presentations

The present of presenting

If you want to know how to be an MVP, specifically how to be a Microsoft MVP, it’s not enough to be an expert. You need to show everyone else you’re an expert. It’s not about shameless self-promotion: it’s about sharing the knowledge, sharing the love, becoming a pioneer for your area of expertise. Here are some public speaking tips, whether it’s at local groups, meetings, user groups or (deep breath) conferences.

Check your tech

There’s an inherent irony in technical presentations that have technical problems. Make sure your laptop is compatible with the presenting equipment, check that your USB drive works and test your demos beforehand. The last thing you want is to spend 20 minutes awkwardly scrolling through different inputs in the hope something comes up on the screen.

Project your passion

Let’s be honest: some tech stuff is pretty dry. When you’re talking about SQL Servers or analytics jobs to a tech-fearing audience, you need to inject it with your natural passion and enthusiasm for the subject. Passion engages and sustains attention. It’s your tool for taking people with you. Not everyone sounds like a kids’ TV presenter but make sure you use an energetic intonation in your voice rather than a mind-numbing monotone.

Start with a bang

Practice the first couple of lines so you know what you’re going to say off by heart. By the time you finish your opening, you’ll feel a lot more comfortable and your audience will start to feel engaged. It helps if you can practice your presentation in an empty room or in front of a colleague so you can get everything ordered in your head.

Get a mentor

Unless you’re a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, the idea of a mentor might seem a little odd. But don’t be scared of asking for advice from a seasoned speaker with effective presentation skills who you trust. Ask them to watch you in action in front of an actual audience and give you honest feedback. This is far more effective than watching you in a practice situation where you can’t entirely replicate presentation conditions. If you’re still searching for your sensei, check out our Presentation Skills PowerPoint for guidance.

Steady on the slides

Don’t overload your slides with information or your audience will immediately zone out. If you’re discussing how to bag data analyst jobs in London, for example, you won’t need to include a detailed how-to guide on the underground. Plus, you’ll just end up reading it out. You should have enough information to remind you what you need to say, to allow you to speak naturally and coherently. Keep your demos simple and concise too.

Have a wander

Walking around is more engaging than hiding behind a podium like a jaded university lecturer. Feeling exposed isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, it might actually help you become more confident. While you’re at it, don’t be afraid to make eye contact with people. It will help you connect with your audience, turning it into more of a (one-sided) conversation and making it more natural.

Cut down the awkwardness

Awkwardness might be everyone’s favourite word these days, but it’s probably their least favourite thing to happen in a presentation. If there’s a gap while you’re waiting for something to load, fill it by explaining what’s happening or (shock horror) remaining silent. Above all, avoid pointless filler words such as “erm” and “so” as they’ll only make you look unprofessional.

If you want to talk to us about your presentation skills or fancy a chat about your career, drop us an email.


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