Wednesday, 28 September 2005

The art of presenting

I've been secretly studying how people present their presentations for the past several years.

I think it began during my English for Occupational Purposes (EOP) class, where we were to taught to write memo, conduct interviews, perform feasibility studies and write apology letter to the top management for using the executive toilet unknowningly during the first day of work. I was in charge of preparing the presentation slides for our group's product, a hi-tech personal assistant device called Digital Buddy.

Looking back, the presentation was horrendous. It lacked direction and theme, too lengthy and frankly, too ambitious. Classic beginner's mistake.

That was second year. Then we spent the following three semesters attending the dreaded Seminars I, II and III. Seminar is held every Friday at 3 PM, a time when most would rather be doing something else. Seminar is compulsory and it's supposed to give the third and second year students the experience of presenting. And as far as I could tell, most people including me, hated doing presentations.

Presentations are quite intimidating. As someone born with stage fright, I prefer the job of preparing slides over doing the presenting any day. But presentations are important to us as students of engineering. We would at least be required to present our final year projects at the end of Project I and II. The grade for final year project is also largely based on the presentation given, like it or not.

But what sometimes happen during Seminar and Project presentations are truly dreadful presentations. I don't mean that in a bad way, just in the fact that some of the presenters made little effort to present a sensible, understandable presentation. They read everything off the slides and mumbles them back to the crowd. Some even came with unfinished Powerpoint slides.

I'm no better myself. I read off slides too. I mumble. And worse, I mumble my jokes and I laugh by myself.

But presentations are about communicating ideas. It's a brief moment when people already give some of their time to listen to what we have to say. The least we could do is to respect their time and present properly to the best of our ability.

The art of presenting is something we all can learn in time. It may seem as if this skill of commanding people's attention and making them listen to what we say is bestowed upon a chosen few, but in reality we communicate this way everyday. We need to engage people's attention in order to tell them something.

Presenting is communicating to the masses. Sure, it's different from the personal, one-to-one type of communication but there are times when we simply can't avoid this one-to-many form of communication.

In the job place, for example, running away from doing presentations is not an option. Failure to communicate properly with a potential client during a presentation can cost the company dearly.

When we start seeing presentations as a communication form, we would probably take it more seriously. Every details matter: from colours selection and font used to arrangement and white spaces to the flow of speech and the lighting level. They may sound like some lingo to us, but learning them can make a huge difference in how we can channel our ideas to the audience and leave an lasting impact long after the session is over. It's not about being the company's (or the world's) best presenter, but it's about getting ideas across the best way we can.

And if we've managed to get people thinking about the things we've presented, we should feel glad. We've successfully accomplished what presentations are supposed to do: get people to listen, understand and think. Knowledge grow from ideas, and like the water that revitalises the earth and the plants, they need to continously flow and not stay stagnant.

[ Garr Reynonds's Top Ten Slide Tips ]


IeNa said...


Can't agree more on what you've had highlighted in your posting.

So, do you still mumble while presenting? ;)

rollie said...

Believe me, I mumble, sneeze, burp, sigh, cough and even do breathe aloud during presentations.

Not someone you'd want in your group presentations.

IeNa said...

I believe you are not that bad :)

Anonymous said...

everyone has stage fright..believe me..even the premier!
we'r having impromptu public speaking everyday now...cant run away!

IeNa said...

Impromptu public speaking everyday?

That's nice.. (hehe,with tanduk dah keluar kepala).

I'm sure you guys will having butterflies in the stomach everytime you guys have classes.

But it is a good training for you, believe me.

In corporate world, you are required to present your idea frequently. The impromptu public speaking is good for you actually :)

Ganbatte ya!! :D

rollie said...

FYI, anonymous ni org PTD. Orang gomen, tapi bakal duduk atas-atas. Sebab tu la kena impromptu hari-hari.

IeNa said...

oo ye ker, then lehlaa pasni kita minta dia banjer kita biler dah berjaya duduk kat atas-atas tu ek, hehe ;)

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