Presentations

I listen to a lot of people give presentations on security and in general.  In the vast majority of situations they are adequate to get the point across but very few are engaging.  Over the past year the number of presentations that I have to give has gone up dramatically and I've been forced to learn some very interesting things.  Where I'm not a perfect presenter by any stretch of the imagination, I do have some rules that have helped me be better.

 

  1. Have a point.  Some of the worst presentations go on endlessly with no clear point.  In a lot of cases it's a "let's talk about the problem" with no solution attached to it.  At best your are making everyone depressed and worst you are looking like you are giving an unstructured paranoia ramblings
  2. Never ask the audience a question.  I see this a lot and there are two problems with this.  The first is that you never know what the audience is going to respond with and it could work against you.  The second is that the audience is typically not following the conversation as closely as you so you are forced to stand there with no hands raised even if they should.
  3. If you don't have to don't use slides.  The use of slides has become a problem for most presenters.  For a lot of people it makes them read from the slides preventing a connection to the audience.  Also, if you were just going to read from the slides you can just send them to me and save me the time.
  4. Prepare.  I can't stress this enough... prepare.  Most if not all of the good presenters that you see didn't just wake up that morning and talk.  They worked on the presentation for some time, learned the key points in each section, walked through the transitions.  When done well it looks like the presenter has memorized the entire presentation or is just "having a conversation".
  5. Perfection is not the goal.  There's a difference between listening to a presentation with no flaws and with some.  I like the latter.  It humanizes the presenter and makes the conversation more real.  Most 100-1000 people presentations are not intended to be perfect and the audience connection happens easier with some flaws in speeches.  i.e. don't worry about an occasional pause or "um".
  6. Be yourself.  We all have our own personality and it's important to be ourselves.  When we try and remove all of that from presentations it becomes flat.  Light humor, self deprecating remarks, confessions of failure, etc go a long way to making the audience relate to you.
  7. Read "Storytelling for Leaders" in the "Security Books and Resources" section.  This really helped me put a fine point on some of my talks and has really made a difference in what style I use for what meeting.
  8. Know your audience.  A little preparation in the speech needs to include who you are talking to.  Giving a talk to a technical audience is very different than to a business one.  Knowing that completely changes the presentation.  Most people don't think this through and results with a message that is confusing, forces the audience to think or doesn't resonate.

If you have any ideas of your own I'd love to hear them.