Category Archives: presentation

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Thoughts on presenting: I love the backchannel

One of the reasons why I like presenting online more than presenting in even the best-equipped halls is the text chat that participants can use to share what they think. I love it. I think it’s incredible how, through talks, I can provide a space for people to come together and discuss something they’re interested in, and I can listen to what’s important to them and what they’ve learned.

The value I bring to a presentation:

  • a key message
  • next actions
  • a short, energetic, engaging presentation
  • other stories and insights as they come up during Q&A

The value I receive from a presentation:

  • new insights from the conversations
  • new connections
  • the warm and fuzzy feeling that comes from sharing

It’s a lot of fun. I hope I can help more presenters get the hang of the backchannel!

IgniteToronto video: The Shy Presenter

I’m giving up on getting the organizers to update the incorrect abstract and bio on the page, but anyway, here’s the 5-minute video from my “Shy Presenter” talk at IgniteToronto:

Ignite Toronto 3: Sacha Chua – The Shy Presenter: An Introvert’s Guide to Speaking in Public from Ignite Toronto on Vimeo.

Minor miscalculation: shy or introverted presenters-to-be are not actually likely to come out to a bar with 200 people to watch an Ignite talk. Ah well. ;) Here’s to fellow introverts who would rather catch the replay!

The Shy Presenter If you’ve ever struggled with small talk, felt overwhelmed in crowds, or wondered how to speak up at work, this talk’s for you. In five minutes, you’ll pick up quick tips about discovering what you have to say, how to say it, and why it’s worth braving the spotlight.

Bio: Sacha Chua spent grade school to grad school hiding in computer labs and libraries. She prefers bookstores over bars, close friends instead of crowds, and silence over small talk. Blogging and public speaking turned out to be excellent ways to learn, though. Today, tens of thousands of people have viewed Sacha Chua’s presentations, attended her keynotes, and read her blog (LivingAnAwesomeLife.com).

Presentation kaizen: Seven everyday ways to become a better presenter

Talk given at PresentationCamp.

Presentation Kaizen
View more presentations from Sacha Chua

You need to have something worth presenting. Shortest way to do that is to (1) learn from others. Read books, read blogs, listen to conversations, attend talks, etc. But you’ve got to bring something unique to it, so (2) experiment, experience, and live. That gives you something to (3) share. Share what you’re learning in conversations, in blog posts, etc. This helps you figure out what you want to say and how you want to say it.

I used to tell people, “Sure, it’s okay if you don’t write, blogging might not be for everyone,” but as I help more and more people, I realize that writing things down gives you a tremendous advantage because memory is short, and a semi-permanent record will help you accumulate and organize so much more raw material. Audio and video recordings are handy for quick notes, but they’re not as searchable. So write or draw, and figure out how to build your own knowledgebase, even if that consists of notebooks and notebooks. You don’t have to capture everything, but you’ll benefit from capturing even some of the things you learn. And this can be private, although you’ll benefit much more from sharing your notes with other people because you’ll learn a lot more in the process.

Anyway, now you have a lot of material, and you’ve got to figure out how to share it. So (4) watch. Watch good presenters for inspiration (TED is great for this), but don’t stop at watching presentations. Watch movies to learn about storytelling. Watch commercials to find out about grabbing and keeping people’s attention, addressing the “What’s in it for me”. Read literature and news to see how people phrase things. Watch conversations. Everything teaches you something.

Watch horrible presentations, too. You’ll find plenty of these around. Next time a teleconference bores you, take notes. This is great for three reasons:

  • You remember why it’s important to become a better presenter when you feel the pain of an audience whose time is being wasted and the pain of the speaker whose lack of skills is getting in the way of a good message.
  • You remember what you don’t want to do: read off the slides, fill your slides with illegible text, etc.
  • You realize that even bad presentations are okay and that everyone’s learning. People still pay to go to conferences or attend webinars, even though many talks suck. Even for free sessions, people invest time and opportunity cost. So if you see speakers stuttering and stammering and stumbling over slides, but they still get their messages across, that encourages you to get started, keep going, and learn.

Another good thing to do while watching bad presentations: (5) revise. If you’ve ever told yourself that you could do a better job than the person standing on the stage, prove it. Figure out their key message and restructure their presentation. Doodle new slides for them. It’s great practice because you’re working on making things better. Do this for yourself, too. Review your presentations and figure out how you can do things better.

Now you’ve got good content and ideas on how to present it, so (6) prepare. Figure out your key message and supporting points, draft a script, turn it into an article. Storyboard ideas for slides and make a presentation. You don’t have to deliver it. You just have to practise packaging it. Post it on Slideshare or your blog if you want – great way to get feedback.

Invest a little bit more time in getting tons more value out of those six activities by (7) promoting what you know. If no one knows that you know, no one’s going to know what you know. So make it easy for people to find out how you can help them. Write about it. Listen for opportunities in conversation, and by that I don’t mean shameless irrelevant plugging like, “As I was saying on my blog livinganawesomelife.com, …” – I mean listen for ways to help people, and then offer to send them a link if you’ve got something relevant to their needs. Volunteer for speaking opportunities. Webinar and conference organizers are always looking for material. Business associations and other groups are always looking for speakers. If you can’t find a venue, make your own. There are a number of webinar services that offer small conferences for free. Explore.

