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Ask Slashdot: How To Give IT Presentations That Aren't Boring?

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the napalm-can-liven-up-any-presentation dept.

IT 291

Dmitri Baughman writes "I'm the IT guy at a small software development company of about 100 employees. Everyone is technically inclined, with disciplines in development, QA, and PM areas. As part of a monthly knowledge-sharing meeting, I've been asked to give a 30-minute presentation about our computing and networking infrastructure. I manage a pretty typical environment, so I'm not sure how to present the information in a fun and engaging way. I think network diagrams and bandwidth usage charts would make anyone's eyes glaze over! Any ideas for holding everyone's interest?"

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Bring pizza. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39384165)

Pizza automatically makes any meeting fun.

Re:Bring pizza. (1)

dittbub (2425592) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384353)

or, if you're canadian, bring timbits! what can be funner than timbits? besides, pizza is sloppy.

Everyone loves... (5, Funny)

clutch110 (528473) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384173)

Car analogies, lots of them!

Being entertaining is not a requirement. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39384179)

Oh for crying out loud! You have been asked to review a topic, provide useful information such as an overview and where to find more details.

Talk about future plans. Turn it into a discussion on additional needs.

Being entertaining is not a requirement.

Re:Being entertaining is not a requirement. (5, Insightful)

rampant mac (561036) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384311)

"Being entertaining is not a requirement."

What do you remember most about Steve Ballmer's "Developers, Developers, Developers, Developers" speech? What he said, or the fact he was dancing around on stage like a sweaty howler monkey?

Re:Being entertaining is not a requirement. (5, Insightful)

Tom (822) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384771)

What do you think he wanted the audience to remember?

Probably not the dance. So mission failed.

Being entertaining is the point if you are in the entertainment business. Otherwise, be entertaining enough that the audience enjoys the presentation, but keep it subtle enough that it doesn't overshadow the content you are trying to bring across.

Re:Being entertaining is not a requirement. (1)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384795)

What I remember? His armpits. But I have no clue what the speech was about.

I kinda doubt that was the idea. Unless he moonlights as a deodorant salesman.

Re:Being entertaining is not a requirement. (5, Informative)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384903)

I think it was about developers.

Re:Being entertaining is not a requirement. (2)

colinrichardday (768814) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384971)

Unless he moonlights as a deodorant salesman.

Wouldn't that be anti-perspirant? You really can't smell him in the video?

Re:Being entertaining is not a requirement. (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39384875)

What I remember the most from that speech is that he is batshit crazy.

Re:Being entertaining is not a requirement. (1)

ThunderBird89 (1293256) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384487)

Maybe not, but it sure helps in maintaining interest in what he needs to get over...

Re:Being entertaining is not a requirement. (5, Insightful)

Auroch (1403671) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384853)

Being entertaining is not a requirement.

... and yet, it certainly helps. Like deoderant. Not a requirement, but certainly a good thing to do.

first ! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39384183)

Wooo

Try a black turtleneck sweater? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39384191)

And don't forget your RDF generator!

Seriously, like him or hate him Jobs could present the most mundane subject and have people clamoring for more, so maybe follow his technique.

Just hire... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39384199)

...strippers. Problem solved.

Simple. (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39384201)

Fire one person at the end of every presentation.

Re:Simple. (3, Funny)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384805)

And make it the person who can't answer a question about the topics just presented. I swear, they'll hang on your lips. They might even take notes.

Voice (5, Informative)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384203)

Walk around. Vary the intonation of your voice. If you need to use PowerPoint, don't make it text heavy, but just put up the brief points you want them to memorize.

I give 10 or 20 workshops every year around the country, and I can usually capture the interest of an audience without needing PowerPoint.

Re:Voice (1)

interval1066 (668936) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384647)

  • Wave your arms around in a threatening manner.
  • Divide the talk into rounds and then enlist the aid of an attractive coworker to hold placards showing the current round
  • Break out into a song and dance number
  • Free gifts!
  • Steven Wright monologue
  • Contests, contests, contests
  • Cry through the discussion asking 'Where is this company going?'
  • Wear a clown suit

Inspiration from the Jobs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39384211)

Perhaps, this will help? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-ntLGOyHw4

An Idea.. (4, Interesting)

SuperCharlie (1068072) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384215)

Make up a bunch of cards with servers names, routers, etc.. all the infrastructure pieces.. then hand them out randomly as people come in..once everyone is in.. make them recreate the system.. maybe get some string for wires.. make it physical, involve the participants and it wont be boring..

