Dissecting my presentation

Last Wednesday I made my web traffic presentation, which received positive feedback and made some excellent impressions. In retrospect, the agreed upon speaking fee should have been a lot higher. I ended up putting quite a lot of time into the content of the talk, possibly resulting in an hourly rate of less than minimum wage. Not to worry, as I learned a number of things about delivering effective presentations, some of which I mentioned in my last post. One might say that I even came out on top.

One of the more important things I learned from my talk is that presentations should not have the same format as essays. I prepared my talk much like I used to prepare my university essays. This wouldn’t have been so bad except that in my introduction I outlined my forthcoming main arguments. With written essays, this is fine because the reader can immediately see how long the essay is and that these points will be discussed later. Not so with a presentation, where the viewer expects whatever is on the slide to be discussed then and there. After a few incantations of “I’ll get to that later” my mistake was fixed but it still generated some confusion and interrupted the flow of my talk.

In addition to touching on content management, HTML, search engines and marketing, my presentation also brought in aspects of usability and web design. I had previously planned to leave out those last two topics due to time constraints and “obviousness” but I’m glad that I chose to include them. Not only did my presentation last precisely one hour as intended, but I was able to pick out several key areas of the newspaper’s website which were lacking in usability or comprehensibility. Amazingly, there were a lot of pages where it wasn’t obvious what was being presented.

People were impressed, not only because of the content of my presentation but also because of how it looked. Keynote can take a lot of the credit for that as I only gave a passing thought to layout, which is how it should be. I even got compliments before I began, purely based on my title page. How many Powerpoint presenters can say that? Keynote made any layout changes outside of its standard templates quick, easy and intuitive. The only problem I had with Keynote is that it forces the presenter to click through old bullet points on a slide after launching a web page from that slide. Was that ever annoying, and something that I will have to work around for my next talk.

Will there be another talk? Who knows. I’ve been realising these past few years that I have accumulated bits and pieces of important knowledge from various domains that have become second-nature to me and yet which others seem to have failed to grasp. It’s not enough expertise to fill books, but digested in hour-long or half-hour long talks it’s bound to have some effect on someone. They just have to pay.

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