The art (or science!) of presentations

The art (or science!) of presentations

A guest blog on how to give presentations by Brad Fowler, founder of Scope, currently participating in Accelerate Cambridge

Brad writes –

In traditional engineering fashion, I’ll write my essay in bullet points. I hope you find this informative, practical and of course an efficient use of the time it would take you to wait for a YouTube ad to finish.

– Start with why, not what or how.

Bad examples:

– Our battery lasts 20% longer than any other on the market, it works by blah blah blah.

– We use machine learning to accurately predict how many miles your car has until empty.

A better example:

– We plan to remove your anxiety around buying mobile train tickets, make sure you never miss out on social events, and all whilst keeping you entertained throughout the day. The magical product that enables us to do this is our new battery.

People are emotional (even scientific people!) Facts rarely win an argument – if don’t believe me then read Thinking Fast and Slow.

The important point to note is make sure your pitch invokes a strong emotional response with the audience, whatever you choose it to be.

– Less is more, no really, minimise you slides further and cut the number of words by at least 50%. A maximum of 10 words per slide, but preferably less or even none!

– Practice, practice, practice.

I usually memorise a script, the trick to making this easier is to start all of your sentences with something unique.

Then a quick prompt card held in your hand can be there as a backup in case you blank. No need to panic, you’ve already prepared for it.

Smaller tips:

– Lead the slides. By this I mean start saying the next ‘bullet’* before you click onto it. It’s easy to do once you’ve learnt your slides, but makes a massive difference with regards to the impression of competence you give off.

*bullet points should really be graphics, no one likes text.

– Slides should not be the centre of attention, just supporting graphics only.

– Vary the pitch and project (American style) your voice, emphasising the key take homes; sound bites are a good way to do this. It’s vital you leave pauses after an emphasis point, otherwise it will be lost.

– Dress smart, you’ll feel more the part and naturally command more respect as it can be seen you put the effort in. You don’t want to come across as lazy.

Some basic don’ts:

– Speak too fast. This is a very big one for me and especially since I don’t have an accent with received pronunciation. I find it painful to address, but purposely try and speak at the speed of a much older person, and that seems to work (at least for me).

– Look at your slides, hide behind the desk, look backwards.

– Hands in pockets (the classic!)

Advanced tips (I’m still yet to conquer):

– Humour

– Audience interaction

So that’s the theory, but learning it is no use without putting it into action. There are usually many opportunities to pitch/present and you should take every one of them, no matter how small.

Very quickly you’ll be pitching to a large audience, and you’ll be thankful for every single practice run you got in.

 

A version of this blog originally appeared on Simon Hall’s website.

Bradley Fowler

Bradley Fowler

Brad graduated from the Cambridge University Engineering Department with a masters in Information and Computer Engineering last summer. With experience from the RAF, British Areospace, The Technology Partnership and smaller start up companies, he span out his masters project into the company. Scope is a news platform taking on fake news and filter bubbles by delivering a diversity of opinion from across the globe in a smart new way.
Bradley Fowler

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