Re:An Idea.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39384295)

oh wow, that would really piss off people.

Re:An Idea.. (2)

dittbub (2425592) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384343)

yeah i hate being involved. i want to be entertained! tell me jokes.

Re:An Idea.. (2)

interval1066 (668936) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384713)

This. Few people can write comedy, but if you can pull it off it will be a coup for you and your department. Something that has a better chance of winning on the comedy front is if you can get a small group of your coworkers together to help you. Pithing ideas for a talk around while cracking jokes is how its done on tv sitcoms. It can really work.

Re:An Idea.. (0)

DaveSlash (1597297) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384479)

Yeah seriously. If I wanted to participate in social things with people, I would have chosen a career in Marketing, instead of Computers.

Lolcats (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39384221)

Seriously. Especially if you find ones that are relevant to the topic at hand.

Re:Lolcats (1)

dittbub (2425592) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384323)

this might be a good idea. put an lolcat between every other slide. i'd watch that.

Facilities that people could use, but don't? (2)

luceth (2407120) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384225)

I work in an academic genomics laboratory, and our tech staff are on the lab meeting rotation schedule. What they generally spend that time doing is presenting tutorials on interesting things you can do with our computational and networking infrastructure. For example, our admin implemented a really slick remote access server (Sun-branded, I think) and it was a nice chance for him to give a live demo of something that, at this point, a lot of us find useful. (Also a good chance for him to show us that he was earning his keep!) I agree with your assessment, though - avoid the utilization charts.

Have a point to your presentation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39384227)

...and use examples outside of the world of IT to make it.

Prevent Death-By-Powerpoint (5, Insightful)

scsirob (246572) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384235)

The very worst thing I see when someone opens a presentation is "Slide 1 of 50+". If you do want to use slides, use them as a guide only. A single picture is lots better than 20 bullet points. And for heavens sake, Do Not Read The Text To Us!!!

Make sure you know your subject, prepare 4 slides max and talk about your subject. Start with a question or quiz to engage your audience. Trick them into a 'Duh...' moment. Get interactive and don't be afraid to say "I don't know"...

Re:Prevent Death-By-Powerpoint (5, Insightful)

MBCook (132727) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384715)

I don't think "Do Not Read The Text To Us" can be emphasized enough.

Re:Prevent Death-By-Powerpoint (1)

Ambvai (1106941) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384887)

4 slides seems a bit brief; I tend try to space things out such that each content slide stays up for 3-4 minutes.

Remember that the slides are there as a visual aid and for the printouts. (Which, hopefully, they'll be taking notes on if necessary.) Keep it visual and to brief.

Related to the previous point, make your visuals distinct and arrange it in a form that gets your point across without being misleading. (Or at least misleading in a subtle way that emphasizes the point, like zooming in a bit too far on a graph.)

And it cannot be emphasized enough: DON'T READ OFF THE SLIDES. If that's all you're going to do, you might as well pass them out, turn off the lights and call it nap time.

Re:Prevent Death-By-Powerpoint (5, Funny)

Darinbob (1142669) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384921)

It should say "Slide 1 of 2". Then people will sit up and pay attention, hoping for a short meeting. Then next slide says "Slide 2 of 2". Then the next slide says "Slide 3 of 2" and everyone laughs. And so on.

consider this an opportunity (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39384237)

You shouldn't be trying to figure out how not to bore your coworkers. You should be trying to figure out how to drive them insane with boredom. They must be punished.

Tits and ass (2)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384243)

And lots of it. Sexist and shallow, I know. For all you gals out there, well get some hunks out there too so you're not left out. Give your local Hooters a call and see if they will cater. They won't remember the whole point of the meeting anyways and you'll no doubt get the funding you need. Epic win!

I'm kidding of course. Well, sorta.

And people wonder why HR dept hates me.

One word... (0)

frank_adrian314159 (469671) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384247)

Strippers.

It seems to work for the sales guys in Vegas...

Record Yourself (5, Interesting)

eljefe6a (2289776) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384253)

Record a video of yourself giving the presentation. You will see the some areas you can work on. Put the video on YouTube and ask your friends/family for feedback.

KISS (5, Insightful)

craigminah (1885846) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384259)

Just keep it simple, minimize the number of PowerPoint slides, and brief things that may be relevant to the audience. Analogies always help so the "car analogies" comment is a good tip. I used to teach satellite communications principles and theory (e.g. orbital mechanics, decibels, satellite antenna design, RF propogation - all boring stuff) and noticed once PowerPoint was turned off and I interacted with everyone they recovered from their comas and things went well. You don't need to be a comic, juggler, clown, etc. Just keep it simple and stop at 30 minutes.

