Monthly Archives: October 2009

Top 10 Presentation Tips from Presentation Camp Boston

I attended Presentation Camp Boston, a bar-camp style conference, on 24-Oct-2009. There were many good ideas and presentation tips. Among them, these are my favorites.

Top 10 Presentation Tips

The top 10 presentation tips I took away from Presentation Camp Boston

From Kenny Raskin‘s keynote:

1. “Have a Passionate Purpose”

When you are speaking, it is not only about the content. If you mean what you say – you really believe in it – (which I believe Dale Carnegie refers to as conviction) – then you are more likely to be successful at conveying your message and persuading your audience.

Kenny shared a quote which was something like the following:

Who you are being when you are saying what you are saying says more about what you are saying that what you are saying.

Not just sell it – it was believe it + sell it both at once. This tip resonates with me and is consistent with a lesson from studying and performing improv; one of my instructors, Erik Volkert, really got across the difference between acting it out and really committing – and the impact that has on stage.

2. “The presentation starts before you are even in the room”

  • Find out who the audience is and what you want to say to them. What do you want them to FEEL. (“Know your passionate purpose!”)
  • As you are preparing to enter as a speaker, take a breath. Focus. Clear your mind.
  • As you enter, look your audience in the eyes. Before you say a word. Greet the audience. Pause… and let them respond.

3. Genuine eye contact != scanning

Eye contact is important. Don’t scan the audience and think that’s eye contact – you need to pause and connect with individuals one at a time – this may be for the duration of a thought or statement – or just until you feel you’ve connected. Some of your eye contact moments will be during pauses and are your opportunity to re-energize by breathing.

From Diane Darling‘s Talk about Networking:

Not about presenting to large groups, but focused on presenting to very small groups of one or a few other folks in a social / networking situation.

4. Business Cards from A-Z

Some wisdom on business cards:

  • You need business cards. And they don’t need to be plain and boring… Diane’s cards have a list of tips on one side – useful and “sticky“.
  • She advises to keep your business cards in one pocket, and the ones you collect in another pocket – just have a simple system to avoid fumbling.
  • Write on the business cards – you may forget later otherwise that this card is from someone you offered to send a link to an interesting paper, or perhaps they might be a future business partner. Handy, easy hack.
  • If you do give a talk to a group, be sure to have a stack of cards handy to share at the end.

5. “Own the room”

I am a highly functional introvert
~ Diane Darling, author of The Networking Survival Guide: Get the Success You Want By Tapping Into the People You Know

I love that quote! As a fellow introvert, that’s how I want to be. Diane builds a case for being highly functioning with a plethora of straight-forward tips on how to handle lots of business social situations. A couple of examples:

  • Prepare several generic ice breaker questions you can use when you meet someone new. A good format for such questions is “Tell me about ______.” You fill in the blank with “your job” or “how you got into this line of work” or “how you ended up at this conference” etc.
  • Wear your name tag close to your RIGHT shoulder (since that’s where the eye most naturally is directed during a hand-shake.
  • Don’t start with your name! Introduce yourself by saying something about yourself, and end with your name – it is easier to remember there.
  • Saturday Night “Live” != Saturday Night “Unrehearsed” — you will be more successful if you practice some of what you will say — like what is your brief introduction of yourself (your elevator pitch), ending with your name, of course!

6. Connect with the Gatekeepers

If you want to get access to key people who may be hard to get to, consider connecting with those people who control access – such as a personal assistant to the CEO.

From Edwin Guarin‘s talk, The Killer Presentation:

Edwin is an Academic Evangelist for Microsoft. His talk was called The Killer Presentation – Gettting to Point B.

7. Distributing Your PowerPoint Deck

Suppose you’ve given a talk, but now your audience wants a copy. Here’s how to do it, plus a couple of important benefits:

  • File > Save As… and choose either PDF or PowerPoint Show.
  • If you have Hidden slides – perhaps because you want “single source” for a slide deck that you use in multiple circumstances, but don’t want to maintain the bulk of the slides more than once – this will drop all those marked as hidden at the time you Save As.
  • If you have Notes, they are not included either. Sometimes your Notes are just speaking points, but perhaps they are not something you want everyone to see.

8. Spruce Up Your Talk with Images

You are preparing a deck, and you want to be memorable. You want that “just right” image or text effect.

