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Non-Obvious Presentation Tips, A Note on Queen Elizabeth, Recent Reads, and More
Bring Ambition Newsletter - September 8, 2022
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The Bring Ambition Newsletter is like having a personal executive coach in your inbox every 2 weeks. You’ll receive 3-5 quick bulletpoints (~3 min. read) related to professional development, peak performance psychology, leadership, productivity, and much more.
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A brief note
My condolences to readers from Britain and the Commonwealth on the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. It’s no small feat to be the United Kingdom's longest-lived and longest-reigning Head of State, and we can all learn from the dignity, grace, and commitment which characterized her leadership.
1.) Non-obvious presentation tips
“Conference Presentation Judo” is (in internet years) a pretty old web post that explains how to give a successful three-hour conference presentation. The author says it contains “tricks you won't hear elsewhere.” Usually when someone claims they’re going to share non-obvious tips, they inevitably regurgitate things you’ve heard 500 times, but fortunately this post is an exception.
Even as someone whose role entails lots of public speaking and frequently coaches professionals on the topic, there were some unique takes that I was glad to have read. The webpage is a bit hard to navigate so I’m sharing my favorite takeaways and some thoughts here:
“A good presentation and poor content beats one with good content and poor presentation.” According to the author, the most important factor to giving a good presentation is delivery. Content comes secondary. In my experience, people work very hard on their content and structure and neglect actually practicing their presentation, leading to poor delivery.
Front-load the most important material. Avoid long, boring introductions. Don’t waste your precious first few minutes - when people still have some attention span - on a long introduction.
“When someone in the audience asks a question, always repeat it.” It’s likely the rest of the group didn’t hear it. “If you couldn't hear it, ask them politely to repeat it more loudly. If you still can't hear it, invite them to ask you after class. Do not yell at them to speak up. People are nervous about speaking in big rooms full of people.”
Timing your presentation is next to impossible, so design your slides so you can sacrifice material on-the-fly. “You never know just how long the class will take… No matter how carefully you construct the class, sometimes it will be too long and sometimes too short, because audiences are not all the same. Some audiences ask lots of questions; some ask very few.” However, you should “always end on the last slide, even if you have to skip a bunch of slides to get there on time.” In practice, this means including an “accordion section” toward the end, with “many independent subtopics that can be discarded if necessary.
Include any content you skip when you distribute the presentation materials afterward. This feels like a “bonus section” and makes the audience feel like you’re delivering extra value. You also won’t have to throw away material you worked hard pulling together.
Evaluations are “mostly worthless” because “every possible complaint will appear.” He's right - you almost always receive contradictory feedback. A few weeks back I read the feedback after running a workshop. One person said (paraphrasing) it was "too long, maybe shorten from 2 hours to just 1." Another said "too short, this could easily have been 4-6 hours." Other examples abound. The reason one person enjoys your presentation might be the exact reason someone else hates it. (This is good general life advice, too.)
Be authentic. Don’t force jokes if that’s not your style. “Invent a stage persona that works for you. Play to your strengths, not your weaknesses.”
Plant a friend in the front row. That way, “if you get nervous, you can look at your friend and see a friendly face.” And “if you don’t have a friend in the audience, pick a friendly looking stranger.” I’m not sure how he pulls it off, but the author claims to plant a stuffed octopus somewhere in the crowd for this purpose. However, I would add that you shouldn’t use them as a crutch, staring at your friendly-looking friend for your whole presentation.
2.) Highlights from recent reads:
“Don’t think to write, write to think” by Herbert Liu.
A similar topic has been on my list of articles to write for ages, and I’ve procrastinated partly because very good posts like this already exist. There is little to say that’s really “new.” Highlight:
“Writing is thinking. Writing is not the artifact of thinking, it’s the actual thinking process.”
“Why are you so busy?” by Tom Lingham.
While the article is specific to software development, the central premise rings true: if you’re scoping out projects appropriately, doing things the right way (vs the easy way), and managing stakeholder expectations, and you are still “busy,” there is a problem. A problem that can only lead to the degradation of your (and your team’s) quality of life. Highlight:
“You should only ever be busy on purpose”
“Joe Rogan has a werewolf and other observations from our Joe Rogan Experience experience” by Lulu Cheng Meservey
The team at Substack visits Joe Rogan’s podcast studio and lives to tell the tale. Highlight:
“It is the Buckingham Palace of man caves.”
3.) Throwback for the millennials
Play original Oregon Trail (1990) online via archive.org: https://archive.org/details/msdos_Oregon_Trail_The_1990
4.) Quote of the week
“You can either take action, or you can hang back and hope for a miracle. Miracles are great, but they are so unpredictable.” — Peter Drucker
Thanks for reading this week’s newsletter! Hope you enjoyed and I’d love to hear your feedback — reply here or reach me via the links below.
Have a great weekend!
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