Works every time. (0)

philip.paradis (2580427) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384263)

Simply take off one article of clothing every five minutes.

Re:Works every time. (1)

tool462 (677306) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384317)

Applied to the average IT guy, the audience will WISH their eyes glazed over...

Music and Lasers (1)

Wingfat (911988) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384267)

Go to Amazon.com pick up the set of three laser pointers (has one red, one green, and one blue violet) the set of three is less than $30. Blue Lasers dont show up as birght to human eyes, but work great for presantations to get people to check out the screen. I find when i mix up using the green and blue between hot points in topics it catches their eye. hard to be a technphile and not turn your head to check out a shinny laser dot ;-) Head on over and pick up some great jamming music. with a tech side. example Sound Tribe Sector 9, they are great and use PCs to make a lot of the music but also play real instruments over the techno type tracks. If you end up playing some Flight of the Concords in the mix you will sure get there heads off the table laughing.

Don't get too cute. (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384269)

I was in one on Microsoft's campus with people from various companies, and this one douche thought he was being very clever by repeatedly using Chef Emeril Lagasse's "BAM!" schtick. People laughed the first time. After that the boredom was replaced by irritated hostility.

Re:Don't get too cute. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39384327)

I re-imaged my server cluster with Linux and I was like...BAM!, we're movin now!

Re:Don't get too cute. (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384743)

I re-imaged my server cluster with Linux and I was like...BAM!, we're movin now!

Scarily close to the way it was, only repeat it a dozen times and substitute Windows products for Linux.

Logfiles are fun! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39384271)

I'd show your firewall logs. Most people have never seen them, and it has the added benefit of showing management that you are vital to protecting the system.

Of course, there's a chance they may freak and insist on a 100% cracker-proof network... Only you can judge what sort of people you work with.

Poll your audience beforehand (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39384279)

Find out what people _want_ to learn about before your monthly presentation, then prepare with that in mind. Or poll people at the end of your presentation. Or do 15 minute topic presentation + 15 minute QA / open forum for people to ask about anything.

Be funny (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39384289)

Use humour. [youtube.com]

There isn't one (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39384291)

This is business, not a stand up routine. If you want to have a good presentation:

1) Limit your audience to those who need/want to know what you're presenting
2) Tell them what you know concisely and clearly.
3) Do not get bogged down in details or let people rathole.
4) Have good answers for the questions people are likely to have.

Pointless waste of time (3, Insightful)

Manip (656104) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384297)

The real question you should be asking is why you're holding this event to begin with if everyone attending has no interest in the material? It just sounds like a thirty minute waste of everyone's time or just a way to make you feel like you're contributing more or something.

While there are certainly things you can do to make it more interesting (relate it to their day to day, average e-mails sent per employee, average pages accessed in a day, etc) you really can't do the impossible without making the entire presentation about something else entirely.

My only suggestion would be to not "read from the slides." Material should either be coming out of your mouth OR on the slides, never both. It is fine to describe a graph on the screen or a diagram, it is horrible to read out a paragraph of text.

Re:Pointless waste of time (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39384535)

Seriously, shut the fuck up.

Re:Pointless waste of time (1)

TheGratefulNet (143330) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384549)

typical management bullshit.

don't worry about keeping their interest. you are not an entertainer and not paid to be one. don't even try.

do the thing your boss asks and then be glad its over.

bosses who force this really suck. but a job is a job.

but its JUST a job. once you do your 'needful' you've met your obligation.

don't try to entertain. they don't want that, either. no one wants to be there; realize that. mgmt gives you an assignment and it also shows how clueless they are.

a job is a job but don't care too much about this as its just busy work or a junk task because 'mgmt says so'.

Re:Pointless waste of time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39384749)

i have to second this......what fucking management monkey thought giving a presentation on the company's network was a good idea?
give your superiors exactly what they asked for: boring technical details. there is NOTHING entertaining at all about Networking Infrastructure. nothing. the presentation should be as dull, dry, and so filled with technical details, they won't ever ask this of you again.

