Public Speaking   3 comments

Anyone who’s in my MSIS track will readily admit that I have no problem tossing in my $0.02 in general discussion. I think that I’m a decent “presenter”, as well (although like everyone else I do have some weak areas that I’m working on improving.)

I *do* know that a great many of those in the IT field qualify as marginal-to-poor public speakers… and in particular, the ability to give a well thought out and compelling presentation is decidedly rare. In case you’ve been sequestered in an Ivory Tower for your lifetime, let me gently inform you that merit is not everything. This is a real problem in my field, because like it or not, the ability to communicate an idea via a formal presentation is critical in the way organizations do business. If you can’t make a good presentation, your idea is going to go down the tubes.

Tips for IT folks who want to develop this skill: First, watch An Inconvenient Truth. Don’t watch it for the content (compelling though it is), watch it for the presentation. Al Gore does a tremendous job of balancing raw data and information without sacrificing audience connection. Charts and graphs are naturally boring unless you’re a math geek or an accountant, but Al’s presentation of charts and graphs in the film is masterly. Then read this post. Also this post, if you’re presenting to an action committee (as opposed to a conference) – Rand’s classifications of meeting-attendees archtypes isn’t perfect, but the idea is to get you thinking about your audience.


Posted June 12, 2007 by padraic2112 in management

3 responses to “Public Speaking

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  1. Isn’t the one true public speaking tip “rehearse, rehearse, rehearse?” I’m usually a horrible public speaker/presenter, but the few times I’ve managed to practice what I was going to say until I had it absolutely down, the presentations went flawlessly. (Practice also helps you figure out what you can/should cut, which is the key to public exposition, spoken or otherwise.)

    Also: charts and graphs aren’t naturally compelling? Bite your tongue!

  2. > rehearse, rehearse, rehearse

    Sure, Rands brings that up in his post. Undoubtedly, one of the reasons Gore is so adept at his global warming talk is that he’s given it thousands of times.

    > charts and graphs aren’t naturally compelling?

    Graphic representation of numerical data is certainly more compelling than raw numbers. However, throwing a graph into slide after slide doesn’t make your presentation compelling, it actually dilutes the effectiveness of the visual representation. I’ve seen lots of presentations where “colored graphs are compelling!” is obviously a major design principle, and the presentation winds up being boring as hell.

    Graphs are like exclamation points -> if you put one at the end of every sentence…

  3. All presenters who use graphics, graphs, and tables should read at least one of Edward Tufte’s nifty books. Actually, if you want to read a slam on using PowerPoint, read “Beautiful Evidence”.

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