Presentation Styles

I had a chance to watch a few different styles this week at TechEd, and I think it helped that many were speakers I had not seen before. I don’t know if I can name the styles yet, but here are some notes about things I noticed:

  • Dual presenters can suck, or be very powerful. Trying to share presentation is hard, a great fit (at least for code) is one narrating high level, one doing code and narrating low level. It takes work to make this work.
  • Avoid rhetorical questions. You look like an idiot when you’re waiting for an answer but the audience doesn’t care. This normally happens when the speaker tries a few warmup questions just prior/after start. Better is to ask for non-verbal to start with, call for a ‘show of hands’ a couple times and then move to asking for comments based on those.
  • You’re there to teach. Not entertain. Anything – anything – you do that isn’t about how or why to do something is a distraction that makes learning harder. Does that mean you can’t be funny or have a light hearted approach? Not at all. It’s valid as a way to get them engaged, but don’t start counting how many laughs you get.
  • You’re there to teach. Not mandate, not humiliate. You may believe that solution X is the only way to do something. Fine, show us why that’s good, the downside of solution Y and Z. But learn to find ways to get some good out of non optimal solutions too. The ideal for me is to say “step 1 is to solve the problem” and here are some variations. Let me show you why I think you should do it this way and how to do it. Don’t berate me because I find it valuable to do it a different way.

I’ll say again my thoughts on presenters – give me the person that’s passionate but not a zealot. Looking back at this week, my favorite presenters were the ones that were passionate about a topic and it showed. It wasn’t a cold practical technical hour, they got me excited about what they were teaching.