This article is not going to bang on about making Presentations, if you want one of those just head over to the Google search page and try any of the 9,810,000 pages on offer.

Oh, alright, here is a quickie summary: Know your subject, believe in it, practice the presentation, practice it again 5 times, know your audience, chat to them before and humanise them, research your facts, plan your timings, don’t gabble but enunciate, project your voice, make eye contact with your audience, try to make them laugh, never read off the slides, if you can’t answer a question get back to them later and remember to … always … breathe. Throughout. That’s it in a nut shell. Some experts have mentioned thinking of the audience as naked, but that’s probably not a good idea especially if some of them are very attractive – my best advice for nerves is to spend 5 minutes talking to them face to face before you start, then they will become colleagues and associates and not the enemy. Did I mention the need to keep breathing steadily? .

So what am I going to bang on about instead ? Yep, you guessed it, the visual aids. If you did happen to visit some of those millions of pages about presentations you may have spotted quite a few of them talking about not having really whizzy aids to the presentation as it will detract from what you are talking about. And what these people are talking about are traditional Powerpoint special effects and transitions which seem to have been caught in some weird 80’s time loop. It’s great advice but it’s also not very true.

I have been creating presentations and performing, because that’s what we are really talking about here, on the presentation stage for over 20 years. I have also given two courses to interns and new joiners at PWC and also IBM. Do I know everything, no. Am I the best presenter in the world? Also, no. But I am pretty OK. The best presenters are akin to professional actors and quite often they will tweak your emotional strings up, left, down and sideways, they will make you laugh, make you sad but always end on a high note.

Of course the “what” you are presenting is also quite relevant to your aids too – complex subject matter means complex slides. Just make sure the audience is of a level to appreciate complexity – if it’s going to fly above or below them you might as well be talking to Bob at the local coffee shop.

The type of presentation I am going to discuss is the standard ITT sales pitch, a.k.a. please give us lots of money for which we will attempt to make a handsome profit and yet leave you still feeling OK about the transaction. These presentations tend to happen when clients put out a tender and invite the best 4 respondees to attend and show off their goods and all you get is sometimes 30 minutes. That’s it!

Let’s look at the material first. There’s going to be quite a lot of marketing hype bumpf which nobody listens too, some strategic nonsense which is only audible to marketing managers, has its own secret language with cool sounding words and has the same effect as watching paint dry to anyone else. Then there’s a bit about people – that’s good, what the plan is and what it will cost, also good, some technical details which again will probably lose 97% of the audience.

Quite often, if the potential sack of gold at the other side of the rainbow is particularly huge, you may have all of this information bundled inside of a cool looking video, special info-graphics and even some props.

[I remember ReadingRoom turned one of it’s meeting rooms into a park with fake grass for Dogs Trust]

But what do we use to bring all of this together? Nothing. There’s usually some scramble with a Mac or laptop to queue up the next aid, which isn’t the most professional. And that has always annoyed me. And let’s not forget that after you have had your 30 minutes, that’s it, no re-runs, no options to increase the stakeholder audience with a replay of certain sections, they either got it or you missed the shot.

So I decided to do something about it.

Another one of my undercover projects, the PresTool, was born. Initially, I used one of the whizz bang example presentation videos I mentioned earlier as a base and then started to go to work. Here is my wishlist:

  • Visual cues for sections – with the next presenter appearing in a pop up
  • Interactive Galleries of images with slugs of information attached
  • The ability to show off a team with mini bios’s
  • A hidden menu structure which would let me access different sections on demand
  • Start – stop – pause and rewind on the presentation
  • An initial interactive table of contents with facility to jump
  • Special cue points automatically turned into thumbnails on the hidden menu
  • Remote control of the presentation from another device (mobile/tablet) – *1
  • Facility to bundle the presentation onto a branded USB stick (nice give away too)
  • The option to create all of this from an end-user perspective, i.e. Administration screen – *2

As I mentioned this was an undercover project so there are still a few items outstanding left to do (*), however, the presTool does exist and is ongoing. At the moment it still needs someone to muck about with an XML file and load all the assets into the right directories, but … time, eh, funny old stuff.

Would love to get some feedback and any ideas – here is a PDF I created for the tool 


*1 – I have a running example of this if anyone would like to see it. The application will be running on a local network with all apps linked by a P2P connection. One application will “take control” effectively naming itself as the server and converting the P2P to a client/server relationship.

*2 – again, not complex, just needs time to build the UI to allow users to set the options and then some file reference code to create/amend the document on the file storage.