I December I did a presentation about using web analytics for organization success. The presentation ended up being about 90 minutes long, about 1/2 hour longer than I wanted to but as I do these more often I know I’ll trim the content down to what matters and figure out how to communicate on fewer points more effectively.
I had been trying to do more straightforward and inspiring presentations throughout the year, mainly presenting my analytics findings as well as the performance of blog content created by our engineering staff. I think I did pretty well on those but those were much shorter in lenght, around 25 minutes maximum. To adopt a new attitude about presentations I read Garr Reynolds’ excellent book, “Presentation Zen”, which I hightly recommend to anyone in business. “Presentation Zen” is not just about presentations, it illustrates a philosphy towards information, sharing, transparency, and maybe even, life.
After reading “Presentation Zen” I was really on a roll so I decided to read Nancy Duarte’s “slide:ology”. Duarte is best known for her work in helping create Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth” presentation. “slide:ology” is beautifully put together – great use of empty space, nice colors and typeface, but it is a huge project to read this book. The problem I had with “slide:ology” is that it tries to do everything:from technical particulars of slide design to color palettes and texture options, from a primer on font and typeface design to animation. Each of those topics deserve their own books so I felt that “slide:ology” doled out enough information to make you dangerous but not effective. The simplicity of Reynolds’ approach vs. the noise and volume of “slide:ology” made my favorite very obvious.
This post isn’t meant to bash Duarte, I’m sure there a lot of people who have enjoyed this book very much, but in retrospect I should have taken what I learned from Reynolds and ran with that. Reading more took away focus from devoting the time my presentation needed. The first 1/2 of my presentation was great but I just ran out of time and ended up with more text on my slides than I wanted which meant I spent more time talking about each slide which slows everything down and can get boring. When I gave the presentation and found myself in that situation I cut back on what I said and asked if I could go on unless there were questions, this kept the pace going a bit better.
When doing a presentation there is a degree of paranoia and there is a lot of self-criticism after the event so I’m probably harsher than necessary. I think it went well and I can’t wait to do another one. I gave the presentation to the Pioneer Valley Regional Technology Corporation on December 5th at the Springfield Technical College. When the presentation was over, a representative from Springfield Tech asked if I could expand the presentation into a daylong or multiday course and I’m developing it to that end now. I’ll post more as I find out where it’s going. If you have any recommendations on developing coursework, I’d love to hear them.