image (CC BY-NC 2.0) by Thomas Hawk, Flickr

Ideas you can steal to make your presentation not boring

Is it possible to do a presentation that isn’t boring?  At the end of the month, I’m going to be presenting at a conference and I’ve been agonising over and trying to find how to make it not boring when the topic is essentially…. boring.

Conferences relating to educational technologies can be either really exciting or really boring.  The topic I’ve chosen to present on is pretty boring ‘Managing design iteration across a uni wide initiative’. Have your eyes glazed over yet?  Are you still on the page? I bet I’ve lost you and you’re checking twitter or facebook.

How can I make it interesting?  At this conference, you can only submit a PowerPoint or pdf, no chance to use any fun kind of software or presentation tools.  So I read the book Presentation Zen, by Garr Reynolds, which is on many ‘Must Read’ lists.  Most of us are familiar with the phenomenon Death by PowerPoint, this book helped me embrace the zen of the slide and reject the notion that a slide should have details, which I know I’ve felt obliged to do in the past.  Here’s an example of how my slides are now a talking point rather than whole lot of text.
Image CC-by-SA, Rebecca RitchieI also read quite a lot of blog posts about how to ace a presentation, or make it ‘fun’.  Some good points but seemed to mainly be aimed at sales people.  You need to consider the limitations of what and where you are presenting.  I can’t run down the aisles high-fiving people in a traditional lecture theatre.  Mainly because the lighting is so bad, I’d fall a spectacular fall.  There’s also the Oprah-style ‘check under your seat’ but being from a uni, we don’t have the budget to give out cars, holidays or a branded MQ lanyard to the lucky person/s.image CC BY-SA, Rebecca Ritchie

Getting the audience to participate is an oft-suggested strategy.  If only I wasn’t a procrastinator and had started my slides BEFORE the due date, I could have enquired if we would have web access during the presentation (I seem to think that we didn’t the last time I presented at this conference but I could be completely wrong).  The shame of admitting that not only were my slides late but I was only just starting stopped me from adding a Poll Everywhere but I figure I can get people to do a show of hands or stand up, which leads me on to my next point….

I went to a conference on the Gold Coast last month.  The Plenary guest speaker was Amanda Dills from Oklahoma City University.  She was amazing!  Lots of energy, enthusiasm and humour.  There was also an activity involving post-it notes, making people get up and go stick their post-it notes on two whiteboards on either side of the room.  I liked it, I want to steal that idea.  Oops, incorporate and duly credit.

Another strategy to make presentations interesting is humour. Personally, I think I’m pretty funny, so this is do-able (although an old colleague once told me that I wasn’t as funny as I think and she was right, I’m even funnier!).  No in-jokes in a presentation though that’s boring and isolating for the audience.

Some other colleagues from Macquarie will be at this conference, as well as people I have worked with previously.  Safe to say I’m going to be nervous but there’s no way I’m combating that by the method of imagining the crowd naked.  I’m going to find a friendly, empathetic face in the crowd and focus on them.  Although, I shouldn’t be too worried because chances are very few people will be listening.  According to a poll by Prezi and Harris Poll people will be doing as per below.  *Spoiler alert! This is in my presentation.*CC BY-SA, Rebecca Ritchie

I’d love to hear some of your strategies for giving an interesting presentation, leave them in the Comments section below.




10 thoughts on “Ideas you can steal to make your presentation not boring”

  1. Hi Rebecca, thanks for this post especially the link to !

    When I am training, I try to use an image on the slide rather than repeating what I actually say. But you do have to sometimes have text too.

    When listening to good presenters I like the ‘storytelling’ approach whereby they describe an example from their experience.

    Good luck at the conference!

  2. Thanks for sharing, I downloaded it today and used it for a presentation this afternoon 🙂 I had just one technical hitch but it was cool for people to see the results as they came in on the screen.

    1. Cool! I’m glad you tried Catherine. I’ve seen it used in quite a lot of conference presentations now and seen videos of students using it in class too.

  3. Hi,

    If you want to see beautiful slide decks look at these – mostly black and white photos with a simple line of text reinforcing the notions being put forward by the speaker.

    I was at one of these presentations recently and up on the big screens the slides were amazing and so elegant. They really added to the presentation even though no ‘content’ as such was on them. Everyone was very very impressed.

    1. Thanks for the tip Frances, I really like Audrey’s slides. I also had a play with Speaker Deck and think I’ll use it in a unit I’m designing.

      The visual is so important, it’s amazing how quickly you can turn people off engaging because on clunky design which also applies in an online unit too.

  4. One trick that seems to work well for me is to break my presentation into sections, and then let the audience pick which section they want to cover next (I use an index slide with mini-versions of the section slides. In PPT the new ‘Insert Zoom’ feature makes that simple to do).
    It’s amazing how simply handing over some control to the audience gets their attention and holds it. If there’s more than 30 people in the room, then I’ll throw out a soft ball and let the person who’s catching it pick the next subject

    1. Ooooohhhh, thanks Ray! I really like the sound of that! I’ll have to practise using the zoom (and my throw, I’m a terrible shot).

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