As a Technical Evangelist I have a lot of opportunities to speak to small and large groups of people. This could be online (webinars & blogging etc.) or in person with customers as well as at events and conferences. What I’m getting at is I get to do a fair bit of presenting. I am by no means a “professional presenter” keynoting large conferences (quite the opposite), but I have picked up a few tips (sometimes the hard way) that I’d like to share. I hope this will grow as a series of posts on the subject.
The first is about timing which in regards to presenting I’ll break into two key areas: cadence & time management.
Too fast? Too slow? Or just right? You might not have picked up on this but go back and watch a great presentation and notice how deliberate the speakers are and the cadence at which they speak; there is flow and there is confidence.
If you speak too slowly or take too many long pauses you can project a sense of not being confident or knowledgeable, also you run the risk of your audience losing interest. Someone who is naturally a fast talker might try and force themselves to slow down (too much) which will come off as unnatural and possibly distract the audience.
Taking long pauses between slides could be a result of not knowing what is coming next, or having to refresh your talking points.
I suggest playing to your natural speed. I can talk too fast, especially on a topic I’m passionate about. So to ensure I land my key points I’ll often introduce “key takeaway” slides/points to ground the message; a key practice that I’ll discuss in another post.
Rehearsal of your presentation and knowing what is coming up next will help you keep a proper cadence. Mastering the “Presenter View” in PowerPoint will certainly help. I use this to quickly glance at what is coming up next before I move to the next slide so I can continue my talk without pausing and looking at the next slide, this helps keep a smooth uninterrupted rhythm.
How much should you rehearse your presentation? There is no golden rule, however for myself I like to do at least 4 full rehearsals. I often tell my team that for any 1-hour presentation I’ve likely got 8+ hours into preparation.
Here I’ll read the slides & speaking notes out loud in full. Anytime I stumble or don’t like the cadence/wording I write down a quick note, but I keep going. It’s important to read/speak out loud, you will be surprised at how something you say in your head can sound totally different or just wrong out loud.
After reviewing my notes and editing the presentation as necessary, I then do a compete run through ideally too many interruptions or stumbles, but a few times I will still need to make a change/clean up a point etc.
Here I like to do a “dress rehearsal” (more on this in another post) but essential, I stand up, I walk around, I use my presenter remote, and I try not to look at my slides. You should practice as if it was the real deal.
TI will repeat the “dress rehearsal” as often as needed until I’m entirely comfortable with the talk and feel the flow/rhythm and content are all dialed in. However, the night before I will always do another run through or two of my presentation.
I never write down my entire talk. I’ll put in only the most crucial points in the speaking notes. This is because I rarely give the same talk more than a few times or if I do I rarely say exactly the same things the same way. I focus on the key points that I want to land. My goal is to feel comfortable with the content an able to tailor it as needed to the audience.
Have you ever just had so much content that you need to power through it so you can complete? I have, it’s horrible, both for you and your audience, trust me. You will rush over points or entire slides, not land key messages and worst of all your audience will feel like they are “drinking from the firehose” (an expression I hear a lot at Microsoft).
Look over your slides, are there more than 3 points? Do you think anyone will remember them? Are they really that important?
If my goal is to land a key message then that is all I include on the slide, in really big font, ideally with a funny or relevant photo as a backdrop.
It’s very common when giving a presentation to include all the information, you can easily justify this as providing context or background on a subject. I challenge you to ask yourself is it all really necessary? Can it be provided as addendum? Are you there to teach or to inspire them to research the topic further? What do you really want them to remember?
Want to really piss off an event organizer? Go over your allotted time, heck why not cut right into lunch or worse yet the next speakers time? How many of us have heard “I’ll try and get this back on track” or “we’ll skip the next break” or “lunch will be shorted to 15 minutes…”.
I’ve gone over my time before so I say this knowing I’m being hypocritical, but going over your time is one of the worst sins you can commit as a presenter!
Look it’s pretty simple, if you are given 10 minutes prepare for 6, 30 minutes? prepare for 20, an hour? a 45-minute talk should be the MAX. I think you get the idea…
I was part of an event that went over by a full hour! Why? The speakers all went over, I think I was the only one that came in under time and was able to field some Q&A.
I stress more over shorter talks than longer ones. It’s difficult to give an impactful presentation in 10 – 20 minutes. This is why I love TED talks so much, these people are inspirational and concise (not to mention amazing storytellers)!
At the end of the day it’s about respect. Respect for your audience, respect for the poor event organizer panicking trying to keep things to a finely tuned schedule and respect to the other speakers. So please, PLEASE never start your talk with “we have a lot to cover here so let’s try and get through it all”.
Again, practice, practice, practice. I am not content until I can deliver my talk, cold, without looking at notes and well under my allotted time.
There are countless resources just a quick search a way that will list all the things you should study in preparation for a particular exam. Likely you will find Microsoft Virtual Academy courses, TechNet/MSDN articles, blog posts, books, practice exams and much more. Let me be clear, those are all super useful.
However, I will share how I passed the exams, which is not to say how you can or will, but if you are like me (just a bit?), maybe this will be helpful.
This seemingly innocent, possibly factual statement of “not in my job description” gets my blood boiling. Without going into the details of who’s and when’s let’s just say I’ve been hearing this more and more from people as they complain about their jobs. Anyone who has ever worked with me has certainly heard me get on my soapbox and give the same speech:
“I will never ask you to do something I haven’t done a dozen times myself”
I came across an interesting bug today that could show up in environments where source content is minified. The core of the issue was a regular expression (aka regex) that would work on content that had whitespace and newlines, but not on the same content which had been minified (whitespace & newlines removed, names shortened etc.)
To fund a new camera I’ve been wanting (ok really obsessing over) I decided to sell a few lenses that I don’t use much. After posting on the local used forums I decided to try and give eBay a try. Now I have never sold on eBay before but with a listing all ready to go I hit the publish button!
Edge is Microsoft’s newest browser for Windows 10. I genuinely dig it, the overall UX feels more like an “app” than a “browser” if that makes any sense. It’s still missing some key features like cloud sync’d favs and of course extensions (which are coming as they were announced at //BUILD but no official release date as of yet).
In a previous post I introduced you to the Azure Marketplace where you can deploy solutions or publish your own for free for for a fee. The Azure MarketPlace uses the Azure Resource Manager technology to programatically define these deployments however even if you don’t intend to publish in the MarketPlace it’s still handy to define your own infrastructure for dev, test and production setups.
In another life I was a manager at Microsoft (both in the US and Ireland) and during that time I learned more than a few things on the job, from formal training & most importantly from various mentors that have served me well to this day.
So what was the big thing I learned in terms of upward career progression?
You don’t ask for a promotion, you show you are already doing it