presentation.

        Make lemonade.

    • by FridayBob (619244)

      Agreed. After setting up a completely new open source network system for a client, I had been planning on giving a presentation on the subject for all of the employees.... to give them an idea about what's there now and how to use it.

      But, then I realized that, no matter how enthusiastic I might be about it, I really needed to present far too much information and it would be almost impossible for me to hold their attention for more than a few minutes before their eyes would inevitably glaze over. Probably

  • Whatever you do, don't mix sarcasm with good clip-art. I worked with a sales exec who wanted to ship laptopa that shot lightning.

  • If you can describe what features and benefits various aspects of your systems have for the people you're addressing, that might help. Hearing figures and specs about the computers and network would put me to sleep. Hearing what I can do because of them might just get me interested, though.
  • Prezi + 10-20-30 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Conception (212279) on Friday March 16, 2012 @06:57PM (#39384351)

    Maybe Prezi will help with the boring topic? Keep people's eyes engaged?

    Also, the 10-20-30 rule has always worked pretty well for me. 10 slides. 20 minutes. 30 point font.

    • +1 for 10/20/30 rule.

      Don't have slides that say word-for-word what you're saying. They are not your notes to read from, they need to be bullet points that back up and emphasise what you're saying.

      Minimal amount of slides otherwise people will turn off.

      Minimum 30 point font on the slides, this will force you to keep them succinct.

      For a good guide to the art of presentation, look at any recent Apple keynote presentation.

    • by 68kmac (471061)

      +1 on the 10-20-30 rule.

      -1 on Prezi. Don't get hung up on certain tools. It's the content that counts and especially what your audience wants to hear (why are they there? what could they learn from your talk that's relevant for them?)

      Tempting as it may be to use Prezi to zoom around an overview of your network - refrain from it. I've seen people report that they actually got seasick watching all the zooming in and out in Prezi. "Pizzazz" is no replacement for content and relevance.

  • Bingo (Score:5, Funny)

    by ISoldat53 (977164) on Friday March 16, 2012 @06:57PM (#39384355)
    Play buzzword bingo. Give prizes for winners.
  • Why is your audience there? What are they interested in knowing, and what is you required to show?

    If it is a knowledge sharing meeting, they probably don't want to know the details of your infrastructure. Talk about limitations (and, of course, a very high level view of the network), plans for future, bothlenecks, how things affect them.

  • What do you want your audience to think, feel and do? Decide this at the start, and then you'll be able to judge whether you've succeeded in the end. Unfortunately, "Sharing information" is the lowest form of presentation (the highest is a call to action - "Attack!") so if that's all you're doing, it a tough row to hoe.
    Start with a grabber - something funny, or a question.
    Then tell them what you're going to tell them. This doesn't have to be an agenda slide, you can do it verbally. This sets the context and

  • by cptdondo (59460) on Friday March 16, 2012 @07:01PM (#39384407) Journal

    Once a month we do a brownbag where people come in and do presentations. It's voluntary and fun.

    The best thing to do is to have toys to show off. Just recently I walked around with a "coupon", an 8" diameter chunk of steel cut from a pipe. This let me talk about water pressure, safety (there's 4,000 lbs of force behind that coupon in a waterline) and give everyone a visual of that thing coming loose and whacking someone in the face. Perhaps not related, but it let me segue into our control system, and 25 miles of fiberoptic cable, and control infrastructure that lets us control our water delivery throughout 250 miles of waterlines.

    Tell stories, illustrate your points with real world events. Don't dwell on statistics or numbers; talk about what those numbers mean and why they're important.

    Yes, you are an entertainer. At least if you want to keep your audience from falling asleep.

  • A lot hinges on how you behave. Like others said before me, intonation is a must. Body language is also important: hands apart, open posture, eye contact, get out from behind the podium. You don't want to present a shield to the audience.

    Slides: use graphics to make it interesting, maybe a network architecture demo from PacketTracer (I find it has nice, friendly icons representing the devices), and other visual aids. Handouts may be used if you plan to impart a lot of information.