Re:Pointless waste of time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39384947)

i have to second this......what fucking management monkey thought giving a presentation on the company's network was a good idea?
give your superiors exactly what they asked for: boring technical details. there is NOTHING entertaining at all about Networking Infrastructure. nothing. the presentation should be as dull, dry, and so filled with technical details, they won't ever ask this of you again.

well... maybe, but it's only 30 minutes of your time. suck it up.

force audience participation (-1, Flamebait)

peter303 (12292) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384307)

I was at a computer talk this week where a the speaker called on people in the audience to read captions on the slides. A caption balloon would pop up emphasizing an important point abut a figure. You had to stay alert in case you were called.

Another trick is to insert a short quiz slide now and then. Have the audience vote on the right answer.

Other people liberally sprinkle their talks with humorous pictures. They always include the URL at the bottom or end credits if borrowing someone else's image.

Eliminated or minimize the dreaded Ambien PowerPoint word outline slide. Use photos, diagrams, videos, or key-prhrase slides as much as possible.

Re:force audience participation (2)

hachre (981066) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384459)

horrible imo.

Re:force audience participation (1)

Vanders (110092) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384879)

A caption balloon would pop up emphasizing an important point abut a figure. You had to stay alert in case you were called.

Nice try. I'd laugh in your face.

Be careful... (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384309)

Whatever you do, don't mix sarcasm with good clip-art. I worked with a sales exec who wanted to ship laptopa that shot lightning.

Relevance (1)

Translation Error (1176675) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384331)

If you can describe what features and benefits various aspects of your systems have for the people you're addressing, that might help. Hearing figures and specs about the computers and network would put me to sleep. Hearing what I can do because of them might just get me interested, though.

You're not an entertainer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39384347)

Be informative and brief. It's not like people go into meetings like that looking for a standup act or to be entertained. Want to make people happy, get your information across and get them the hell out of their early.

Prezi + 10-20-30 (4, Insightful)

Conception (212279) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384351)

Maybe Prezi will help with the boring topic? Keep people's eyes engaged?

Also, the 10-20-30 rule has always worked pretty well for me. 10 slides. 20 minutes. 30 point font.

Re:Prezi + 10-20-30 (2)

PhunkySchtuff (208108) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384725)

+1 for 10/20/30 rule.

Don't have slides that say word-for-word what you're saying. They are not your notes to read from, they need to be bullet points that back up and emphasise what you're saying.

Minimal amount of slides otherwise people will turn off.

Minimum 30 point font on the slides, this will force you to keep them succinct.

For a good guide to the art of presentation, look at any recent Apple keynote presentation.

Bingo (4, Funny)

ISoldat53 (977164) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384355)

Play buzzword bingo. Give prizes for winners.

get rid of powerpoint (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39384357)

take the time you would spend making a pretty powerpoint and put that into making the content worthwhile

First you must know... (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384363)

Why is your audience there? What are they interested in knowing, and what is you required to show?

If it is a knowledge sharing meeting, they probably don't want to know the details of your infrastructure. Talk about limitations (and, of course, a very high level view of the network), plans for future, bothlenecks, how things affect them.

Top Ten list (1)

Tepar (87925) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384365)

I once was assigned a performance tuning presentation to do at a conference. The subject matter was really, really boring. To spice it up, I turned it into a David Letterman top 10 list of things to do. Each item on the list was preceded by a "joke" item that had something to do with the item I was going to talk about. It went over very well.

Tips (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39384367)

Follow the 10 foot rule (Make sure everybody can see a presentation at least 10 feet away).
As for structuring a presentation start with the general then move into the specifics.
But most of all remember giyf.
Hope that helps.
God bless.

Think, feel, do (1)

cliffjumper222 (229876) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384373)

What do you want your audience to think, feel and do? Decide this at the start, and then you'll be able to judge whether you've succeeded in the end. Unfortunately, "Sharing information" is the lowest form of presentation (the highest is a call to action - "Attack!") so if that's all you're doing, it a tough row to hoe.
Start with a grabber - something funny, or a question.
Then tell them what you're going to tell them. This doesn't have to be an agenda slide, you can do it verbally. This sets the context and tells your team that there will be an end!
Give them the content. This can be in the form of slides, or visual aids. Remember, you are the presenter, not the slides. Look at TED talks and you'll see it is the person everyone is looking at and not the slide. Practice standing still and talking to people in the audience. If you have to read off your slides, do it silently for a few seconds, then turn and face the audience and speak. Stand to the left of the screen if you can from the audience's perspective so they'll naturally move their eyes to you (In English we read from the left).
For content, I *really* recommend pictures and no text, or very sparse text. Just get rid of all the text and you'll be free to talk about the picture how you like. If you put up text, people will read it instead of looking and listening to you. The Ignite style, or PechaKucha (http://www.pecha-kucha.org/) styles are very awesome and exciting if you want to give them a go. I use www.gettyimages.com as a source - it's a great search engine for emotive pictures. For internal use, screw copyright, just take anything and blow it up BIG (full bleed, no titles).
Finish with a call to action slide that drives home what you want the team to think feel and do after they walk out the door. Don't be afraid to ask for something too, or for something they should consider. After all, if there is no point to what you've just said, then why bother?
One last point - being told to do a presentation for 30 minutes is an artificial constraint. Will your boss really be upset if you take 10 minutes and get the message across? I've had to do presentations to extremely busy people and had 5 minutes or less and done that with terrific success. The time should not be what you consider - if there's time left over, call it discussion time or Q&A. If there's no discussion or Q&A, maybe you need to be a bit more provocative or thought-provoking in what you are saying.

