Thursday, June 19, 2008

Presentation Masters

Inspired by How to Make a Presentation Like Al Gore.

The dreaded presentation, the dreaded hair puller and teeth gnasher for all library interviews. The easiest way to get ready is to, well, practice public speaking, but it also helps to watch the masters. Here are two of the presenters that I enjoy watching.

Steve Jobs is highly regarded for his presentation style, with just a dollop of Barnum. He is casually dressed, uses the whole of the stage and has very simple and eloquent slides (I hope we are moving in that direction) and people are mesmerized by him, usually because he can make people sigh with joy at the sight of a manila envelope. A sample, the WWDC keynote, is available for viewing.

You could decide to move to a more folksy, mellow evangelist style--without the ladders--and present like Al Gore. He has a very relaxed style, but I think his documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, won people over, not only for his reputation, but also because of his down home, pass-the-salvation-preacher speaking style. Possibly the most kick-ass Power Point to win an Oscar.

Now both of these presenters have highly theatrical styles, as well as the leisure and incentive to rehearse, since they know every flinch will be discussed on YouTube (or viciously captioned Nico Nico Douga-style) and their styles may not appeal to you. There are endless samples of good speakers who engage their audiences and make tough ideas simple and/or engaging, such as Helen Fisher, Susan Blackmore, or Erin McKean. You should also notice that these speakers do not hide behind a pedestal podium (Holy Dr. Freud!) or a table--they have other props: Simple slides.

If you would like to use slides, I suggest moving to the format used by Jobs, since they are simple, plain and memorable. Garr Reynolds of Presentation Zen--who has done some really cool presentations on Slideshare where he booktalks the practical uses he found in two business books, Brain Rules for Presenters and Career Advice--has excellent ideas on how to make great, clear slides in the jobs style. Or maybe Jobs borrowed from Reynolds?

You can improve your presentation style through practice, but also through good models.

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