Black text on white background
Remember the old days of Geocities when people had purple backgrounds with yellow text? Or dark green backgrounds with white text? Or crazy fonts? We make fun of that sort of thing now. Unfortunately, I've seen presentations done that way in the recent past and so have you.
Yup, background colors that look great on a laptop or monitor screen often lose something in the transition to a projector. You can't predict what the venue will give you in regards to quality/brand of projector, so why take unnecessary risks?
So I stick with the classic of what people have been doing forever. I choose the lightest possible background, the darkest colored text, and I use the default font of the slide software. Maybe its not fancy or artistic, but my message isn't obfuscated by forcing people to squint to see slides reinforcing what I'm saying.
Fear the command line!
The sucky thing about giving a tutorial is that you have to touch the command-line. And something invariably goes wrong. If you do have to use the command-line remember the following tips:
- White background and black text and increase the size of the text. I don't care if you prefer to code with a black background with tiny green letters - your audience simply won't be able to follow you as easily. Since I heard a Walt Disney Animation Studios technical lead have the same opinion, I now feel empowered enough to complain after any talk featuring an unreadable shell.
- Try to fake the command-line. I've heard player piano is a great tool for doing that and will save you from that minute of silence when you try to figure out what you did wrong.
Listening to someone read the content off a slide is dull. I try to say anything BUT what is on the slide. When I do it speak the content of a slide exactly its because I'm purposefully breaking my pattern to make a point. Or to be silly because I'm getting tense.
What you should be doing is using the slides to remind yourself of your next point. Think of them as notes for your speech, not the speech itself
Bullets are dangerous
Bullets are live ammunition. Even in small quantities they can kill a talk. They can put an audience to sleep, cause them to start checking twitter, or even leave. So I use bullets very sparingly in presentations (classes can be different) because of their potency. Because of their inherent silliness I tend to use bullets in self-deprecating humor.
A better tactic than bullets is to create a subject header on a number of slides and put a single bullet under that subject header. So instead of one (1) slide about 'Python' with bullets of 'Monty', 'Guido', and 'Spam', I like to have three (3) slides each with a header of 'Python' and the content simply being 'Monty', 'Guido', and 'Spam'.
Sixty seconds per slide
If you wait too long your slide will become boring to the audience and their brains will drift. This ties right into the problem with bullets. Keep things moving along.
Be rested, fed, and sober for your talk
Skip the late night party and get a good night's rest. The day of the talk eat food that makes you feel physically better.
In January I went to a talk where the speaker was presenting on a technical matter with beer in hand. Maybe he thought it was hip, but his talk sucked. He got out of sync with his slides and stumbled around his own thoughts. Not only was the talk of poor quality but it was disrespectful of the speaker.
Needless to say, the audience was very grumbly about the 45 minutes they wasted.
That was a terrible shame because his slides were pretty good. I bet if he had been sober that talk would have rocked.
If people ask questions during the talk, ask them to wait until the end
They'll break your pace, rhythm, and timing. If they can't wait until the end then they now fall under my definition of heckler and are not worth answering anyway.
Be nice to people who come up to you after a talk
You never know who is that new person who comes up to you. Maybe they are planning to blog about you or write about you in the press. Maybe they are a possible business or job lead. Maybe they are someone who wants to throw a gajillion dollars at you. Be nice to them and you'll find out. Try to find time to talk to everyone, even if for just a minute each.