Good luck!

Make a pinata of yourself (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39384377)

If you are like the typical IT guy start off with all the shit you changed that breaks existing methods and software that developers use. Finish it up with a pinata that the developers can take their anger out on.

easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39384379)

Explosions and shaky cam.

We do something similar... (4, Interesting)

cptdondo (59460) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384407)

Once a month we do a brownbag where people come in and do presentations. It's voluntary and fun.

The best thing to do is to have toys to show off. Just recently I walked around with a "coupon", an 8" diameter chunk of steel cut from a pipe. This let me talk about water pressure, safety (there's 4,000 lbs of force behind that coupon in a waterline) and give everyone a visual of that thing coming loose and whacking someone in the face. Perhaps not related, but it let me segue into our control system, and 25 miles of fiberoptic cable, and control infrastructure that lets us control our water delivery throughout 250 miles of waterlines.

Tell stories, illustrate your points with real world events. Don't dwell on statistics or numbers; talk about what those numbers mean and why they're important.

Yes, you are an entertainer. At least if you want to keep your audience from falling asleep.

This is what I do.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39384409)

I give random lectures for IT students in their first semesters.

I make them bring their small programs (e.g. a calculator) they have written in another course. I tell them to remove their names from the code so nobody gets embarrassed.

Then I spend 2 hours optimizing their code and giving commentary.

They love it.

They come with Java and C. Also C++. I like to show them how to emulate C++ in C then by porting it to C.

etc.

Presentation (1)

ThunderBird89 (1293256) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384417)

A lot hinges on how you behave. Like others said before me, intonation is a must. Body language is also important: hands apart, open posture, eye contact, get out from behind the podium. You don't want to present a shield to the audience.

Slides: use graphics to make it interesting, maybe a network architecture demo from PacketTracer (I find it has nice, friendly icons representing the devices), and other visual aids. Handouts may be used if you plan to impart a lot of information.

Don't shy away from the occasional joke, if you think you can get away with it, just make sure they're not groaners! I find that the "Death by Powerpoint" image macro works well as an ice breaker when included in the beginning, right after you outline the presentation, with a comment like "[...] And this is what I hope my presentation won't turn out to be!"

Sozi (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39384419)

http://sozi.baierouge.fr/wiki/en:welcome [baierouge.fr]

"[...] not organized as a slideshow, but rather as a poster where the content of your presentation can be freely laid out [...] series of translations, zooms and rotations [...]"

It's GPL 3.0 [gnu.org] software and it's an extension for Inkscape [inkscape.org] .

Insightful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39384425)

A co-worker of mine would insert fun little animations and/or funny graphics which represented what he wanted to get across. It was just enough fun not to be distracting but keep you awake and reading while giving a little chuckle.

Video, Guest Speakers, and Knowledge Share (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39384429)

Analytics are great but they're boring as hell. Have some fun with video whenever you can - it can be a little cumbersome to make but it will liven things up quite a bit. Also, incorporate guest speakers. IT's great but it's pretty consistent through most industries. Bring in people from other departments to talk about exactly what they do and how IT helps them. It provides alot of perspective that you might not see on your day to day. Also, share knowledge. If someone in your department does something cool - let them tell everyone about it.

Oh, and free food. Always have free food.

Bender says... (2)

flaticus (759649) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384435)

With blackjack and hookers! In fact, forget the meeting!

That's easy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39384453)

Don't go for "this is a bit, this is a byte, these are wires, this is the boring-ass stuff I do all day" type thing. You'd be looking at it wrong.

