Nate Eagle

Front-End Developer

Things to avoid when giving presentations

Due to the gracious patronage of AOL, I had the privilege of attending the recent An Event Apart in DC. Overall, it was an outstanding event, and I was really glad I was able to attend. But it also made me think about some things that you should definitely not do in presentations.

1. Ask rhetorical questions

If you don’t actually need an answer from the audience, don’t insult them by asking them. And definitely don’t ask them to raise their hands if you don’t really care. “Anybody out there a fan of… ADOBE PRODUCTS?” is an example of something you should not ask. “Raise your hand if you’ve ever asked this question in a client meeting…” I don’t need to raise my hand. Just tell me what you were going to tell me.

Here’s an example of an okay question: “How many people have tried out the new service from AnonymousServiceProvider? Ach, so few of you! Well, let me try to change that.”

That seems like you actually care. A little bit. But asking rhetorical questions just to make me feel involved just makes me feel angry.

2. Provide links to gists in your slides

Github gists are awesome in many ways. But here’s an example of what a link to one looks like:

This is a great thing for putting in posts/Tweets/IMs/emails, because what it does really well is go to something when it’s clicked on. What it does really poorly is spend any time in the human brain. I understand the desire to have references in one’s slides, but if you’re going to have URLs at all (which is questionable), make them human-readable shortlinks.

Or perhaps even better: Google: nate eagle awesome demo

But probably these things don’t need to be in your slides at all. Have a separate version of your slides available for people to check out later that does have links. Or provide audience members with a separate reference page.

3. Juice up your content with enthusiasm

Your content should make me feel enthusiastic. Your enthusiasm will not make me like your content. If you’re way out in front of your content, your enthusiasm will make me suspicious and annoyed.

Let me put it a different way: show me that something is awesome by showing me awesome things. And, yes, you can speak about it with energy and enthusiasm. But when you show me something and then try to tell me it’s awesome with your tone and diction, I just get irritated.

Note: this is very poor advice for dealing with people other than me, since the reaction on Twitter to one of the talks delivered this way seemed overwhelmingly positive. But I didn’t like it a bit.

4. Have a lame central metaphor

Central metaphors should be good, or not used. If they’re nothing but a vague story wrapper for asking why more often, they’re just weighing your presentation down. Strip it out and talk about something interesting.