  • Edwin recommends the use of royaty-free photos from  You need to create an account to access them, then are free to use them in your PowerPoint slides.
  • Note that you are not licensed to subsequently redistribute these images if they are embedded in your PowerPoint deck. I registered an account on web site asking for clarification – and there was a tad bit of ambiguity around the licensing (the license text seem to both suggest it was fine and also say it wasn’t) – so I sent in a specific question on this scenario. The response from support was that the PowerPoint cannot be posted for redistribution. I am not a lawyer. And I do not even play a lawyer on TV.
  • [In my talk, I advocate searching through Google Images advanced search and filtering by Usage Rights to only include images labeled for reuse (usually through Creative Commons).]
  • To embed an image that is too bright, overlay it with a rectangle – and set the transparency to accordinly to fade it a bit so that text can be seen on top of it.
  • Use SmartArt to snazz up your text… transform a bullet list into a ring, or horizontal property or other eye-candy fanciness.

From Brainshark demo:

9. Sharing Your Presentation After the Fact

Brainshark has a cool way for you to post your slide-deck to their free hosted service: you can upload both the deck *and* an audio track.

This is way better than just distributing the PowerPoint deck, which may not be of any use for people who didn’t attend the talk. Of course, you do need to create (or record) an audio track.

I am not sure how the slides and the audio are sync’d – like when in the audio track should slide 7 pop in – but my guess is that you are expected to record your voice while delivering the talk – and some agent on your desktop keeps an eye on when you transition between slides. If so, I wonder if it can also capture screen shots of non-PowerPoint activities – like if I pop up a web browers, or use Visual Studio.

From Bill Wilder’s talk on Better Tech Talks:

Yes, I am recommending a tip from my own talk. 🙂

10. “It is a Talk, not a Read”

Don’t even think of reading your slides to your audience.

  • If you cram all the text for your talk into your deck , you will be guilty of promulgating support for Death By PowerPoint.
  • Your audience can read faster than you can talk anyway – they will be done before you. And they won’t be listening to you while they read; they can’t do both at once.
  • Your audience will resent being read to. As Jack Welch is reputed to have said to a presenter reading him the slides: if everything is on the slides, then we don’t need you.
  • There are better tools for a stand-alone document – like blog posts, or word-processors. PowerPoint is a poor substitute when writing a document that is being prepared for general reading.
  • If you do need to capture more info than belongs in the slides, consider putting it into the Notes section, and then using dual-monitor capabilities to have your laptop display different content than the projector, and configure PowerPoint to know about this via:  Slide Show > Set Up Show > Multiple Monitors.

Better Tech Talks session from Presentation Camp Boston

I attended Presentation Camp Boston on Saturday 24-Oct-2009. I sat in on several excellent talks, plus led a session myself called Better Tech Talks. which was a presentation & discussion on giving technical talks to technical people.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to give code-centric talks to software engineers, plus the general problem of clear communication through presentations. Those in my session will recognize that my slides (Better Tech Talks – 24-Oct-2009) do not stand alone well! – but should serve as a good reminder for those who participated in the session.

Feel free to follow-up with me to continue the discussion!

Boston Azure User Group Now on the Map!

The Boston Azure User Group is a Cloud Computing community group focusing on Windows Azure, Microsoft’s Cloud platform, and …

The Boston Azure User Group is now on the map – literally!

Check out Jim O’Neil’s user group map. Zoom in on Cambridge, MA and you will see us waving from the NERD center. Thanks Jim!

While not as awesomely interactive and visual as a Bing map, we do appreciate other people plugging the user group:

Speaking of Roger Jennings… at the first Boston Azure meeting this Thursday night (Thu 22-Oct-2009 @ 6:30), we’ll give away copy of his hot-off-the-presses book Cloud Computing with the Windows Azure Platform!

I found Roger Jennings’ book chock full of useful information – from context to detail to practical code samples. I stopped at Barnes & Noble after a user group meeting in Burlington and picked up my own personal copy – why no Kindle version!? – and quickly plowed through it. Now I want to go back and play around with the abundant code samples. And in case you are wondering – no, this isn’t the copy we’ll be giving away…we have a new one.

The Boston-area User Group Calendar

Gary Chin Presents SketchFlow at Code Camp 12 in Boston

Gary Chin on SketchFlow for Silverlight

Gary Chin spoke at Boston Code Camp 12 (on Oct 17, 2009) – his talk was all about using SketchFlow for Silverlight.

