After taping 1000 or so presentations, I thought I’d pass along some presentation tips that can really help your talk. These presentation tips are from both training and experience over the years.
1. Use Dark Backgrounds
Your slides projected on a big screen will never look as good as on your computer – just a technical thing. Slides with dark backgrounds and light writing are easier to read. You may or may not have the ability to adjust the lighting in the room. I can tell you that a quick way to drive a videographer crazy is to change the lighting after the cameras are set. Think about accessibility (high contrast).
When I shoot at a local meetup or at a WordCamp, I’m shooting with one camera and frame both the presenter and the screen. I’m looking to get good video, sound and ease of editing later. The camera will adjust to what is in the frame. Since what is on the screen takes up most of the frame it adjusts to that. So if you have a bright white background the camera thinks that things a bright, adjusts for the white screen and makes everything else dark. Seeing you, the presenter is really important. It gives credibility to the presentation.
At WCUS last year almost all the presenters had slides with dark backgrounds. The picture above is from WCUS 2015.
2. Font Size Matters
The picture above is from WCNYC 2016 and it shows two things. The first is that the CART services screen below has a darker background and uses larger fonts. The second is that font size does matter.
I was told recently that a goldfish has an attention span of 8 seconds. People have an attention span of 7 seconds. It’s better to use more slides with less on them to keep your presentation moving and help people stay engaged.
In general slides should have, at most, between 3 to 5 topics or subtopics. That is the most that the majority of people can handle at a time. If you find that you need more items/topics break the slide up. If you are showing code, change your resolution to increase the font size so it’s easier to read.
3. I like to Move Around
I hear this a lot. “I like to move around, it helps to engage the audience, is that OK?” Not really, this can also be distracting, and the video cameras are set and will not be following you around.
There are other things you can do to help engagement. Try leaning forward towards the audience, this looks like you are more engaged. It’s sort of like leaning forward in a chair rather than slumping backwards when talking with someone. One you see interested, and one you don’t seem interested at all.
Making eye contact with people in the audience draws them in and make you seem more trustworthy. (Have you been on a date and they don’t make eye contact) You can focus and make eye contact with different people in the audience. If you do this and make eye contact with someone for 5 to 7 seconds then move to another person you will really engage them.
4. Use the Microphone
Probably the second most thing I hear from presenters is “I have a loud voice that carries, do I need to use the mic?” Yes, you do.Unless it’s a really crappy sound setup, it’s always better to use the microphone provided. This ensures that everyone in the room gets the best sound possible.
At WordCamp Boston 2016 we are using CART services for the hearing impaired. The transcribers have a direct audio feed to help them get the most accurate transcription possible. Also, a good portion of the time, the cameras are plugged directly into the audio feed to get the best sound possible for the cameras.
5. Repeat or Paraphrase Audience Questions
This does a number of things. First, it verifies that you understand what the question is. If it’s a long question try to paraphrase it to make it shorter. By repeating the question, it also makes sure that everyone in the room heard it. Most of the time there are not mics in the audience.
Hope these simple presentation tips help! Have a great presentation.