Thoughts and Tips on Doing Presentations

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I am in the midst of a flurry of presentations on all things youth services. From webinars to conference sessions; keynotes to breakout sessions,  I've been busy prepping ten presentations for March and April's "showtime-gotime." In addition, since January, being an instructor/co-instructor for three classes - both at the graduate and continuing education level - has kept me hopping. These five intensive months of mad slide deck/recording/scripting content-creation soup is at the heart of my consulting work so I think it's fun!

With audiences that vary from grad students, public librarians, academic librarians, adult librarians, school librarians to my favorite - my family of youth librarians - each presentation has to be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the particular listener. It's a great challenge.

All this prezi-power has me thinking about how to prepare for a presentation - whether online or live. Here are a few thoughts from my corner of the world:

Initial Proposal - it's important and should reflect exactly what you will be addressing. Attendees don't like to be sold a "bill-of-goods" that isn't addressed in the presentation. Take time to make it right (even when its for something 6 months away), doable with your knowledge or skill set, and substantive in content. Don't put in everything in the world. Keep to your main focus (you can always pitch another proposal to cover other topics).

Think "Title" - make it snappy. Use your subtitle for the less fancy part of the description. People may come to "Changing Your SLP" but "Busting SLP Barriers: Changing Your SLP" may pique attendee's interest more. Title creation is fun! What is the main thrust of your talk? It will suggest a great title, play on words or image that will draw people in.

Acknowledge Your Source(s) - was a major point in your talk learned from or developed by another person? Acknowledge and thank them. None of us come to any of our knowledge like Athena out of the head of Zeus. We all start our thinking somewhere. Be generous in connecting to the person, book or source of your inspiration.

Writing Content
  • Your Proposal Matters - your proposal is often what attendees read to decide if they will come to your session. So be sure to have the proposal in front of you as you create the slide deck and script. Keep checking back to see if you're on track. I often go off on tangents as I create. The proposal description helps me trim away those loose threads and keep the presentation focused on the topic. 
  • Keep It Organized - whether you prep the prezi as a "sit-and-get" or audience participation/discussion, make sure you have a recognizable beginning, middle and end and that you keep loose threads out of the picture. Whether you do this through an initial outline or a tight final edit, it will keep you focused on your topic.
  • Build in "Slack"- as you write, be sure to leave lots of time in your "script". Often speakers insert unexpected anecdotes; a longer explanation if people are confused or want to answer questions from the audience. By leaving some slack, you allow that unhurried time.
  • Start Strong - the first 3 minutes of your presentation are where you hook your audience. Don't spend it introducing yourself  or providing your bonafides to speak on the subject or asking audience questions (you can always do that a slide or two in). Hop right into content. 
  • Keep Your Audience at the Forefront - remember, you may be speaking to an audience of multitype librarians; to directors; to staff who come from extremely small communities as well as multi-branch urban areas. Make sure your content speaks to ALL, not just to your own experience and background.
Slide Deck Creation
  • Slide Content - Text - don't be text-heavy; use your text as an outline of your points by using a word or phrase. Having your entire script on slides is difficult for people to absorb. Consider instead a word, a phrase, a quote - perhaps coupled with an image. 
  • Slide Content - Pictures -if you rely mainly on pictures only or little text - and plan to share the deck through a PDF post-presentation - consider doing animations that transitions from an image to a final bulleted outline of the topic addressed in that slide. That way your PDF slidedeck can double as a "handout" of information rather than just images. 
  • Images - illustration, photos, memes are all useful - and you can mix them up no matter what purists say. 
  • Animation - make sure the animation or gif serves your point. Don't use them if its just to wake people up. If using gifs, which are visually intensive and arresting, let them "talk" for you and don't leave them on screen long. They hold audience's attention visually and often lose the audience aurally.
  • Copyright - Always credit images used from sources - whether from a copyright-free source like Pixabay or images you find online. Write for permission if it isn't clear that the image is in the creative commons. It's a pleasant surprise how many yes's you receive. 
  • Design - play with what works best for you. Vary the position of text/image from slide to slide to create visual interest. Take advantage of themed layouts in Powerpoint, Prezi and Google slides to create interest.
Final Prep
  • Practice - go though the deck exactly as you would for the presentation. It points out awkward phrasing (we often write and talk quite differently); helps you on your timing (people either rush or slow way down) and gives you a final chance to correct any problems in your slide deck.
  • Online vs In-Person - when doing online presentations you need to slow down your delivery; work on removing "ums" and "ahs" and add more slides or animation transitions. People listening/watching need that to help them stay tuned to you. In person, you and your personality are part of the formula so you can use fewer slides and talk at a more normal pace.
  • Slidedeck Sharing -if not using Google Slides, transfer your presentation there and share the link. Make sure your "script" for each slide is in the notes field for easy reference by attendees.
  • Scripts - Know your script but feel free to have notes or the full script to refer to. If you are speaking from notes and using Powerpoint, use "Presenter Mode" so your notes show up as you present.
  • Zen - don't let glitches throw you. No one to introduce you? Do it yourself. Slidedeck/video/computer meltdown? Do the prezi without your visuals.. If you have practiced, you will hit your timing and leave time for questions without rushing. Always be gracious and let your audience know that you've got this even when things aren't going quite right. Be a pro!.
For more presentation tips specifically aimed at conference sessions, stop by this Wisconsin Library Association Youth Services Section blog post. 

And share your tips and thoughts on doing prezis in the comments. I'd love to see lots more colleagues doing presentations. The more people presenting and sharing out in the field, the better for all of us. I look forward to learning from YOU!

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