You're running the shop for them, so tell them what they can do with it. Highlight something, say a neat wiki where they can share all sorts of information (and oh look you've pre-loaded with fun HOW TOs about getting common tasks done more efficiently), and take'em on a tour, show'em there's stuff around they can use they mightn't know existed.

Shit, you get a wonderful opportunity to plug how fscking useful you are for the company and you have to ask, "now what"? Now you make it a roaring success so you get a fixed slot each month to show off what neat stuff you've done for the company this time.

Bring candy (3, Interesting)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384457)

Yes, really. Bring candy, handouts and don't forget one humorous story in the first third, and a joke right before the final conclusion. People like stories, especially if they're in context with the presentation. It gives the less technical people something to relate to when all you're doing is spewing numbers about money saved and man hours reduced. The candy amps up their blood sugar so they stay awake, and the handout is so they have something to reference if they fall behind in the presentation, or try to remember what you said later.

don't. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39384461)

don't give a presentation. there, that was easy.

Ask your coworkers (1)

swalve (1980968) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384519)

Talk to some of the people not in your department and ask them what they would like to hear about.

And I also like the idea above about logs. Not screenfulls of actual logs (unless for visual effect: cat /this/months/firewall/messages and let 'er scroll), but statistics and things like that. Do something about how to make easy to remember passwords. Do a presentation about what your department does all day. Many people don't really see what the IT people do all day. So show them a graph of all the tickets your dept handled all year, along with the projects you accomplished.

Clicker, e.g., Interactive Response Devices (1)

j33px0r (722130) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384541)

Why not make it interactive by using interactive response devices, that is, clickers? They aren't applicable for every type of presentation but if you are looking for feedback from the staff, they can work very well. Sure, a set might set your company back a few thousand dollars but they work pretty good for keeping your audience awake.

You can try cell phone polling alternatives if you want to save a buck as well but the cell phone polling option does not go over so well with some folks. They just don't want to be bothered to pull out their cell phone unless they are texting someone.

I'm not sure if they will work in conjunction with pizza & hot wings during a lunch presentation.

People are interested in themselves (3, Insightful)

ArgumentBoy (669152) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384547)

Organize the talk by their jobs. Show them how it all works when they do what they do, and where it's most likely to fail or slow down when they do various things. You'll probably go back to a couple of key slides frequently as you move from one major job type to another, but you'll adapt to your listeners. Everybody is interested in themselves. For a big finish show them how all their jobs move together in the common system. Avoid the natural mistake of organizing it by your own job.

Don't describe the infrastructure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39384553)

That's boring. Tell them what it does for them, and how they benefit. Your goals are:

* Make the devs think you give them value-added service that makes it more likely they'll get their work done without unnecessary hassle, and less likely that an accident or an oops will get them in deep shit.

* Make management think you're giving them good value, while taking prudent steps to minimize risk and maximize opportunity.

Summary: make them think you (and your infrastructure) make them more likely to succeed, and less susceptible to risk. That makes you look valuable.

captcha: screwed

Start with the right kind of material. (1)

Above (100351) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384567)

Lots of posts are talking about having good subject material, but I think they are missing the mark. It's not good enough to have fun, or interesting material, but it also has to be material that is suited to a presentation. Anyone who's taken a class where a professor just droned on reading powerpoint slides knows that teaching material to people via a presentation does not work well at all, for instance. One of the fun ones in corporate america is the "reason for outage" presentation, that sort of material does not fit well in presentation form either, most of the time.

Your audience has to be interested not only by the information you are communicating, but also by the way in with you present it. When you watch an Apple Keynote it's not that they do anything earth shattering, but everyone wants to know what the next gizmo is, and a plain picture on the screen and a one paragraph description read aloud keeps them enthralled! Think about interesting tech presentations, people flock to (the external version of) why things failed presentations. When Facebook/Google/Yahoo/Microsoft get up and talk about these events there is interest before the presentation in the topic, and the people listening aren't interesting in assigning blame (which is why the RFO corporate ones don't work). They are fascinated by a window into your world.

I fear the OP is off on the wrong foot. If the environment is "bog standard" and you're presenting to technical folks you're already in trouble. If 10% of the room could sit down and take a wild ass guess at what you're doing based on industry standards, and that is in fact, what you're doing, no one is going to care about your material no matter how much you try and jazz up the slides. The OP needs to think about the questions the other 99 people in the company ask all the time, and how to answer them in a fun and interesting way. It's the questions you dismiss all the time:

"At my last job we did X, and it seemed better, why don't we do that here?"
"Why does the IT staff always take a 2 hour lunch on thursday?"
"Why are you guys Windows fanboys, and hate OSX?"

