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.
Need 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!