    Don't shy away from the occ

  • With blackjack and hookers! In fact, forget the meeting!
  • Bring candy (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Hadlock (143607) on Friday March 16, 2012 @07:05PM (#39384457) Homepage Journal

    Yes, really. Bring candy, handouts and don't forget one humorous story in the first third, and a joke right before the final conclusion. People like stories, especially if they're in context with the presentation. It gives the less technical people something to relate to when all you're doing is spewing numbers about money saved and man hours reduced. The candy amps up their blood sugar so they stay awake, and the handout is so they have something to reference if they fall behind in the presentation, or try to remember what you said later.

  • Talk to some of the people not in your department and ask them what they would like to hear about.

    And I also like the idea above about logs. Not screenfulls of actual logs (unless for visual effect: cat /this/months/firewall/messages and let 'er scroll), but statistics and things like that. Do something about how to make easy to remember passwords. Do a presentation about what your department does all day. Many people don't really see what the IT people do all day. So show them a graph of all the tick
  • by ArgumentBoy (669152) on Friday March 16, 2012 @07:14PM (#39384547)
    Organize the talk by their jobs. Show them how it all works when they do what they do, and where it's most likely to fail or slow down when they do various things. You'll probably go back to a couple of key slides frequently as you move from one major job type to another, but you'll adapt to your listeners. Everybody is interested in themselves. For a big finish show them how all their jobs move together in the common system. Avoid the natural mistake of organizing it by your own job.
  • Lots of posts are talking about having good subject material, but I think they are missing the mark. It's not good enough to have fun, or interesting material, but it also has to be material that is suited to a presentation. Anyone who's taken a class where a professor just droned on reading powerpoint slides knows that teaching material to people via a presentation does not work well at all, for instance. One of the fun ones in corporate america is the "reason for outage" presentation, that sort of mate

  • by mrquagmire (2326560) on Friday March 16, 2012 @07:17PM (#39384583)
    I actually gave a presentation this week that went over very well. Here's what I did:
    • * Kept it short and simple. No one wants to sit through a long boring presentation unless they absolutely have to.
    • * Started off with a slightly self depreciating joke to lighten the mood.
    • * Used good graphics and animations to keep interest.
    • * Kept my slides uncluttered so people actually read and understood what I put on there.
    • * Used a slow and clear speaking voice so everyone can hear what I was saying.
    • * Tried as much as I could to not show my nerves and I came prepared. Most people don't want to see others stumble and struggle though a bad presentation.
  • by ruemere (1148095) on Friday March 16, 2012 @07:18PM (#39384587) Homepage

    Read this:
    http://www.slideshare.net/eduruiz8/death-by-power-point-presentation [slideshare.net]

    This is a short and sweet classic on how to make an engaging presentation. It will not help you if you're a boring, antisocial and mumbling clerk, though.

    Regards,
    Ruemere

  • http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/nancy_duarte_the_secret_structure_of_great_talks.html [ted.com] I watched Nancy in a smaller venue but she did the same talk for TED. The link is above. Essentially you have to understand that people have acknowledged that you can tell them something. This immediately puts you on a pedestal - but that is a good thing, let me explain. They have invited you to tell them a story at the end of which they want to feel good about your position on a certain matter (the topic of your present
  • 'nough said.
  • Do really off the wall things, keeps the audience involved and a bit fearful. Then they'll pay attention.

    Five minutes into the presentation, suddenly step back, scream Rahr at the top of your lungs, then continue on with the presentation as if nothing happened.

    Fall on the floor and twitch mumbling in a scared child's voice "Mommy, don't the the monster get me!". Get back up, keep presenting as if nothing happened.

    Walk up to the biggest guy in the room, clock him square in the nose. Laugh. Keep presenting.

    Fa

  • Although it's been said a million times before, it's relevant also here and not obviously so.

    There are, broadly speaking, two ways one can approach a job. One path is the "job security" path. Hoard information. Hide passwords. Make yourself indispensable. The other path is to continually "make yourself dispensable" by sharing and documenting all information you gather. You create value for your company by continually learning and gathering more information to share.

    You've posed your question regarding this "information sharing" as a company requirement. No, this is your opportunity to take the latter (and better) path described above.

    First slide of your PowerPoint is a bus about to run over a pedestrian and this is where you introduce the concept of the "bus number". You frighten everyone in the room by announcing that the company has a bus number of one and that you, the speaker, are all that stands between prosperity and collapse at the company. Next slide is a photo of someone handing out candy or gifts to everyone in a crowd and is titled "Sharing".

