Helping out people with giving their first public presentations can be frustrating. The reason is the misconception that we have based on years of conditioning in school and corporate environments that a good presentation stands and falls with the slide deck.
Of course a beautiful slide deck is a nice thing to have and allows you to emphasize your points. In some instances it is also extremely important to have a good and consistent slide deck. But when you start out and want to become an engaging speaker sweating about what slide format what font and which system to use is a waste of your time.
You already have the killer presentation tool: yourself. Your talk will stand and fall with your performance, how engaging you are and how much you know about the subject matter that is interesting and relevant to the audience. And this is where you should start. You become engaging by being engaged yourself. The first step to any good presentation is to find out why you are excited about the subject. Then build on that.
Sharing your excitement is the most addictive and convincing thing there is. When you are confident that you can explain why you are excited and how the audience can get to the same stage, you could stand in front of a wall of drying paint and people would still remember your talk as something that helped them and was interesting.
Slides are an aid – something to bring your message home. Wallpaper, so to say. At least in talks that are meant to engage and audience and get them to find out more by themselves.
If your presentation is to a group in a meeting room getting everyone up to speed on the state of a certain project – different story. But even then reading from your slides is not the best way to keep people awake. Nothing says “this will be boring, feel free to skip parts” more than an agenda in your slide deck. Sometimes this might be needed, but that is already an indicator that the meeting is badly organised.
As to what format and system to use: find what makes you most effective. Writing your presentation should be about bringing the messages across, not playing with technology. Just be aware that presenting at an event in 99% of the cases means you will have no connection to the web and that making your slides available to the outside world is a different step to preparing and presenting your talk. There are a lot of “host your slides here” systems out there – these are great for distribution, less so for reliable presenting.
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