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.

2 thoughts on “Top 10 Presentation Tips from Presentation Camp Boston

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.