If you (1) learn, (2) live, and (3) share as much as you can, you’ll build up lots of raw material. (4) Watching others and (5) revising presentations will help you improve your presentation skills. Then it’s just a matter of (6) preparing presentation ideas and (7) promoting how you can help others. You can turn every moment into presentation practice – and that’s the secret of relentless improvement, or presentation kaizen.

For more ideas, check out this braindump.

Coaching people on how to give better remote presentations – Thinking out loud

We need better web presentations. There are so many opportunities out there. I think I can help more people learn how to speak, and I can help people learn how to speak better.

If I were to coach someone on how to give a better remote presentation, what could I help them with?

  • Finding something to talk about: testing your ideas through blogs, shared presentations, and webinars
  • Refining your message: figure out the next steps, the key message, and any supporting points
  • Supporting your story: planning how your slides will support your talk, and revising them to be more engaging
  • Pitching your talk: tweaking your title, abstract, bio, and picture; finding venues
  • Planning for interaction: how to make the most of webinar tools, how to engage the audience
  • Technical setup: familiarizing yourself with the system, getting your webcam going, cleaning up your background and lighting; testing everything beforehand
  • From presentations to conversations: getting used to the back-and-forth of backchannels, working with a host/moderator
  • Dealing with Murphy: What to do when things go wrong
  • Asking for feedback: Running surveys and learning from them
  • Reaping the rewards: Capturing assets, scaling up through sharing

In addition, I can help give feedback on their presentation content and delivery. Personally, I prefer focusing on content and organization rather than just ums and ahs, so you’ll get more substantive editing from me than surface editing.

Hmm. I think that might be interesting to explore. I’d learn a lot, other people would learn a lot, and I’d write up and share that with even more people. It might be some time away, or it might be an extracurricular thing if I can clear it with IBM, or plans might change. =) I’ll probably start with just one student first.

Would you like to hear from me if I do set up something like that? What would you like to see in it? Leave a comment or contact me and tell me what you think!

An abundance of opportunities

In 2008 and 2009, I gave an average of one talk every two weeks. It was really more bunched-together than that. Sometimes I’d do back-to-back presentations, like the four presentations I gave in March 2008 (conference season!). Other times, I’d have a bit of a breather before starting things up again.

With the general move away from face-to-face conferences and my decision to cut down on face-to-face speaking, I thought that would lead to a lighter year. My goal was to do one presentation a month, which was really just half of what I did last year. I successfully held it to one major presentation each for January and February, postponing things as needed.

Then March came (Why is it always March?), and I got lots of invitations to speak at things that sounded really interesting.

  1. There’s a client workshop in the UK at which I’ll do a short presentation on collaboration and culture change. That’s work, so there’s no rescheduling or referring that.
  2. There’s another internal teleconference that wants to re-run my “Remote Presentations That Rock”. There are actually two of these, but the other one’s fine with the recording.
  3. I’ve been invited to speak to IBM social media and marketing folks in Australia (teleconference) about people and the IBM brand.
  4. I volunteered to give a presentation about presentation tips at IgniteTO, which was on Wednesday. I wanted to try the Ignite format and listen to the other presenters.
  5. I’ve been invited to do something at PresentationCamp, and I’ll probably build on the talk I’m giving at IgniteTO.

And that’s after I’ve tried referring as much as possible to other people, such as a social media speaking thing that would be a great fit for one of my friends.

Greedy learner that I am, it’s really hard for me to resist the temptation to learn not only from the process of preparing the presentation, but also from the participation of interesting people during the delivery and post-presentation conversations.

Also, the talks all fit into what I want to talk about in 2010. Amazing how that works out.

What am I learning from this?

  • March is typically crazy.
  • Even when I don’t submit abstracts to conferences, speaking opportunities come anyway.
  • Putting together and sharing as much information as possible makes things easier for me afterwards, because people can now ask me for presentations based on previous presentations or blog posts, and those are less work than completely new things.
  • Even when I say no-travel-except-for-work-presentations, local and remote speaking opportunities come up.
  • I still haven’t figured out a good way to tell myself no. But it doesn’t cut into work or living yet, so I think it’s still okay.
  • Even though I mock-gripe about the time it takes to figure out my key message and how to illustrate it, I still think it’s a good use of my free time.

So now I can deliberately practice clarifying my key messages, illustrating my slides, and reusing things from my blog and my past presentations. I also want to get better at collecting stories and videos.

Maybe I can get better at asking:

  • Are there other people who can do this presentation?
  • Are there other dates on which I can do this presentation?
  • What new insights do I want to capture and share?

Next talks I want to develop about presentations:

  • How I learned to stop worrying and love the webinar (Why remote presentations can be great and how to make the most of the backchannel), or
  • Presentation kaizen: Relentless improvement and the art of public speaking, or
  • More for your money: Increasing your return on effort on presentations

Presentation lessons from Ignite; deliberate practice

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