Thursday, June 9, 2011

presentation tech

I have an itinerant teaching/presenting gig that I enjoy tremendously. For early readers (i.e. those who read this post), this may come as a surprise. It came as a surprise to me, too.

I've encountered every type of A/V setup you can imagine - everything from a barren room with a few inconveniently-located outlets to a fully kitted out system with multiple huge plasma screens. Sometimes, the barren room is easier - I bring my own little projector and my own laptop, so in case of emergency, I can aim the thing at a bare wall.

So I was interested to see what the NY Times' resident tech guru does for presentations. David Pogue claims here that he does a lot of public speaking, but I wasn't terribly impressed by the setup he describes.

Pogue uses a Mac which requires a specific dongle to connect to a standard AV setup. He needs to have his laptop with him so that he can read his notes on the laptop. He relies on his notes for new talks. His notes are on his laptop only, not on paper.

And he expects this to work?

I realize that the venues that I instruct at are not as fancy as his. Maybe he's always found armies of AV experts at his beck and call when he arrives to give presentation, but that's certainly not been my experience.

If you're getting paid to present or teach, it would behoove you to be able to present whatever it is without relying entirely on notes or (horrors!) just reading slides. The whole point of standing in front of a group of people, explaining something, is the interaction, which you lose if you're glued to your notes. So here are Short Geologist's helpful hints for other itinerant presenters:

1. Bring lots of backup: your laptop. At least one memory stick. Copies of your presentation in multiple formats (.ppt? .pptx?). Pre-printed handouts. Printed notes. Check in to make sure there's a whiteboard, blackboard, or big pad of paper if you're going to be drawing something. And if one's available to you, bring a projector that you are familiar with and that plays well with your laptop.

2. Practice! I read my notes, then, I put them down and go through the whole presentation as if I were giving it right there. Where do I lose my train of thought? Expound on something in great detail and then realize I'm supposed to cover it in another slide? For those things, I put a little sticky note on my copy of the paper handouts so that I can revisit them before the presentation.

3. Remember these magic words: "I don't know." Followed by some variant of "that's an interesting question - I'll have to think about that" or "I'll do some research/ask my colleagues and get back to you". You are not omniscient! It's ok! Better to smoothly admit that you don't know than to freeze in panic or make up some BS. Just because you don't know doesn't mean that nobody else in the room knows either.

1 comment:

Ogre Lawyer said...

Another point. When presenting, feel free to stop and take a deep breath when you are feeling nervous or need to collect your thoughts. All too common people who are nervous talk really fast and get flustered by little snafus. If they had stopped, taken a breath, and collected their thoughts, they would have slowed down and either not made the snafu, or more smoothly have dealt with it when it happened.