Little bits: How to craft a perfect presentation
Here’s the deal.
I’m angry as f#ck against every single teacher I’ve met in College so far.
For the sake of name-calling, it’s University of Brasilia.
And my anger isn’t towards teachers themselves, just to the fact that they haven’t figured out a way to explain things without sounding BORING as F#CK.
One part of it, is their terrible presentations.
So here’s my Little Bits on How to Craft Perfect Presentations.
I’ve been using these techniques and suggestions for over 5 years. I first started learning about them from Presentation Zen from Garr Reynolds.
Ever since I came in touch with these ideas I’ve been able to:
- Make successful business pitches to investors all the way to winning global pitching competitions back in 2019;
- Develop educational methodologies to teach robotics to children;
- Given many technical classes throughout university.
After a couple of presentations and experiences, I decided to add a few of my own principles and observations.
These next principles have guided me, and I hope they can be of use to you as well.
A little Story
You’re sitting at 8 AM looking at the teacher (we will call him Jacob) setting up his projector.
He turns it on, and without skipping a beat puts a slide with over 50 items all scrambled together on the screen.
Now you’re thinking that maybe you’ve forgot to read on past classes notes and you decide to try to remember what all of this was.
The teacher keeps explaining, but you are too busy trying to see what the hell was last class about.
30 minutes have passed, 1 hour has passed, the teacher is still on that same slide.
Wait a second, he changed it.
And here we go for another hour (if we are lucky).
By the end of 2 hours, the teacher went through 4 slides total. You don’t really understand what all of that was about, but you make a promise to yourself to read on the textbook after you get home.
Maybe you are just being stupid for not understanding what the class was about.
Maybe you should have taken better notes.
But something troubles you.
You don’t like how the teacher is teaching, and since he is the one with the knowledge, you feel bitter for him not taking the time to present the subject in better light.
You feel even worse after a colleague manages to teach in 10 minutes what took the teacher 2 hours to NOT teach.
You start wondering, maybe I should just stop paying attention at all in class, take those two hours and study directly from the textbook, then take group problem solving sessions with friends.
Bypass the teacher completely, since he isn’t doing his job, and I still need to pass, I might as well take matters personally.
Once you become a teacher, in any area of life, you vow to explain things clearly so people understand.
You vow to never make things obscure as a way to feel better about yourself.
You vow to pass on the knowledge, making it easier to learn, instead of harder.
You vow to make the subject interesting for the students to care about it. If they do, maybe they’ll even work with you in research or something right?
You vow to be better.
This is my story. I’ve been let down multiple times by people who were supposed to be teachers, but couldn’t do their teaching jobs correctly.
They cared less about how their presentation was going.
They cared less about if their methods worked for students or not.
It just made me sad to realize so many people still cling to their old ideas instead of adapting and improving themselves.
So if you are like me, and care about how information is displayed, how to teach without sounding like a bore, and like to make the curiosity fire burn inside students, readers, and anyone interested in learning, let’s go.
1 — If you need to explain something, show it being used first
Examples first, explanations later. Show why this is important to learn before telling the reader to learn it. Tell a story, make it emotional if you have to, but do contextualize what you are trying to explain.
If you present a puzzle first and ask readers to solve it, they probably will understand why they need new information.
That way the reader looks forward to what you are going to teach.
2 — One Idea per Slide
More than that actually makes both ideas lose focus and persuasiveness.
One of the mistakes Jacob made was putting too much information on a single slide. Let’s go through them one by one.
Don’t write more than one sentence per slide
The more you write on the slide, less people will pay attention to what you are saying, and more to the text.
If your goal is to stand there while people ignore you and read your slides, then go at it.
Otherwise, it is better to present information bit by bit, until the larger picture forms and then you can show the full information on a board.
Bullet point Danger
Do not shove down bullet point slides everywhere for the reader to digest.
Once is fine at the beginning if you plan on elaborating on your topics at a high level.
However use them with caution, bullet points might seem attractive, as in to lower the length of the slide deck. But don’t worry about the deck size just yet.
A Logo on every slide
Whenever I watch Batman Begins, Spider Man, Superman, I always find it annoying that directors put the hero’s logo on every single frame of the movie, it’s like they think we will forget who’s the movie about unless the logo is there right???
Well, they actually don’t. They trust their audience’s intelligence enough to know what the movie is about even if the Bat Symbol isn’t on every single frame of the movie.
So why do you think you need to put the university’s logo, company’s logo or any repeated element on your slides? Are you scared people will forget who you are representing?
