Overall Presentation Context
- The presentation should be tailored for the Conference audience: Most attendees are experienced with pipeline terminology and basic environmental permitting terms. Unless the presentation is specifically titled “Pipeline Permitting 101” or “Wetland Permitting 101,” please assume that the audience is familiar with common terminology (such as FERC, NEPA, and EIS). Although it is common practice to define the terminology in the slides at first mention, please do not spend time defining them during the talk and especially avoid any sort of tutorial on what these common terms are.
- Likewise, avoid overly technical subject area acronyms and complicated terms if not necessary to provide an overview to the target audience. For example, if the presentation is providing an overview of new air regulations, realize that the audience will not be composed of fellow air specialists. The presentation should be designed to inform and enlighten the audience such that its meaning should resonate with them. Therefore, emphasize the significance of the topic in a way that a group of permitting generalists will understand the take-home message without getting lost in the details.
- Although the context is important, it should not be the priority or take much time out of the presentation. The audience is looking for a take-home story. Therefore, to the extent feasible, the presentation should focus on real-life project scenarios and lessons learned. Emphasize the major technical issues and the significance of the results. Always ask yourself “How can I add interest for the audience?”
- Personalize the message with real-life/real-project experience and photos/graphics. This will add interest for the audience.
- If it fits your personality, adding some humor into the presentation can be effective to engage the audience.
- Maintain a clear message to keep the audience attentive and interested.
- Avoid overuse of acronyms. Limit the amount of text and the number of bullet points on each slide. Rely more on visual communication and images to populate your slide deck.
- Avoid overly complex graphics.
- Practice the presentation before finalizing it so that the right amount of material is synced with the time allotted. Although “one slide per minute of presentation” is often used as a general guideline, the number of slides has to match the speaker’s presentation style. If the speaker prefers to talk for 3-5 minutes per slide, then limit the number of slides accordingly. Likewise, if the speaker wants to present some slides with limited information in rapid succession, then there will be time for additional slides.
- Use object builds (animations) and slide transitions judiciously. Some animations are fine, but they should be subtle and professional. Additionally, these often will not present well if someone else needs to advance the slides for you.
- Use graphics/charts/images to communicate data and assist in conveying the presentation message.
- Use high-quality graphics. Redo a textbook/example graphic if it will be unclear. Remember that the slides need to look good to someone at the back of a large room at a conference, not just on the computer screen. Use a large font size and don’t be afraid of including white space if it makes the slide more readable.
- The PowerPoint format should follow the official conference template. Download here.
- Have a visual theme that is consistent, if possible.
Giving the Presentation
- Preparation is key to a professional presentation in front of industry peers.
- To assist the speaker in being more comfortable with public speaking, a co-worker or friend in the audience (or mentally select someone) could be planted as a “safe” person to look at and present to if the speaker has any difficulties.
- Allow time for audience questions within the format allowed by the SGA Topic Handler for the presentation session. If it is flexible, the speaker should determine when they would like to handle questions (during or after) and explain this to the audience at the beginning of the presentation.
- The speaker should know the message being presented so that he/she may speak with confidence – this will allow for a more natural and conversational presentation experience.
- Do not read from the slides. The visual focus should be on the audience.
- Limit the presentation to the allotted time.
- Monitor the audience’s reaction to the materials and adjust accordingly. If questions are being taken during the presentation, and there seem to be several about a particular issue, the speaker should assess if they want to continue based on the apparent interest/topics that will have to be omitted later if time does not allow.
- Do not read from your slides. Practice enough so that you are comfortable with your presentation and know what is on each slide. The audience can quickly scan each slide and read its contents quicker than you can read each bullet point. Therefore, the spoken content should always key from, but not repeat, what is on each slide.
It is recommended that if you feel that you need more text to read for your own comfort, create two versions of the presentation for your practice sessions. One version (for you only) would be a hard copy print-out with all of the information you need (large font recommended). A second version would have each bullet concisely summarized. Practice your presentation with the hard copy version in hand and the bulleted version on the screen behind you as it will be presented at the conference. With practice, you will “know” the bullets of each slide and will be able to recite (or paraphrase) the text you want without reading directly from your hard copy. Some presenters feel more comfortable actually having the large font version with them in hand as they present. However, with enough practice, we believe that you won’t even need this aid.
For more ideas on presentations, the speaker may review the advice of Aaron Weyenberg who creates Keynote presentations for TED talks. Read more here.