How Can I Improve My Presentations: a Post-Mortem

Presentation ZenOn 22 September I posted a blog which compiled recommendations obtained from many individuals on the the APG and the Transitional Genealogist listserve about doing better presentations.  You can read “How Can I Improve My Presentations?” by clicking on the link.  Today I presented to the Seattle Genealogical Society “I Found My Family on the Internet! Now What Do I Do?” on website assessment of family history information.  I thought I would share the evaluation results.  On the items listed below I kept the same number as the original list posted on the blog on the 22nd.

Things I did not do so well:

3. Test your presentation with the projector you will use.  Why didn’t I do this.? Simple to do.  I found that some of my slides were too fuzzy and the type was too small to see. And some of the content fell off the screen.  This was the major faux pax. The small type size was the most common negative comment.
14. Place your brand on every slide.  I did not do this.  I had it on the first and last slide.  In fact Presentation Zen says not to put it on every slide but rather at most on the first and last slide.  I am going to remove it from the other presentation when I put it on every slide. It is also not my “style” to be so aggressive about it.
21. Use a plain white background with perhaps just a single graphic at the top or down the side. I am going to review my slides and see if I can simplify the background and the photos etc.  I also want to see if I can incorporate some the Presentation Zen’s approach to using graphic symbols to help the audience remember the significant points.
30. Be careful that your photos and screen shots do not fade into the background.  Mine did a bit.
32. Use animation sparingly–fly ins to show enlargement of sections of a document.  I should have used some especially to enlarge the areas of the site I wanted to highlight.
1 (syllabus). include information (in the syllabus) about the primary focus of the presentation.  The content of the syllabus was weak.  It needs to be expanded and strengthened.
6 (syllabus). Look at your evaluations–are they about the content of your presentation or about how you presented it?  I got multiple comments about the types size–  will correct that.

Things I did well:

1. Keep the audience in mind.   The audience was engaged as was I.  The book Presentation Zen describes the presenter as being “mindless” and “in the moment.”  I can say the time passed for me very quickly and I believe that is an indication that I was not distracted as a Presenter.
12. Have only 3-4 lines of type on a slide.  I eliminated a lot of text from the slide prior to the presentation but could have/should have eliminated more.
13. Read Presentation Zen.  I have skimmed it and can see the strong approach he takes.  I will incorporate some of the principles into the presentation next time. (and there will be a next time.)
34. Use citations on your slides.  I did this.  I doubt is was particularly noticed but I liked that I did that.
6 (syllabus). Look at your evaluations–are they about the content of your presentation or about how you presented it?   I received more positive comments about the presentation, my knowledge level, and how they learned something than negative.  I believe the audience “got it”.

So, that’s where I am at.  Steep learning curve.  I give the presentation again in a week so I will be concentrate on improving the slides.  At this point I cannot do anything about the syllabus as it has been turned in for publication.  I will work on it later  because I give this presentation again in November.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posted:  other than the above? Worked on putting the SGS Bulletin together and working with the authors to get them ready. Updated my Genealogical Speakers Guild website. Signed the contract for the presentation to Jefferson County (21 March 2015).



One comment on “How Can I Improve My Presentations: a Post-Mortem

  1. a gray says:

    “Use a plain white background ,,,,,,,” I am not certain that plain white background is always the best choice. I think that it is more of a matter of the contrast between the text or graphic colors in addition to the ambient lighting of the presentation room. A white background in a lighted room, even a dim room, may be too much.

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