I recently gave a talk on presenting at CodemashCodemash. I blogged about that talk at “Lessons from a Grizzled SpeakerLessons from a Grizzled Speaker”. In asking for tips from from my friends, I found out that one of the best presenters that I’ve had the pleasure to watch multiple times, Simon Guest (the only man ever allowed to sign into the Microsoft network as guest), had written a book on presenting called File –> New –> Presentation.
I immediately bought a copy. Simon then gave and signed a copy for me to give away at Codemash during my talk. It’s a fairly good sized book stuffed with great information that exceeded my expectations.
The book, like so many of Simon’s talks, is chock full of outstanding stories that really drive home his points. I love seeing inside his head and into his process on how he builds his presentations from the abstract to the concrete.
Simon’s process starts with understanding who’s going to be in the room. He goes through the process of creating personas for the types of folks that are going to be in the room. This is amazing. I’ll be honest and say that I’ve never done gone that far but going forward, I’m definitely considering it. It seemed like overkill until he showed how he scores all of the content against the personas and it really helps him tune his presentation to the audience.
Once he has the personas, he mind maps the presentation. This I definitely recommend. It really allows you to brain storm content far more effectively than a traditional outline does. Simon goes into great detail about how to create the mind map.
The next several chapters go into depth on how to physically create the deck covering topics ranging from what presentation software to use to how to pick fonts for your presentation. One of the things that Simon does particularly well in his presentations is leads the audience down his story line with impactful images that really help the audience see inside his head and think along with him as he delivers the presentation. The secrets to how to do this yourself are unveiled in this section as well as a plethora of other great insight into how to create a great deck to accompany your presentation.
The next section is all about prep for the day. There are a lot of presenters that overlook this step. I’m always confused when a seasoned presenter fumbles with little things like batteries for his remote or it’s obvious that they had too much coffee (though I’m definitely guilty on both counts early on in my speaking career) because they didn’t do their prep.
Finally Simon gets to the presenting itself. While this is surprising to some, it’s not to me – this is one of the smaller sections because the prep is what makes or breaks a great presentation. By the time that you’ve gotten to speaking, if you’ve followed his method, you’ve already rehearsed the presentation 7+ times and should be really solid on your material, timing, jokes and much more. Still, there are some great tips here ranging from how to use the mic to how to handle the crowd.
The next chapter covers “other” which Simon calls Variations. It’s a mish mash of other possible speaking types such as one on one with your CXO (gathered from his experiences speaking with Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer).
And lastly, as one should as an architect, Simon covers off on a number of anti-patterns. It think this could be a book by itself but unfortunately it’s only a single chapter. He’s right, Ted Neward is one of the few speakers I’ve ever seen get away with offending and even insulting their audience but even he doesn’t get away with it every time.
In summary, this is a great book and you should definitely go read it if you are a (I almost added the word technical here but the book isn’t only for technical folks) speaker who is creating and delivering presentations. It’s approached as a technical person should as there’s a ton borrowed from software development such as building personas.
I wish Simon luck with his book and you with your presentations. To that end, Simon has given me a code that will get you a discount. Go to http://bit.ly/joshbookoffer and enter the code: 9DU2GFJP for a 15% discount.