Time to prepare for Drupalcon Paris!

Unfortunately I've arrived late enough in Washington DC for Drupalcon to not be able to go to the Presenting You! Workshop by Emma Jane Hogbin. While I've been on stage in the past 20 years from presenting poems through singing in musicals to doing actual tech presentations, I feel I have some ways to go to improve my stage skills in terms of presentations: both slides and delivery. To that effect, I did manage to go to her presentation with the same title which was put on sometime mid-Drupalcon. One of her points which warranted this blog post was: start now to prepare for the next Drupalcon!

She recalled being singled out for sending in the first proposals for Drupalcon DC and therefore "cheating" on the voting system to get the longest time under voting. However, she points out that the underlying mechanics of Drupalcons are well known. We know a Drupalcon is always coming up (this time in Paris early September). You might have presentation ideas already. So why not start mapping out your message, building your outline and proposal already? As soon as the call for papers will be out, you can post your session and enjoy your well prepared presenter experience.

What happens, if the exact time for Paris turns out to be unsuitable for you? What if the plane ticket prices will go over the roof? Well, you will still be able to find local Drupalcamps and other types of small conferences where you can spread your message. You can even target both presenting at your local events first and then go to show your content off at Drupalcon with even greater confidence. So getting your act together sooner then later might get you even more fame.

Presentation Zen book coverNeed advice for planning and laying out your slides? I've had the chance to actually sample in real life and consequently buy the Presentation Zen book from Garr Reynolds back when I was in Cambridge MA to work on the Drupal.org upgrade. After reading it, I decided to make the jump and try this "simplified" slide style, and refrain from overwhelming my audience with too much information. Overloading my slides with information was a mistake I believe I made many times before.

Eventually I've driven the Module development kickstart presentation we prepared and delivered with Peter Wolanin and my portion of the Multilingual Drupal panel with the zen approach in mind for Drupalcon Washington DC. With the development slides, there were lots of source code examples to show, so it was hard to apply these principles, however, with my intro to Drupal core multilanguage, I could quickly skim through a huge amount of knowledge with just summarizing the most important details with impressive slides.

Comparing that to the Do It With Drupal slides I had on the same topic (albeit with a significantly bigger scope), my newer slides have a lot less in themselves, but in turn direct the audience to what I have to tell. As Garr points out, a good slideshow should leave the audience with a desire to learn more. The best strategy to achieve that seems to show off the cool stuff and leave off the details for further exploration. While this might sound unfair at first, realistically, telling everything possible to your audience is not gonna work anyway. The reason you have a presentation is to fire up people and not to educate them with all the details you have under your sleeves.

Garr makes the point that if your slides include all the information you are gonna tell (and you gonna tell a lot), then why would you be there at all? If you treat your slides as if they are the handouts for the conference then you are not required in person. People can just read the printout and move on. To have a great presentation you need to engage your audience, you need to make them focus on you and your message. (And after the event, you can still publish your slides with presenter notes included, so people joining in later can still understand some or all of your points).

These are all just tiny samples of what Garr has to tell, and even these points he presents better, so I'd suggest making the jump, getting the book now and starting to prepare for your next presentation focusing more on your audience instead of your topic. See you in Paris!


Alex's picture

Hi Gabor,

If you treat your slides as if they are the handouts for the conference then you are not required in person

The problem is that your presentation will have a new life after the conference. We shouldn't forget that the audience is not only the DrupalCon audience but also the people who could not attend and who will read your slides on slideshare. And that for many many months...

This is why, I think we should either add comments to each slides or make more detailed slides that have less impact during the conf but are more useful after...

Gábor Hojtsy's picture

Well, what Garr says, is that your presentation is not inherently limited to one deliverable: the slides. First and foremost, presenting the slides is in itself a deliverable. You add comments here and there which only come to you while on stage. You make additional remarks based on questions.

On the other hand you can always make a handout with more detailed information, resource links, etc. You can write a pre or post session writeup of the main points you are going to say to facilitate broader conversation. Young Hahn did this for his theme system limitations presentation for example.

For the module kickstart presentation, we built one module with all our examples, which you can actually run on a site. We also made extensive speaker notes which was good to prepare and collaborate with Peter.

With the i18n slides, I also made somewhat extensive speaker notes, which were useful for myself as a clue to practice and remember my train of thought throughout the whole slideshow. Since that includes most of the hot points I've said, it effectively works as "the bullet points".

Both slideshows we published in a form including all speaker notes, since they would not tell too much without those notes (see links in the blog post above).

gergely's picture

Azt hiszem ez egy magyar felsooktatasban nevelkedett embernek mint neked vagy sokunknak masoknak tenyleg nehez megtanulni rendes prezentaciot tartani...:)

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