The people are already telling you what they are interested in knowing. Those are the topics they will find interesting and engaging. Those are the things you need to present.

I just did this (2)

mrquagmire (2326560) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384583)

I actually gave a presentation this week that went over very well. Here's what I did:
  • * Kept it short and simple. No one wants to sit through a long boring presentation unless they absolutely have to.
  • * Started off with a slightly self depreciating joke to lighten the mood.
  • * Used good graphics and animations to keep interest.
  • * Kept my slides uncluttered so people actually read and understood what I put on there.
  • * Used a slow and clear speaking voice so everyone can hear what I was saying.
  • * Tried as much as I could to not show my nerves and I came prepared. Most people don't want to see others stumble and struggle though a bad presentation.

Everybody likes stories (2)

bisharkha (1754942) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384589)

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/nancy_duarte_the_secret_structure_of_great_talks.html [ted.com] I watched Nancy in a smaller venue but she did the same talk for TED. The link is above. Essentially you have to understand that people have acknowledged that you can tell them something. This immediately puts you on a pedestal - but that is a good thing, let me explain. They have invited you to tell them a story at the end of which they want to feel good about your position on a certain matter (the topic of your presentation). Even the most technically inclined are only slightly looking forward to you spilling every little detail about the topic. They want big take-aways. This is why being on a pedestal is good. They WANT to pay attention - but humans tend to pay attention to gestalt not minutiae in such circumstances. They like stories, they like to be told you've got everything under control. You'll lose them if you get into the nitty-gritty just like you'll lose kids if you start telling them the little piggy use quick-setting concrete because, in your estimation the wolf was about 25-30 minutes away, which would rule out ... You catch my drift (I don't know too much about construction but that was the first story that cam to my mind). Don't overload your slides - 3-5 main points per slide, 7-10 slides. If you have to put in more info then either email them the desk with annotations or handout a document for them to review. So go watch the video and then remember to tell your story - the geeks and nerds will always be at hand to squeeze the juicy details out of you via a Q&A at the end.

Don't try to be entertaining! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39384613)

Don't force yourself to be entertaining, most people easily recognise a forced presentation. Same goes for boring, if you think your presentation is boring - it will be boring. Find things that capture YOUR interest in your material - if you find it interesting, you'll project it to your audience better. Even if the material itself seems boring, think of anecdotes, I'm not an IT guy, but I'm sure there are stories where things failed, a mouse that ate through the cables, the janitor who used a computer case as the base for his mop, show how it relates to your diagrams and sketches. Think of user stories (not necessarily in the same company if it's embarrassing...), and if all else fails there're always water guns for the sleepy audience members...

Puppets. (1)

Kenja (541830) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384629)

'nough said.

Temporary Insanity (1)

KlomDark (6370) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384659)

Do really off the wall things, keeps the audience involved and a bit fearful. Then they'll pay attention.

Five minutes into the presentation, suddenly step back, scream Rahr at the top of your lungs, then continue on with the presentation as if nothing happened.

Fall on the floor and twitch mumbling in a scared child's voice "Mommy, don't the the monster get me!". Get back up, keep presenting as if nothing happened.

Walk up to the biggest guy in the room, clock him square in the nose. Laugh. Keep presenting.

Fart loudly.

Pick your nose.

Praise Jesus!

Stop talking and just look at everyone strangely, as if you are fully confused.

Jump up and down a couple times and begin speaking in tongues. Seem very impressed with whatever you said in tongues.

Tell them about the baby bird you found when you were little.

Run from the room screaming.

bandwidth? (1)

threat_or_menace (746325) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384699)

don't focus on bandwidth, focus on % of bandwidth devoted to porn, day to day and week to week.

Run driftnet.

Give everyone a look at what everyone's been downloading.

Your opportunity to make yourself dispensable (5, Insightful)

michaelmalak (91262) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384705)

Although it's been said a million times before, it's relevant also here and not obviously so.

There are, broadly speaking, two ways one can approach a job. One path is the "job security" path. Hoard information. Hide passwords. Make yourself indispensable. The other path is to continually "make yourself dispensable" by sharing and documenting all information you gather. You create value for your company by continually learning and gathering more information to share.

You've posed your question regarding this "information sharing" as a company requirement. No, this is your opportunity to take the latter (and better) path described above.