And they should be carefully picked to portray the slide’s central idea.
If the image doesn’t represent the idea, drop it.
In Jacob’s case, what the hell is the background image for? If not for cluttering even more and making all the information harder to see.
Applying those Tips to Jacob’s first slide then…
I decided to break the first slide into 5 different slides, with the same amount of information, so we can have one idea per slide and still show the same information in a clearly defined way.
Here we go.
We have the University’s Logo, the name of the slide presentation, and the picture with a transparency setting so as to not pollute too much the title image.
The picture represents the subject being spoken about, and it doesn’t clutter the reader with information due to the transparency.
This one is clearer that we are going to be talking about which characteristics that Mendel observed in pea plants. So we prepare the reader for a more inclusive slide later on.
Here we have a more inclusive slide, that replaces the bullet point, and shows the information, instead of just telling the user. Remember: Images Matter.
Now we go on to the next slide, to show different principles studied in inheritance.
And the other one.
Now here’s the beauty of it, just because I’ve created 5 Slides to replace one DOESN’T mean Jacob must spend 1 hour per slide.
He can just use the same amount of time he did on his first original slide!
Just now he’s gonna be jumping slides more often, and speaking one idea per slide.
And you’ve guessed it, it helps the reader a lot.
It gives structure to your presentation.
You sound more professional and more knowledgeable.
3 — You don’t have to spend a certain amount of time per Slide
Tell what you need to say, if its in seconds, even better.
Remember the 5 new slides? Well that’s using this principle on practice.
So, don’t be afraid of going through a slide quickly IF it’s idea is simple to go through the reader’s head.
4 — Use the Presentation as Illustration of your point
Before you create a slide show, know what and how you are saying your message
Only then you should be able to start crafting a presentation. First you have your topics, then the details on each topic with what you are gonna say about it.
The presentation isn’t a substitute for organizing speaking topics
That means no reading from what’s on the slide. It makes the reader feel stupid that you need to read for them.
That’s not our game here.
You should be able to present without a presentation
If you are teaching a technical subject, you should be able to illustrate your points on a blackboard with chalk just as with a slide show.
Sometimes even a more manual approach might be the best way to show a topic.
5 — Don’t go back and forth between slides
You should design the presentation thinking through examples and always move forward.
Going back and forward confuses the reader.
6 — If you are lazy to present, nobody learns Sh!t
Take your time to think about what you want to get out from each slide.
Which brings me to…
Do not auto generate your presentations
It may seem like you are automating a boring useless part of your presentation, but you are wasting the opportunity to give a special personal touch to your presentation.
It might be the difference between people paying attention to you and them sleeping.
P.S.: I actually see some teachers building entire presentations on LaTeX and thinking themselves smart for automating things.
The only thing you are automating is boredom and disinterest from your readers.
Don’t teach people to be stupid
Teach them to use every available information and resources to win.
Don’t ask people to not see what is written on the slide!!!!
It’s amazing how oblivious some people are. Why would you put an information on a slide if you didn’t want others to see it?
If you don’t want the readers to see it, guess what? Don’t show it!
7 — If you ask the readers to solve a problem, make sure they have the information to solve it
Else they just feel stupid. You may feel superior, but you’re not really, you haven’t given them a chance to compete with you.
You already know this, they don’t. And you’re here to teach them.
If they don’t learn it, guess what, it’s YOUR FAULT.
It’s the readers’ job to learn, and yours to make sure they learn it.
If they don’t, you both failed.
The only way you can feel superior is if you can manage to explain to them in a way they understand faster than you did when you first learned it. There’s a good challenge to you!
8 — You should have a way for readers to write down questions, or give direct feedback to you
This becomes your feedback on your explanation, that is how you know which parts were clear and which were confusing. That way you have points to improve next time you present.
Which brings us to…
9 — Pose Questions previous readers have asked as part of the Presentation
That can elucidate new readers and show you not only know the subject, but you know common problems people have when learning it.
It shows mastery on your part, and will get your readers to understand it more.
You’d be completing successfully your objective.
10 — Communication is a two way street
Keep in mind that you must understand them before asking that they understand you. Sure you are the one with knowledge and they should make an effort to understand you.
But you are there to make the subject more attractive, interesting and palatable to the reader.
You are there to facilitate learning.
Next post I’ll be showing some GOOD slide presentations and discussing how each topic here made the difference between the good and the bad slides.
Also, feel free to comment and to share what you think I could’ve explained better.
Lots of kisses.