Presentations are a common way of knowledge sharing. Most people have to hold a couple during their school time, during their studies at university and at work.
I always made a lot and I feel very comfortable holding presentations. After my latest one, I was asked how I create them.
In the following article, I will present a structured plan how to approach presentations. However, in practice my approach is a bit more messy. I jump back and forth between steps, refining parts that didn't feel good.
I often works like this
- Find a start: How are you introduced? How do you motivate the topic? This always is hardest for me.
- Create some slides: Nothing fancy, just the first ideas that pops to your mind. Continue, once you can fill a couple of minutes.
- Try it: Speak to the slide as if it was the real presentation. Where do you get stuck? Where does it feel bad? Either change those slides or write down what you want to say there.
- Repeat: Too short? Then go back to 2.
- Refine: A good end is nice. Maybe you can repeat some key points? Maybe you can end with an open question the audience can think about? And, of course, make sure the whole presentation is consistent and has a good flow.
Topic and Key Messages
You might be in a situation where you are free to talk about whatever you want. This makes it more difficult as you have to choose the topic yourself. You have to define which key messages you want to convey. In such a situation you might want to jump back-and-forth with creating the content and the title.
Also, think about your main audience: Which background do they have? Why do they visit your talk?
How is your audience mainly present: Is it the people in the room? People connected via video stream? People watching it later? People who only see the slides?
The audience should know in advance the title. The more vague the title is, the less you can go into detail. The more specific the title is, the more details will be expected.
Here are some examples from super vague to extremely detailed:
- A.I.: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly!
- Machine Learning: The Good, the bad, the Ugly!
- Machine Learning War Stories
- Machine Learning and its Problems
- Machine Learning: Bias, Generalization and the Golden Hammer
- How to build reliable Machine Learning Applications
- Generalization in Face Recognition
- View specific generalisation effects in face recognition: Front and yaw comparison views are better than pitch
Think about which audience is attracted by the different titles.
The first one might attract people who don't know anything about the topic, but are curios to hear about it. The buzzword "A.I." might actually repell people who are more knowledgable in the area. However, as it is so vague and people cannot possibly knwo what it is about, this is pretty open to everybody.
The last title is taken from a paper. You will lose most people with the title alone, but you will make sure that the audience has some technical background
Many people use Microsoft Power Point. It's a very good tool to quickly create something that looks ok.
I like to use LaTeX Beamer, which is good if you want to have mathematical formulas and be sure that things always look the same (not having slides move a bit).
For every slide, think about what you want to achieve. In most cases, not too much should be on the slides.
- Image Only: Very nice because people can listen to you. However, they are not a good choice if people need to understand them later without you talking.
- Statement Only: Only a short statement with a simple background can be quite powerful.
- Full Information: Best choice if the presentation is mainly for people to be read ... but maybe then a presentation is not the best choice in the first place?
- Presentation proportions: Usually, it is either 16:9 or 4:3. Make sure your presentation is in the same format as the projector uses.
- Text Size: Is the text large enough? To answer this, you have to have an idea of the room size and the size of the projection.
- Text Position: It happens once in a while that the projector crops of stuff at the edges. At the bottom, it could also happen that people sitting in the last rows cannot see it.
- Colors: Bad projectors can mess extremely with colors. It might happen that some things are barely visible. Be aware of that when creating diagrams. Especially when you have lines in different colors, it is usually helpful to adjust the line-style as well (solid, dotted, dashed, mixtures of dotted and dashed).
Make a dry-run. I know, this is time-consuming and sometimes people are really bad in giving constructive feedback. The worst thing that can happen in a dry-run is that they say: "Well done, I don't know what you could do better".
Sometimes you might want to ignore the feedback, because it does not feel good to you. That's ok. It's your presentation. If it feels weird, you will have a hard time telling it in a smooth way.