Monday Jan 21, 2008

The Newly Found Art of Presenting

I haven't blogged for a long time. Ok, there were the holidays and I was on vacation for the first two weeks of January etc. but that's not a good excuse. I'm not the this-is-what-I-did blogger, because I don't find that too interesting to blog about. Follow me on Twitter if you're really bored. I don't like the I-read-this-on-that-blog-and-agree/disagree/opine style either, as I'm not particularly chatty and much of what is written in this style seems kinda redundant.

I prefer picking an interesting subject and try to write something that hit me as useful and that I hope maybe useful for others.

Last week for instance, I was invited to present on a Sun internal event. Three presentations on broad and complex topics, and then my time was cut to 3 x 30 Minutes because there were so many other presentations to include into the agenda.

Last year, I ran into Guy Kawasaki's "10/20/30 rule of Powerpoint" (Guy, I assure you, StarOffice/OpenOffice is compatible with this rule, as with virtually all PowerPoint presentations). Watch him illustrate the concept in this 2 minute fun video:

I made a news year's resolution to try it out and stick to it as much as possible.

First presentation: "Workstations and High End Visualization Solutions". Hmm, two topics. Will it work? Slide #1 was about Guy's rules, as a warning to the audience. 9 to go. Slide #2 shows the Sun workstation portfolio, both SPARC and x86 ones. Then: Positioning, usefulness of >4 cores in a desktop, monitors, NVIDIA Quadro Plex, NVIDIA Tesla, Visualization in HPC overview, Sun Visualization Software, Summary. I didn't read a single word from my slides, they were all mostly (except for some tech specs) 30 points or larger anyway and the audience grasped them instantly. Instead, I enjoyed a nice flow of information to the audience, adorning the slide content with customer stories, practical examples and the occasional joke. After 20 minutes, there was still room left for Q&A which fit exactly into my remaining 10 minutes comfortably. It worked!

Second: "EcoComputing and UltraSPARC T1/T2". This isn't going to be easy... The presentation I stole (and compressed) the Eco part from is 20 slides long (thanks, Rolf!) and a "good" UltraSPARC presentation can easily have 50 slides! But, so be it: # of servers in Europe (millions), the amount of power they consume (37TWh or 4 nuclear power plants in 2006), stuff that helps (consolidation, more efficient servers, Sun Rays, tape), UltraSPARC T2 servers, UltraSPARC T2 chip overview and features, example benchmark (SPECjbb2005, 10x more efficient than a GHz hungry server), application compatibility (It runs almost everything beautifully), project eTude, customer example, Victoria Falls (it gets even better). It worked again: All major messages came through, they won't be forgotten. Let me quote a favourite technology of mine: "The audience is listening." Saving the world with 10 slides in 20 minutes!

Last topic: Web 2.0. A tough deck to prepare. A topic dear to my heart. So much to say, so little space-time. Guy makes it really hard to prepare as he forces you to dig deeply into your content and really bring out what's essential: Web 1.0 vs. Web 2.0, The Flickr Example, User Generated Content & Wisdom of Crowds, Long Tail, Folksonomy & Tagging, Social Networks & Viral Distribution, Rich Web Interfaces, Open APIs & Mashups, The New World of Software (we're in the middle of buying a piece of it), What This All Means & Call to Action. I may have cheated with all the "&"'s that combine 2 slides into one. And I'd like them to be more visual which I'm going to change. And still too much text. But it doesn't matter: I hardly use the text on the slides, they're just waypoints in an excited, motivating plea for participation. I'm sweating. It was the last talk of the day but the audience is still there and they loved it!

Simplicity is king, especially with presentations. Limiting your deck to just 10 slides doesn't help you with preparation: Each slide for the presentations above took a lot of work to create (or not to create), but it forced me to concentrate on what's important. And it worked out just great. Thank you, Guy!

Want more? Try out the Presentation Zen blog. Today, I received the book in my mail, it's brand new, still warm and I'm looking forward to reading it.


Tune in and find out useful stuff about Sun Solaris, CPU and System Technology, Web 2.0 - and have a little fun, too!


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