First slide of your PowerPoint is a bus about to run over a pedestrian and this is where you introduce the concept of the "bus number". You frighten everyone in the room by announcing that the company has a bus number of one and that you, the speaker, are all that stands between prosperity and collapse at the company. Next slide is a photo of someone handing out candy or gifts to everyone in a crowd and is titled "Sharing".

What are you sharing? Since this is the first presentation, not a lot of detail. First thing you are sharing is the location of your "In case of IT death, look in this directory." Don't have one yet? Make one before your presentation. It should have a "README.1ST" and a concise set of documents with passwords and network diagrams. You know, those things you were (rightly) loathe to put into your presentation.

Next topic for this first presentation are FAQs. How people can fix the printer for themselves. How people can check the status of available DHCP IP's for themselves. Etc. Make people independent to give yourself more time to learn even more things. Like maybe stuff about e-mail servers, VPN's, CRM, or website design. Don't stand still!

Do you realize how valuable this opportunity is and how much it's costing your company? A salesman, like, say, an insurance salesman, would pay big bucks for such an opportunity, and you're getting it for free! Use it to:

  • Make yourself look expert and confident, and to give everyone a positive impression of you.
  • Educate others to self-help to:
    • Make your network robust (to prevent three levels of interrupt on your time)
    • Free up your time to learn more things
    • Make it look like you're not hoarding information.
  • With all of the new learning you'll be able to do:
    • Increase your value to your current or your future employer
    • Add even more value to your current employer by improving your employer's IT infrastructure.
  • Satisfy whatever your supervisor's goals are with the "knowledge sharing" program if they are not covered by the above.

Make yourself dispensable. It's the way to create value. 30 minutes is an enormous gift. Spend it wisely.

drop powerpoint (3, Insightful)

Tom (822) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384733)

First thing you do is drop powerpoint. Don't start it up and open an empty presentation and then start to think what to put on the slides.

Work without slides. Focus on what you want to say. If there are diagrams, etc. - anything halfway complicated - make a handout instead of slides, because people won't remember the slides anyways, but they can take the handout with them and keep it as reference.

There are some cases, such as a demo or a walkthrough, where slides are useful, but most presentations can do entirely without, if only they were more interesting.

If you have something to say, you're already halfway there to an interesting presentation. If you are just giving a presentation because you were asked, and you think your topic boring yourself, then you need to get to the "something to say" step first. Find out what makes your job interesting. There must be something, or you wouldn't be doing it.

A good presentation doesn't try to say everything about its subject matter. It concentrates on the interesting, cool and/or important stuff and only hints at the fact that there's so much more.

Seriously... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39384761)

If you're an attractive female, short revealing skirt; otherwise it's physically to make a presentation less boring.

Ask the participants beforehand (1)

Edgester (105351) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384861)

Talk to the participants beforehand. Ask about their pain points. Put up a survey with a few ideas for a presentation, then do the one with the most votes. See what the audience wants to hear. Show them stuff that will make their jobs easier.

Keep it simple (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384865)

No more than 10-15 slides
Don't read the slides. They should just reinforce what you're talking about. If possible, no slides. Simply show a few realtime applications as you are talking.
"Here is our current server load." "Here is the realtime, right now, network traffic between Omaha and Tacoma." Or whatever. There are dangers in doing this, but if you can, it can be quite powerful.

Above all, don't let your boss change the presentation the day before. I had this happen. Short slide deck ready to go...rehearsing several days before. She altered/inserted slides to show what SHE thought it should convey. I had about 2 hours notice. Not good. I managed.

Call in sick that day - do everyone a favor (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39384919)

Definitely.

Make it relevant (1)

Cederic (9623) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384933)

Understand your audience. Work out what they're going to be interested in.

Don't tell them bandwidth stats. Tell them who is using your site, how much, what for, and then use that to explain the bandwidth patterns and usage. The fact that peak bandwidth usage is at 5-7pm and hits X is relevant to business people, and X should be pages/minute not mbps. That you can also note that each page is on average Y in size means you can correlate page views to bandwidth, and also demonstrate opportunities to improve site performance by reducing the size of key frequently accessed pages.

So suddenly one boring stat has become an insight into your customers, your site, the implications of various design choices and an opportunity to improve.

That's relevant, that's interesting to a professional audience, and that's adding value to the organisation.

Toastmasters (1)

teridon (139550) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384949)

If you're serious -- try to find a local Toastmasters [toastmasters.org] club.

Powerpoint is evil. (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 2 years ago | (#39384983)

EVIL [uni-duesseldorf.de] I say.

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