Rules to Better Presentations

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Say you are doing a full day of training, you will need to get yourself and your students organized to do a great job.
Here are some tips and tricks you can use.

  1. Do you set a clear end time for breaks?

    When you set a break at a training course, you should make sure you first finish what you are doing. Don’t cut people off because of a clock.
    Tell them 20 min break (or 1 hour for lunch) and:
    • Let them break
    • Write in a clear place the end time for the break and ask people to be back on time
      Break ends
      Figure: Clearly show the end time for the break - you can print this PDF here
    • Set an alarm on your phone or PC
      Figure: iPhone alarm
    • If anyone comes back late, explain the value of integrity. Honoring your word in small things makes it easier to honor it for the larger things, such as doing your best in a sprint, and makes people believe in you more
  2. Do you do a Retro Coffee after presentations?

    Presentations at User Groups and other events are great for connecting with the developer community. After giving a presentation, you should always follow up with a few attendees to get feedback, find out what projects they’re working on, and potentially how you can help.

    Pick a few attendees at random to follow up with, give them a call and ask if you can buy them a coffee. You should ask them:

    • What they thought of the session and whether they have any feedback
    • Whether there are any related topics they’d like to learn more about
    • What projects they are working on at the moment
    • Whether there are any issues they’re having with those projects

    Read how this rule is also useful for account managers on Do you follow up course attendees for consulting work? ​

  3. Do you know to write down the Attendee Names?

    If the presenter has a small audience (say under 20), then it is best to know the attendee names (or at least quite a few of them) so you are able to communicate better with them throughout the day.

    The problem is you will forget their names after they introduce themselves.

    The fix is to have a piece of paper, (already divided up) so you can write down the names on it in the order that people are sitting.

    This ends up being a great reference you can use to address questions directly to participants using their name. This ensures that attendees keep focused as they may directly have questions referencing them.

    Figure: For a classroom like this...
    Figure: ...use a sheet like this
  4. Do you explain the logistics?

    Students will be able to concentrate best if they are comfortable that they know basically how the day will run. To this end, explain the logistics of the day.

    • What time are the breaks?
      • - Session 1 --> 09:00am – 11:00am
      • - Break --> 11:00am – 11:20am
      • - Session 2 --> 11:20am – 12:30am
      • - Lunch --> 12:30am – 01:30pm
      • - Session 3 --> 01:30pm – 03:20pm
      • - Break --> 03:20pm – 03:40pm
      • - Session 4 --> 03:40pm – 05:00pm
    • Where is the tea/coffee?
    • Where are the toilets?
  5. Do you avoid the term "emotional"?

    Bad example: to sound like you are emotional about this​
    Good example: to sound like you are passionate about this​​​​

    Taken from the video "Chris Voss: "Never Split the Difference" | Talks at Google" at 23:50.


  6. Do you enable presentation mode in Visual Studio

    ​When presenting to an audience using visual studio it is important to alter a few things for the best possible experience for the audience.

    First of all, you need to make your font bigger. This is probably rule number one. There's nothing worse than not being able to see the excellent code you're trying to demo.

    Secondly, you need to remove any distracting panes or other windows. These usually just get in the way. If you really need them, make sure they're set to pin mode, so they hide themselves when not in use.

    Most importantly, you can have all these things done for you in the click of a button by using the presenter mode extension. It automatically sets the correct font and removes distracting windows.

    Visual Studio

    Figure: Bad Example - Code is small and most of the Visual Studio UI is too small to read
    Figure: Good Example - Code is much more readable and Visual Studio UI is large enough to read​
    Figure: you can install Productivity Power Tools via Extensions and Updates. This includes the presentOn feature.

    Figure: Use quick launch for toggling between presentOn and presentOff.
    Thanks to Nathan Totten for showing us this tip back in 2012.

    Text Editor

    Change font size in your text editor.

    Figure: Small font size
    Figure: Good font size

    Command Prompt

    And don't forget to change your command prompt as well.

    Figure: Command prompts are hard to read
    Figure: Font size for command prompt should be about twice as much as by default

  7. Do you know that what your audience sees is as important as your content?

    The following ​​video explains the importance of:
    • Hand gestures
    • An upbeat voice (especially at the beginning of your talk and during an elevator pitch)



  8. Are you always careful with your spelling, grammar, and punctuation?

    ​​Improper spelling, grammar, and punctuation gives a bad impression of your company and can result in your message not being conveyed correctly. Emails with no full stops or commas are difficult to read and can sometimes even change the meaning of the text. And, if your program has a spelling checking option, why not use it?

    Web Content

    When on a web page, install Grammarly Addon for Chrome so you can automatically check web content. For example, while editing in a CMS.

    Figure: A typo caught by Grammarly plugin


    When on Word, press F7 (or on the ribbon go to Review > Spelling & Grammar) to check your .docx text.

    Use Microsoft Word's spelling and grammar checker to confirm your content is correct
    Figure: Click on "Spelling & Grammar" button to check your web content


    When on PowerPoint , press F7 (or on the ribbon go to Review | Spelling & Grammar) to check your .pptx text.

    Figure: Click on "Spelling" button to check your web content

    You should also keep "Check grammar with spelling" checked in your PowerPoint Options | Proofing:

    Figure: Make sure "Check grammar with spelling" is enabled

    Web Content

    Any other text can be checked manually. Go to Grammarly, create a New Document and Paste your content to check your text.

    Figure: A typo caught by Grammarly

    Related rule

  9. Do you organize the audience when numbers are low?

    ​Audience shots are great except when you don’t have a full house.​​ In this case you should move people to be next to each other.
    Figure: Bad example – the audience shot shows the bad numbers. It would be better to not use this view
    Figure: Bad example – the audience shot shows the bad numbers. You want to use this wide shot, but you need to make sure the attendees not in the shot are moved so their head is visible
    Figure: Good example – a shot from the SSW Chapel​ where the audience has been moved so they are in shot
    ​​TIP: To ensure you get the best shot possible, fill seating from the front back. It's​ a good idea to use VIP signs and place them on the back row to prevent people sitting there initially. These can be moved later when all seats are filled at the front.

    Figure: Using a VIP sign on the back row to prevent people sitting there initially​
  10. Do you tell the hashtag of your you topic to your audience?

    Hashtags are commonly use to group similarly tagged messages and topics on social media networks. It also allows users to search messages and topics on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

    Tell your audience what the hashtag of your topic is. Do this at the beginning and at the end of your presentation, this will give you exposure on social media.

  11. Meetings - Do you always zoom in when using a projector?

    It is a common problem that people will tend to use the default screen resolution when displaying something on a projector for a room full of people to read. This is difficult for people to see because of the distances involved.

    It is always better to zoom in by holding down the CTRL button and scrolling up on the mouse.

    Zoom in email
    Figure: Zoom in email