Monday, 28 September 2015

Thing 20: Presentations

Presentations are as normal as meetings nowadays and are useful tools for the communication of information and ideas to team members, colleagues or a wider audience. Of course the quality of presentations has generally improved with advances in technology, people speaking without notes and almost in a sense performing.  But the importance of presentations shouldn't be overlooked, communicating your ideas and data needs to be done with clarity and professionalism.

Thing 20 aims to give you a brief overview of presentation style, tips to create a more professional presentation and finally touch on the technologies that can enhance your presentation and thus increasing your profile within your Organisations or Communities.

While technologies have advanced, the different forms of presentations have remained similar and can be classed in four distinct types:

  • The exposition: this is a data-reporting presentation, clarity is most important.  Think about company results, investor presentations where there is no room for error or interpretation.
  • The showpiece: used for a major announcement, perhaps the result of personal experience like a charity led visit to a foreign country, climbing Mount Everest.  These presentations are designed to engage and inspire you.
  • The conversation: This one is used to document a 'work in progress' or a creative project that is been developed.
  • The sales pitch: the sales pitch is a continuation of the conversation but with an ending styled for a sale or purchase. This goes further in that it actively asks your audience to purchase your product or sponsor your program. Very important to note - if you don't ask for a sale or sponsorship you won't get it'
Presenting is a wonderful experience that you will only discover if you remember a few core truths.

Your Audience
You should know your audience and your subject.  Research your audience, who are you presenting to? What are their interests? From a library perspective, is the presentation for senior managers who are interested in your projects technology or are they more interested in your literacy work within the project?

Your Story
Know your subject, this can't be emphasised enough. If you are unsure about any part of the presentation this will shine through no matter how fancy your slides or video footage.

Most importantly, before you even look at what type of presentation or technology you are going to use write your story.  Do not be tempted to start with your presentation slides and work backwards.  I deliberately stated story because this really is what a presentation is all about.  It has a beginning, middle and end and the importance of having a continuous flow to your presentation will make it successful.

Once the story is written it is time to look at the software.

For the software we will look at two examples - PowerPoint and Prezi. 

PowerPoint was invented some 20 plus years ago and has been adopted by most businesses throughout the world. Microsoft claims that over 30 million PowerPoint presentations are given every day! As with all software it has its' advantages - it is easy to use, has a wide availability and now has an online version.

Poor example of PowerPoint
Disadvantages include the expense if you don't have access to it, the online and full versions are not the same and some would argue that it is dated in design. 

PowerPoint is easy to use, but very hard to use well. Some tips for developing your presentation with PowerPoint include:
  • Choose a simple scheme and stick to it.  Do not mess around with fonts and  colour schemes as this just wastes time
  • Do not type your script on screen and then read it out to your audience
  • Do not have complex charts - use a number of simple charts is preferable - think of your audience
  • Do not get obsessed with the pictorial side of things, focus on the story and the pictorial side will develop
Good example of PowerPoint - simplicity
Another software option is Prezi which is online and most importantly is free to use.  Presentations can look very modern and professional and your work is saved automatically which is a great bonus.
The difficulties arise as it can be confusing to work with in the beginning, it's not as user friendly as PowerPoint and there may be issues when trying to work offline.  Where PowerPoint allows users the option to use too much text, Prezi can allow you to create presentations that would be more distracting to your audience but again, it's all about awareness and building your presentation correctly regardless of the software.
This handy tutorial on Prezi might assist you in getting started.
Another option that is similar to PowerPoint is Google Slides, which is available online and is free to use.  It has limited options in relation to format and design but it is very user friendly.

Example of Prezi
Something that should also be looked at is Slideshare, which has the option to sign in with your LinkedIn account and can be used to keep your network on LinkedIn informed of your presentations. It is basically a slide hosting service, run by LinkedIn, who purchased the site in 2012 but also hosts supporting documentation, videos and webinars. You can view the presentations by subject and this might give you some inspiration for your future presentations.

Option 1 -  Select a topic that you would like to give a presentation on and create a presentation of no more than 6 slides using PowerPoint, Prezi or Google Slides.  Share your slideshow and thoughts on the process in your blog.

Option 2 - Think about a presentation that you have given. If possible share the slideshow on your blog and your thoughts on how you planned, created and gave the presentation.  What worked well for you? Was it a case of nerves and you didn't deliver it as well as you would have liked? What there anything you would change?  Perhaps take the opportunity to offer advice to anyone who is planning their own presentation.

Resources for the post:

I've used lecture notes from my Masters plus the following books:
'Perfect your presentation: deliver confident, high impact performances' by Steve Shipside, 2006
'Brilliant presentation: what the best presenters know, do and say' by Richard Hall, 2011
'Successful presenting in a week' by Malcolm Peel, Teach yourself series, 2012


  1. Would it be okay if my slideshow was more than 6 slides? the one i'm preparing is going through electronic resources we have at work for the students and there's three of them, two of which are a bit complex for one slide per resource so i might go over by one or two.

    1. That's totally fine. The only reason we said 6 was so that people wouldn't feel under pressure to do a full-blown presentation.

  2. Niamh,when trying to share my slides for thing 20 from google slides it does not allow me to share. Also how do i embed this to my blog. tried youtube tutorials but to no avail

    1. Hi Jackie, you have to do two things: First open your slide show in Google slides, click 'share' on the top right, click on the drop down menu and select 'anyone on the internet can view'. This makes your slide show public. Click 'done'.
      Next: Go to the file menu and click 'file' then 'publish to the web'. Click 'embed' in the box that pops up and then select the size you want your slide show to be (small is probably best ) in the blog post, and how often the slides change. Copy the code that appears in the box underneath these options. Past this code into your blog post while in HTML mode. Hope this helps.

    2. Those instructions were really useful for me too. Thanks Niamh.

  3. Thanks Niamh, Hopefully, I will get this one published today. Instructions are great thanks again.

  4. Hi Niamh, do you have a reference for the four types of presentations? Would love to learn more! :)

    1. Hi Siobhan, I've passed your query onto Liz as she wrote the post. She'll hopefully get back to you soon.

  5. Hi all, I used some of my lecture notes from the MBA plus a three books. I'll add the books to the end of the presentation. Glad to hear people are interested!

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