Creating Good Remote Presentations

June 28, 2011

Chapter 11 – Remote Presentations

Edward Tufte is well known for his excellent books and seminars on presenting data. I was lucky enough to attend one of his workshops where I was blown away by his presentation. He had compelling and educational material, but his style was even better. He was engaging and witty for his entire six-hour lecture. Tufte presented real data, engaged his audience, and varied his material in order to keep everyone interested.

On a different occasion a friend of mine gave a presentation about web technologies for Java. He began his presentation by announcing that he had two hours of material and only 90 minutes to present it. He then spoke without stopping for breath for the next hour and a half. He ended by announcing that he was out of time so he wouldn’t be taking any questions. This kind of information overload is barely tolerable in person and will ensure that your entire audience has stopped paying attention by the end of your presentation.

Everyone has a unique style of presenting. Your goal is to take your style and adapt it so you leave your audience feeling relaxed, engaged, and informed.

Giving presentations and software demonstrations is important to the career of any engineer, remote or otherwise. On an agile team you will give a demonstration of your new features at the end of every sprint. Presentations are also a powerful way to show your team what you are passionate about and get them engaged in what you are working on.

A presentation is a conversation and you need to keep your audience engaged. Talk with them, not at them. A good presentation is a lot more like a conversation than a lecture. Start every presentation by encouraging your audience to stop you and ask questions. Remind them of this at key points during your presentation. Many desktop sharing programs have a chat feature your audience can use to easily ask you questions.

Encourage people to speak up when they disagree with you. When an audience member has a comment about something you say, it is a good thing. It means they are engaged enough in your topic to really be thinking about what you are presenting. Always leave plenty of time for audience interaction and stay relaxed enough to handle interruptions during your presentation.

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