Thursday, February 4, 2010

How I write my presentations


I tend to use just a few simple tools. I like to keep things simple because I'm focusing on my message. Complexity means I spend all my time with this or that widget and fundamentally I don't care about tools.

Google for Images

I look for images that have free/open licenses for reuse. Sometimes its hard to find something that is properly licensed, so I have to alter what the image is supposed to be.

Mac OS X Screen Capture

If I want colorized code, prettily formatted text, or simple shell displays, I use command-shift+4.

Google Documents Presentation

You really can't do anything too fancy with Google Documents, which might bother some but I find it perfect for my needs. Also, storing my drafts on Google makes a lot of sense because if Google has problems with storage then I'll be worrying about Zombies more than a presentation. And I also don't have to worry about losing a machine. Google Docs also exports to PDF or Powerpoint which is useful during the presentation or uploading to slideshare.

Also, Google Docs lets me easily share and collaborate.

NeoOffice Presentations

Actually, I don't like this tool but I use it during my long metro rides when I don't have access to the Internet. I can export from Google Docs a PPT file, edit it, and then upload later.


How I write things out and present.

Black text on white background

For a while I played with various color schemes. I found that problematic because what displays nicely on my Mac often doesn't display prettily on the big screen. Things can become illegible. Also, keeping away from pretty color schemes means nearly every picture looks good. So why not go with the historical constant thats been used for centuries?

I am moderate in my use of bullets

I don't think bullets are evil. I do think a lot of them on the screen or reading them to the audience is evil. Bullets help trigger my dialogue. In addition, if you reference my presentation later it means my presentation actually has value. A huge set of short statements as slides doesn't do that as well, even if its more fun to do and more enjoyable for the audience.

Pictures are more fun than words

I like to mix bullets and pictures. Or just have pictures. I can speak more easily to a picture than a set of words. The picture helps me remember what I intended to say, which is nice because I hate checking notes when I'm trying to speak.

I keep my points and sentences short

This is really important. Going into recursive detail about your point and preferences bores the audience and they lose focus in what you are saying. After you make your point, move on. Or use an image to reinforce things.

Also, if you keep your points and sentences short, its easier to link things together. Not only will you find it easier to keep things in mind, but so will your audience. Pause between big statements to let things sink it. Remember, negative space is as important in a presentation as it is in art.

This doesn't mean I'm simplistic or I'm assuming that my audience is simplistic. Instead, I'm aiming for an aggregate whole effect, and I also assume that when I'm done people will be excited and racing to look at formal documentation.

No practice

Some people like to practice several times in advance and time things out. Not me. I like my presentations to have spontaneity. I watch the audience and from their visual and verbal cues alter my presentation to match. Sometimes that means I end up skipping slides or when I get to a slide its moot (so I use it to 'reinforce' my point). This works for me. I'm a spontaneous person who responds well under the conditions of speaking in public.

Post my stuff on

When I'm done I post my stuff publicly. People sometimes want to copy/use my material or reference it for their own sake. As long as I get the proper and legal credit I'm delighted to share. I also love feedback, positive and negative.

Which reminds me, I've got some more stuff to upload...

No comments: