New Tech Presentation Advice

So this is a little different, but I was New Year cleaning out my macbook pro, and found this.  As I worked in the event industry, I saw quite a few presenters, all with varying degrees of skill.  Just knowing an area of interest is not enough.  In fact, I would much rather hear an experienced and skilled public speaker talk about something they know decently then a pro who is terrible in front of people.

But sometimes you are just asked to speak, and you want the press and the opportunity, but dont have much experience.  Well here are a few tips to keep in mind that should help you out, developed from seeing truly the whole range of abilities.

How To Present To A Web 2.0 Crowd:

Speaking in front of any large group of people is challenging.  Now, make your audience 300 – 700 entrepreneurs, founders, venture capitalists, C-level and VP-level execs, and other individuals, many of which think they know more about the topic than you (and, in fact, may); now you’ve got a real challenge.

After having watched dozens of presentations, we at Room Full of People are happy to offer a bit of advice.  You certainly do not need to take it.  The most important thing is that you be confident and comfortable; so do what feels best for you.  These are just to give you some guidance.

•    Know your audience.  Ask us for a breakdown of the current and predicted attendees.  Cater your presentation to them as best you can.

•    Do not read from your presentation slides.  In fact, your slides should have very few words on them; they should be primarily helpful images and key points to guide the talk and discussion.  People paid to hear you; they could read your work online for free.

•    Be concise.  Know what your time limit is, and plan to talk five minutes less than you are scheduled.  Practice so you don’t go on unnecessary tangents.  Don’t stutter or hesitate.

•    Think first.  When you get an audience question, pause a moment, think, then speak.  Do not feel pressured to answer immediately or say more than is necessary. (eg. if it is a “yes” or “no” question, answer “yes” or “no”, and clarify only if appropriate.)

•    Have a nice balance between presenting and taking questions.  Your presentation should include new, opinionated, divisive, and/or debatable points; do not be afraid of conflict, as it leads to great Q&A sessions.
o    If can read and control your audience, take questions throughout the whole presentation.  It keeps the audience engaged.
o    However, if you are more comfortable with a specific Q&A session, than do that, or the audience will take over.  We have found  that a 50/50 or 60/30 break down of the time works well.

•    DO NOT PITCH! You can mention your company and background, to add credibility to yourself, but do not talk about  your company.  Your presentation should be informative and relevant to an issue in the field, not a commercial.  If you are interesting, people will come up to you afterwords and ask about your company.  If you are a pitch, they will ignore you.
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Keep your eyes on our blog – I plan to write up one of these for small demos, and presentation demos as well. 🙂

One response to “New Tech Presentation Advice

  1. As a technology reporter (someone who’s regularly subjected to boring product briefings), I’m grateful you’re offering the tips above.

    If I might add one more, I’d ask the presenters to consider making their point with an anecdote rather than a bunch of statistics. For example, which of the following two presentations do you think will engage a reporter’s interest?

    Presentation A: Between 2005 and 2008, the number of people subscribing to on-demand data management software grew 25%. Many of them are in the small businesses category, defined as firms with less than 100 employees or annual revenues $250,000 or less.

    Presentation B: In May 1995, Bob and Nancy decided to open an antique store in Boston. They couldn’t afford to keep a full-time IT staff to keep an inventory of their Kennedy memorabilia and colonial furniture and track sales because they’re what you might call a mom-and-pop shop. But they heard about an on-demand inventory software service that they can subscribe to for less than $50 a month. Today, if you ask Bob or Nancy whatever happened to the Kennedy golf club they sold 4 years, ago, they can tell you exactly how much they made on it, who bought it, and what else the same buyer has bought from them over the years.

    I can tell you, I will yawn at the Presentation A.

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