Wednesday, 6 February 2013

How to find your presenter style


When I joined to Pronovix we were all encouraged to present on events. For me and some of my colleagues it started with an internal presentation series. Every week somebody introduced a topic to the company. It's interesting to see how my attitude changed towards presenting.


First it was exciting. Then after couple of presentations it became a nightmare. Not because the actual performance was a nightmare - I mean no matter how unprepared a presentation is you never hear the audience saying: "how awful let's murder him". It's mostly how I felt about it. First I had my personal problem with the way I think. I'm incapable of explaining a topic from bottom to top. I always forget the details and mix things up. There is the newbie-presenter-blindfold effect. It happens from the moment you start your presentation - you forget everything that you've learned, and even some basic instincts as well. So that's the first thing you have to learn - if you're similar. Never ever expect that you can think during a presentation.

My second problem was that I wanted to be a great presenter. I tried to speak clearly, I tried to explain details and care about the audience. There I've learned there is no such audience who can understand everything. They don't care much about details in general. They care about the "show". Otherwise they would lookup a tutorial in google.

The third lethal problem I had is actually the audience. There is a guy always looking out of the window. There is one looking like a serial killer. There is the guy who knows you're zero but maintains the intellectual attention face so you don't feel too bad about yourself. And there are the group who have absolutely no idea what you're talking about. Truly I'd be happier with a hundred nodding robot in front of me.

So what to do when you have such issues?

Find your own style. I like to see presentations. I love TED, I like Google presentations, other misc presentations, conferences, meetups, anything where people stand up and talk. Find the patters you like and steal them. I'm pretty sure to say that there is nothing unacceptable.

Then my second tip is to be interested about what you're saying. Don't even try to present only for the audience, or fame. Present because the topic is so interesting you have to tell about that. If you're an introvert like me it's essential. And then you can avoid being precise and strict. People will lookup the details later. First they need to see one person (you) who is really enthusiastic.

Third - fail. If you're afraid of presenting it means you didn't fail enough. I fail all the time. Perfect demo scripts breaks only during the presentation. Perfects slides are imported badly 2 minutes before the talk. You're voice is gone. You spit the nice lady in the first row. You fart. And all of that at the same time. Well, shit happens. But you can say "sorry I sucked" and people will like you, that's magic :)

And my last advice is a bit strange - find your segment of topics. As I said about my brain - I know that I shouldn't held a talks about fact-heavy topics. My quality zone is somewhere around technology introductions, speed-up to libraries, everyday practices at server fields ... topics where I have much experience.

Tl;dr: I'm not sure how girls work, but here it's totally true - be yourself and you'll be surprisingly appreciated.

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Do you have any tips how to overcome the presentation-fear and actually enjoy it?

Peter

2 comments:

  1. I have a trick, which I often use. Some days/hours before your presentation think about real life stories which can be connected to the topic you're gonna talk about.

    Stories are easy to remember and if they are related to your topic, they can really spice up even a boring presentation.

    (of course, you need interesting stories with some drama or jokes)

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  2. Hi Ervin,
    Yes, I totally agree with that. I was sometimes hesitating - you know - how nerdy it would be to tell my stories about code and debugging :) But hopefully it's not biologists who you present to.
    Thanks for the great advice!

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