I heard from various folks that the talk went really well. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it since I was presenting at the same time (actually presenting on presenting.)

Gary was kind enough to send me his slides which I have attached to this post: SketchFlow-GaryChin-Oct2009

See you at the next Code Camp! (Though will probably also see many of you before then – this Thursday night at the first meeting of the Boston Azure User Group!)

Boston West Toastmasters Scholarship and Open House

Boston West Toastmasters Reaching Out

I’ve been a member of Toastmasters for the past couple of years. While Toastmasters has many clubs around the world, I belong to Boston West Toastmasters which meets in Needham, MA on the second and fourth Monday evenings.

While at Boston West Toastmasters, I’ve made friends with some really cool people (several of whom provided ideas for my Code Camp talk on giving technical presentations) and have been working to improve my speaking skills through application of Deliberate Practice (where the feedback, ideas, analysis, expert critique and encouragement all come from fellow Toastmaster members).

Now my club is reaching out to the community to help the unemployed, holding an open house encourage the general community to get a glimpse of what Toastmasters is all about… and not to mention taking part in a really fun social event.

Some Boston West Toastmaster members from 28-Sept-2009 meeting

Some Boston West Toastmaster members from 28-Sept-2009 meeting

Scholarship offer for Unemployed

Full details are in the attached Boston West Toastmasters Scholarship Press Release from 5-Oct-2009, but here’s the teaser:

Boston West Toastmasters is offering five scholarships to the unemployed who want to improve their speaking and leadership skills.  These scholarships, underwritten by Robin Samora, owner and president of Partner Promotions, cover the annual membership dues for the winners.

Bring a Friend, Meet a Friend – Open House at Nov 9 Meeting

Our meeting on 9-Nov-2009 will have a social hour before this meeting which is an Open House for Boston West Toastmaster. Anyone is welcome to attend this meeting – at no cost, no obligation. (The “no cost, no obligation” is actually true generally – feel free to check us out at any meeting – you won’t get a hard sell – just the information you might be interested in. For most people, Toastmasters sells itself.)

Here are the details:

Bring a friend, meet a friend at the Boston West Toastmasters Open House on Monday, November 9, 2009:

Mark your calendar for this important OPEN HOUSE.  It is a great opportunity to share your Toastmaster experience with friends, relatives and co-workers.  Invite them to attend the meeting.  We will have an informal start to greet guests and answer questions @ 6:30 p.m.  Robin Samora is our Toastmaster for this and we will have special snacks that evening during our Opening reception 6:30 – 7 for new members (and our team if possible).  Send an email to people inviting them to attend our OPEN HOUSE.  It will be a memorable event!!!

You don’t need to let me know – thought would appreciate a heads-up so I can look for you – but just showing up is the key.

Soiree in Back Bay – Social Night – Co-Sponsored by Boston West Toastmasters

This looks like a really fun event: Soiree in Back Bay on 22-Oct-2009, co-sponsored by Boston West Toastmasters.

[Unfortunately, you won’t see me there – I will be at the kick-off meeting for my Boston Azure User Group that same night.]

So, You Want to Give Your First Code Camp Talk?

Gave a talk 17-Sat-at Boston Code Camp 12 called So, You Want to Give a Code Camp Talk?.

How to Give Your First Code Camp Talk – 17-Oct-2009

If you attended my talk, you learned than I don’t advocate ensuring the slide deck makes sense stand-alone (since it is a framework for a talk, with purpose different than that of an article or blog post). You’ve been warned. 🙂

First Boston Azure User Group meeting next week

We are getting close to the kick-off meeting of the Boston Azure User Group – next week, on Thursday October 22, 2009 starting with pizza at 6:30 at the NERD in Kendall Square. Microsoft’s Brian Lambert is the featured speaker.

We have a couple of behind-the-scenes planning meetings this week then will finalize the information on the web site.

Have you joined the Boston Azure User Group mailing list?

Demystifying Prism – talk at New Hampshire .NET User Group 17-Jun-2009

Spoke at New Hampshire .NET User Group back on June 17, 2009. Talked about Prism (focusing mostly on Silverlight, a little homage to WPF), showed some code, shared a slide deck.

I will be giving an updated version of this talk at the upcoming Code Camp 12 in Waltham (Boston area) on Sat Oct 17, 2009.