    What are you sharing? Since this is the first presentation, not a lot of detail. First thing you are sharing is the location of your "In case of IT death, look in this directory." Don't have one yet? Make one before your presentation. It should have a "README.1ST" and a concise set of documents with passwords and network diagrams. You know, those things you were (rightly) loathe to put into your presentation.

    Next topic for this first presentation are FAQs. How people can fix the printer for themselves. How people can check the status of available DHCP IP's for themselves. Etc. Make people independent to give yourself more time to learn even more things. Like maybe stuff about e-mail servers, VPN's, CRM, or website design. Don't stand still!

    Do you realize how valuable this opportunity is and how much it's costing your company? A salesman, like, say, an insurance salesman, would pay big bucks for such an opportunity, and you're getting it for free! Use it to:

    • Make yourself look expert and confident, and to give everyone a positive impression of you.
    • Educate others to self-help to:
      • Make your network robust (to prevent three levels of interrupt on your time)
      • Free up your time to learn more things
      • Make it look like you're not hoarding information.
    • With all of the new learning you'll be able to do:
      • Increase your value to your current or your future employer
      • Add even more value to your current employer by improving your employer's IT infrastructure.
    • Satisfy whatever your supervisor's goals are with the "knowledge sharing" program if they are not covered by the above.

    Make yourself dispensable. It's the way to create value. 30 minutes is an enormous gift. Spend it wisely.

  • drop powerpoint (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tom (822) on Friday March 16, 2012 @07:30PM (#39384733) Homepage Journal

    First thing you do is drop powerpoint. Don't start it up and open an empty presentation and then start to think what to put on the slides.

    Work without slides. Focus on what you want to say. If there are diagrams, etc. - anything halfway complicated - make a handout instead of slides, because people won't remember the slides anyways, but they can take the handout with them and keep it as reference.

    There are some cases, such as a demo or a walkthrough, where slides are useful, but most presentations can do entirely without, if only they were more interesting.

    If you have something to say, you're already halfway there to an interesting presentation. If you are just giving a presentation because you were asked, and you think your topic boring yourself, then you need to get to the "something to say" step first. Find out what makes your job interesting. There must be something, or you wouldn't be doing it.

    A good presentation doesn't try to say everything about its subject matter. It concentrates on the interesting, cool and/or important stuff and only hints at the fact that there's so much more.

  • Talk to the participants beforehand. Ask about their pain points. Put up a survey with a few ideas for a presentation, then do the one with the most votes. See what the audience wants to hear. Show them stuff that will make their jobs easier.

  • No more than 10-15 slides
    Don't read the slides. They should just reinforce what you're talking about. If possible, no slides. Simply show a few realtime applications as you are talking.
    "Here is our current server load." "Here is the realtime, right now, network traffic between Omaha and Tacoma." Or whatever. There are dangers in doing this, but if you can, it can be quite powerful.

    Above all, don't let your boss change the presentation the day before. I had this happen. Short slide deck ready to go...re
  • Understand your audience. Work out what they're going to be interested in.

    Don't tell them bandwidth stats. Tell them who is using your site, how much, what for, and then use that to explain the bandwidth patterns and usage. The fact that peak bandwidth usage is at 5-7pm and hits X is relevant to business people, and X should be pages/minute not mbps. That you can also note that each page is on average Y in size means you can correlate page views to bandwidth, and also demonstrate opportunities to improve si

  • If you're serious -- try to find a local Toastmasters [toastmasters.org] club.

  • EVIL [uni-duesseldorf.de] I say.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Friday March 16, 2012 @07:59PM (#39384985)

    Not for the boss, not for yourself, not for the topic. For the people who sit there. It may sound logical, but it's rarely really the case.

    Of course you're making the presentation because your boss wants you to. Or because you actually want to. Neither is important. It's not even important what you want to transport. If you cannot reach your audience, everything else is moot.

    Don't mix and match if there's any chance. If you toss programmers together with marketing people and do a presentation about IT, you're going to fail. No matter what you do. You will either bore the programmers or talk over the heads of the markedroids. And either means that they will simply "shut down" and mentally leave your presentation.

