March 4, 2010

Presentation lessons from Ignite; deliberate practice

March 4, 2010 - Categories: kaizen, presentation, speaking, tips

Did my first Ignite talk last night, at Ignite Toronto 3. It was fun! Scary, yes. But fun, and I hope I convinced at least one person to share more of what he or she knows. Here are some things I learned along the way:

Five minutes will fly by. Don’t worry. All you need to do is do a commercial and point people to where they can find out more. You have plenty of time to make an impression. TV spots are typically 30 seconds long. You have the equivalent of 10 TV commercials to make an impression in. You can do it.

Instead of starting with a bigger presentation and trying to squeeze it into five minutes, start with your key message and expand that to fit five minutes. It’s easier that way.

Write your script, plan your slides, plan a key point for each slide, and then let go of your script. Focus on getting your key point for each slide across, and improvise whatever you need to make it shorter or longer. This means you don’t have to stand around waiting for a slide to change (you can always just add more detail!) or stress out if your slides seem to be going at lightning speed (just say your key point).

Don’t put a lot of text on your slides. If you can, don’t put any text on slides shown when you’re speaking. Text makes people read. Reading makes people stop listening. You’re going to be too nervous to give them time to read. Make it easy for people to focus on you.

You can either apologize for mistakes or focus on getting your message across. Focusing on communicating your message is more useful and fun. People don’t expect you to be perfect.

Put your notes or script online so that people can read the things you forgot to say. You can post it after the session if you don’t want to spoil your punchlines.

An easy way to remember your slides: Figure out your key point for each slide and the transitions between them. It’s easier to remember when it all flows. Tweak it until it feels natural. Then review your slides. For each slide, practice remembering your key message and the transition to the next slide. That way, you always know what the next slide is.

Practice the timing so that you can get a sense of how much can fit into 15 seconds. More important: practice the timing so that you can get used to recovering from timing errors. This is really helpful. People don’t mind if your speech isn’t perfectly synchronized with your slides. If you can keep it reasonably on track, that’s great.

Use a short description and bio, to keep the flow smooth.

Make a placeholder entry on your blog and use that link in the bio so that organizers can link to your speaker notes / presentation without having to make last-minute web updates.

Watch other presentations for inspiration. Plenty of great examples out there.

How to deliberately practice timing (very handy!): Print out your script, notes, or slides. Set up a 15-second looping countdown presentation. While this is counting down from 15 to 1, practice “scenes” from your presentation. You don’t have to do them in order, and you don’t have to do them all the way through, although that helps. I find it useful to repeat one scene until it feels okay, and then move on to the next one. It’s also helpful to run through the entire thing at least once.

You can reuse the timing presentation to help you keep track of time during your talk. But five minutes goes by really quickly, and if you’re making eye contact, you’re not going to look at your timing laptop. Don’t worry about getting everything perfectly timed. Focus on getting your message across and to adjusting as needed.

You can practice outside an Ignite event by recording presentations. You can also practice by doing your talk for a friend. Tag a fellow presenter and work out those butterflies by practicing with each other.

Another long reflection on my process: Thoughts on preparing an Ignite-style presentation

More specific notes for myself:

Things to remember for future versions of my talk: introverts aren’t likely to be out at a bar with 199 other people. They’re going to be at home, waiting for the Youtube replay. ;) Like, duh. Maybe a different way to frame these presentation tips?

Also, raise-hands polling is hard with a harsh spotlight. I couldn’t see anyone until I shaded my eyes and adjusted to the darkness.

Next for me: Remote Presentations That Rock (March 8, rerun), branding (March 8 PM), client workshop (March 18-19), then PresentationCamp on March 23.

Video to be posted in the next three weeks, I think.

Fun!

Great stuff from other people: How to give a great Ignite talk