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Delivering Outstanding Presentations

(Technical) professionals are caught in an interesting dilemma. We are asked to contribute to events, customer meeting or internal presentations because we know a lot about a topic. We are supposed to transfer this wealth of knowledge to our customers, audience and participants. We love to show [off] our knowledge. In lucky places like Lotusphere this works well. For everywhere else however human attention span, especially in a crowd, is severely limited. Ten minutes is all you got. One-Zero minutes. After 10 minutes the crowd moves on. If you are lucky - or smart - the crowd moves on to your next topic (like the Lotusphere speed geeking sessions <g>).
But where do that 10 minutes come from? The present moment is 3 seconds and attention spans are reported from 3-20 min. I picked the 10 minutes rule from the book Brain Rules after having seen it in a number of places. So if 10 minutes is all you got, how to fill the remaining 35-50 minutes your are given to present? The conclusion is simple: you have to deliver a new presentation every 10 minutes. That doesn't mean you have to pull a new slide deck out of your presentation software or start with your introduction. You just have to introduce a new tiger every 600 seconds (because that is what our brains are watching out for anyway - and they are not too far in my part of the world). Loaded with technical details and deep knowledge limiting ourself to 5 big ideas forms a nice challenge. The solution is to pack all the details into the umbrella of an idea. You need to tell your audience upfront what it is, so your audience doesn't get lost in the details (believe me *nobody* is interested in your setup screens or installation prompts, skip them). Just ask the preacher at [insert-favorite-place-of-worship] how a sermon gets delivered: "Who doesn't walk in the light of [insert-subject-of-worship-here] will go to hell. To hell you will go because [insert-long-list-of-misdeeds]. But there is hope, [insert-subject-of-worship] offers salvation... ". While you don't need to summon Angels and Demons to make your point you can learn from the structure:
  1. Summarize your statement
  2. Expand the problem challenge at hand
  3. Offer the solutions
  4. Expand the solution
  5. Tie back to your summary
The above structure is part of your presentation body. It is wrapped into an introduction in front as well as a preliminary conclusion Q & A session and final conclusion at the end. This is called a "classical" speech structure (anybody wants to claim presentations are not speeches?). One of the best investment you can make is LeeAundra Temescu's "The Contrary Public Speaker" eBook (also available as audio-book). Helped me to score high even deep in "enemy territory". As LeeAundra urges: keep your slide decks light. I second that and add: get ZEN inspiration and get extreme.


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