An idealistic view of presentations

Audience

Audience (Photo credit: thinkmedialabs)

I’ve always had a romantic view of education. Not the force-you-to-sit-down-and-follow-the-rules formal education system, but the idea of education at all levels of society. The informal education that happens through a conversation with a friend or coworker, or the knowledge gained from a presentation at a conference or meeting. That’s why I take presentations very seriously, whether it’s at a conference to hundreds of attendees, an internal company class with 15 coworkers, or an email response to someone curious about my work.

Presentations are a chance to educate and inspire your audience, and it’s worth it to invest your time into making a quality experience. After all, if you give a poor lecture/demo/whatever, you not only wasted your own time, but the time of each of the attendees. I know we’ve all suffered through horrible talks and classes, do you want to maintain that status quo or break free from it? The next time you have to give a presentation I hope you’ll push yourself to dedicate a significant number of hours to preparation and practice so you can provide a truly informative, energizing experience for your audience.

There are a lot of websites, books, and blogs that talk about the practical aspects of creating a good presentation. I might spend some time on the practicalities in later posts, but I think the most critical prerequisite to giving a good talk is that you care. There are lots of prescribed formulas out there for giving a good talk, but you don’t need any of that. You just need to invest your time and energy (the romantic in me would say you’ve also got to put some heart into it), and even if your slides aren’t gorgeous, your message should come through loud and clear.

In grad school I attended the seminar of a very famous chemist who was visiting our department. He admitted at the beginning of the talk that he had thrown it together the night before, and it was obvious. I felt that it was an insult to his audience that he was so ill-prepared and it was a waste of all our time. Unfortunately, fame has a way of making some people oblivious to rudeness, but I was so infuriated I decided that if I were a speaker I would never behave in such an ill manner to people gracious enough to listen to me.

Dear readers, what are your experiences with presentations? Either was the presenter or an audience member, comment and let me know.

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