The magic formula is not about the "right" way of giving a presentation, but about developing your own creative way of expressing meaning.
When we're trying to explain technology, we tend to fall back into formal, highly structured methods. We may think the information deserves a certain level of respect.
What if we could ask information what it wanted.
Would it want to be forgotten?
Would it want to be difficult to remember?
Would it want to be free?
Forgotten is often what happens. We do not easily learn in numbers, rows of data, statistics, or jargon. Those should be supportive resources. If you look back on presentations anyone has given, what do you remember most? Chances are it isn't the numbers or the details. You might have connected to a metaphor, an intriguing question, a diagram, a photo, a way to picture technology in a relatable form, a personal story...
Sometimes, we want to fit education within very rigid boxes, as if we were hoping for rote memorization instead of critical thinking. What if we could give education wings, like when you are free to describe something meaningful to your best friend.
Here are a few ways you can try breaking the rules to explain something about technology in a memorable way that may just help free that information.
It is easy to get lost in how to explain the details and forget about the big picture. Before you begin putting ideas into concrete form, ask why you are trying to explain your topic of choice. What is its purpose? How could it impact people's lives?
You are not in a vaccuum. You cannot hope for people to connect with your message if you do not take the time to think about them. Who are they? What are they like? Do you know something culturally relevant that could help them understand what you're explaining? Can you think of relatable examples?
You can hear the same joke from two people in similar tones and styles, and yet you will laugh with one of them and not the other. Why?
Some say a comedian will make you laugh when she/he/they laughs with you, because they find their jokes funny. How many times have you laughed, because someone you cared about was laughing, not because whatever it is that person was laughing about was really that funny.
Part of giving a message is realizing how meaningful it is to you. When you let that seep into your presentation, people are more likely to want to understand it.
Try to vary the types of slides you use and the ways you present your information. When a presentation has the same format throughout, our minds can lose focus.
We are not very good at processing large amounts of information all at once, especially when we are seeing it for the first time. I'm not sure why the practice of trying to fit a presentation into as few slides as possible has caught on. In an effort to simplify, it has made every slide complex, and explanations of each slide even more so.
If you have ever taken photos with an analog camera, you might have needed to be frugal, to wait to frame the photo just right, because you had a limit on the photos in your roll. That might have meant you missed capturing the smile on your child's face, and every photo looks like people have turned into statues.
Digital changed the need to be frugal. You can capture the smiles, also the frowns, the tears, the silliness... You no longer encounter statues on every frame, I hope.
In a similar fashion, think of a slide as the digital transformation of a presentation board you had to carry into a classroom or office space to give your talk or workshop. You no longer need to have that concern.
Think of slides as a place for a single thought.
A slide is a visual reinforcement to what you are saying. People need to glance at it and know what's most important in the shortest amount of time possible. Sometimes, a single word is enough.
A slide is not a place for long paragraphs or complex bullet lists that not many will read, and fewer will remember. Unless that paragraph is an extraordinary example, like a perfect quote for what you're trying to convey, please try to avoid them.
Focus on one thought. How will you express it? A photo, a short phrase, a screenshot, a diagram, part of a diagram... It is up to you how express it. Make it as simple as possible.
Fear: When a slide carries a simplified version of a thought, you'll forget what you wanted to talk about.
Reality: Whatever you choose to represent, when memorable enough, will trigger your memory.
As you create your presentation, take some time to go back through your slides every now and then and practice how it's going.
If a slide does not trigger your memory on what you should say about it, do you need that slide? If you do, find a different way to explain it: Brainstorm new ideas, talk out loud, chat with a friend about it, do more research, sleep on it...
Fear: Adding more slides will make presentations longer.
Reality: Your presentation is more likely to get shorter. You will think carefully through each thought and, in the process, get rid of so many unnecessary fillers.
If you come to a slide and find that you need to explain something by speaking for a long time before switching to the next slide, you probably haven't worked enough through your thinking. Like in other projects, you need to subdivide major tasks into small enough pieces so you can get through them more efficiently. You'll avoid getting lost in your own words and going over your allotted or ideal time.
Make it easier to understand
Technology has many terms, often unfamiliar to most people. Is there an easier way to say what you're trying to explain? Can you explain a new term or a concept without adding more jargon? Can you include a slide that gives a relatable example?
Giving a presentation is not a race. It is more like a conversation, where you get to share an in-depth look into your topic of choice. Slides should have a rhythm that gives you time to breath and gives an opportunity for the information to settle in your audience's mind. Know when you need to pause and give a few extra seconds before switching to the next slide.
If you were to just rush through it, your audience wouldn't have enough time to grasp the information and the purpose of your presentation won't be as likely to get through. People will tend to remember how rushed your presentation felt, rather than what it was about. The same goes for when your presentation feels too slow. Timing is a careful balance.
Make sure to run through your presentation without rushing, and time it. You'll get a sense on whether it fits your purpose. If it's too long, figure out ways to simplify and refocus. What is or is not essential?
Fear: One of the biggest fears in technology is that by explaining something in a more relaxed, easier to understand, visually appealing way, you are somehow scamming people with an empty marketing scheme.
Reality: Some topics are gimmicks because they lack substance and rely on faulty incomplete information, not because they are designed creatively. The goal is for information to be memorable. Education matters. The space would benefit by more creativity backed by substance.
Prepare in advance for your presentation. Do the research. Take the time for that PoW.
Explain the principles and purpose behind your reasoning.
Why is it useful? Use real world examples whenever possible.
Don't just cover the pros, spend some time on best practices and problems to avoid or to work on in the future.
Compare and contrast