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Worst presentation of my life

2010 October 3

httpv:// Last Friday, I listened to a webinar on “Your new failure imperative”. Interesting conversations (and tweets). Failing and admitting to failure is hardly anyone’s favorite past time, but you can certainly learn a lot from failure. As my recent presentation at the GIS Conference went fairly well (…), my thoughts went back to a time when I failed miserably at presenting a paper.

As our memory deceives us, this is probably not how it went, just my version of it: there was a conference at EPFL (1989?), I prepped a paper presentation with a colleague. He would do the presentation, but turned ill. There I was, fresh out of college in a full room with potential listeners. All I could come up with, was to read the text out loud. As I was running out of time, I was requested to ‘just tell us what my paper is about’. I thought that went well and realised should have done that from the start. It certainly was the worst presentation of my life.

I have received several questions and request for tips about presenting. It is maybe one of the secrets of the GIS Conference that for years, speakers may participate in a one-day workshop on presenting well; that would be my real tip. Otherwise, here are my two cents:

–      Be clear about the structure of your presentation before you make it

–      Try to make a few points-to-tell and a few points only

–      Repeat these points you want to make several times

–      Use images, text merely as a guideline (and for re-reading)

–      Practice in front of a group a colleagues

–      Be able to summarize your talk in 6 minutes

–      Take enough time for the preparation

–      Add a personal touch to your presentation (in the story and/or images)

–      And what I learned this time: write a paragraph of text about your presentation. Just a title is hardly enough for a potential listener to get an idea about what he/she might want to hear.

*At least you can only have one worst presentation…

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