    Get them involved. This not only "forces" them to be attentive but it also gives you immediate feedback whether they actually understand what you try to tell them. Try to turn it from a monologue into a dialogue and maybe a discussion. Listen to their questions (and I don't mean the standard token "if you have any questions please ask" crap), watch their faces, you will see when someone has a question, actively get them to ask them. People sometimes don't dare to ask, either because they fear that they will appear "stupid" for not understanding something or because they are afraid to either piss off you or their peers, you, because you might not want to answer questions and their peers because they want to get out of the presentation.

    Powerpoint. Use it sparingly, or leave it out altogether. It got old ages ago. No matter how you spin, flip or animate the crap, nobody gives half a shit about it anymore. If there's any chance, use pictures instead. Depending on your corporate culture, a "shock and awe" approach can be very useful to get your point across. I once had a presentation about IT security where I used the husk of a computer that was detonated with C4 as a metaphor for a hack, trust me, it struck a chord and it stuck. People usually enjoy looking at pictures that make them go "wtf-omg", at least a LOT more than looking at bulleted lists, and those bullet lists never got my point across at least anyway. You can hand them the documents if you are so inclined, but don't lecture it to them. You may do a lot with your audience, but you must not bore them or they will mentally take a stroll through their happy place while they park their carcass in front of you.

    And most of all, keep it practical. They have to have the feeling that they can take something out of this meeting that helps them in their job. Try to stay away from theoretic drivel, it bores them. They don't like computers, at least not necessarily. They also aren't really interested in your job, or they would have chosen your career instead of theirs. And most of all, they don't give a damn about how you do something, why you do something and often not even why they should do it. Give them something practical and something that makes their life easier and they'll gladly listen and take your advice. Depending on the support you have from your higher-ups, you could have them toss something "bad" at your audience and let you come in as the one to save the day. To give you an idea what I mean, a little anecdote. I once was tasked to get the new ITSEC rules to our staff. It would be approximately 50 pages of rather dry and very technical stuff per user, something you can't easily sell. My boss helped me by first demanding that everyone reads and heeds everything, even the parts that don't apply to them, totaling about 500 pages. In a nutshell, when I was offering meetings that showed them how to prune it to just 50 pages per team, they were quite eager to come.

  • Wow, so many useful suggestions.

    Here are a few other ones.

    First, train yourself !
    Speaking publicly is not easy, you need to learn the basics.
    1) Since most of the communication is not verbal, you need to master your appearance and your gestures. Face your public, open your arms, smile.
    2) Look your audience from left to right then right to left.
    3) Master your voice. We tend to have a pitched voice. Try to breathe deeply.

    About the content:
    1) Try to search what your audience wants to learn or hear
    2) Prepare tho

  • Developers: how can they optimize network usage in the product(s)? what beneficial effect does that have on your clients?
    QA: How do you look for appropriate traffic? assure your product wont adversely affect a clients network?
    PM: How should you work with your clients on network issues? what signs should you look for to see the product is helping or hurting client infrastructure?

  • First, I rattle off several phrases like "Cloud, synergy, take ownership, metrics, TCO, 5-Nines, and IPV6". Then announce "Now that we have a winner for buzzword bingo I'll move on to an overview of our systems, and key pieces you should know of.

    Don't be detailed on anything. You being a techie probably love details. The hot secretary, not so much. Stay with high level views. Primary tools and what the hot secretary may use them for. Engineering probably already knows the details, or can figure it out

  • I agree with almost everything Mark Jason Dominus says in this http://perl.plover.com/yak/presentation/ [plover.com]

  • The part about IT is not the problem. The issue is that you need to learn to make presentations. Take up public speaking. There are several ways to acquire this kind of skill. I suggest Toastmasters [toastmasters.org] as an inexpensive route. Not instantaneous, but in a year or two you can do well.
  • I mean, it is "Booth Babes" and not "Boothbabes" right?

  • If you subtly remind them of all the ways you're inspecting their packets, they're less likely to nod off. MUAHAHA
  • First be a good public speaker. You're much more likely too keep someone's attention for the duration of your presentation if people aren't annoyed listening to you.

    And here's someing I've wanted to try but haven't had the opportunity to yet. If your using a Mac to show a slide deck, configure custom voice commands for "computer, next slide" and "computer, previous slide." If it works, everyone you're presenting to will most likely be distracted by that and forget the rest of your presentation, but they'll

  • If your audience starts to look bored, take off your shoes and start nibbling on your feet...

I'd rather just believe that it's done by little elves running around.

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