How to make a presentation at Boston PHP
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Congratulations on being selected to present at Boston PHP
We pride ourselves on having engaging presentations that provide real value to our PHP community members. We realize that not everyone has the experience and skills to make such an impact. So we have developed this how-to guide that will provide you with some best practices that will help ensure that both you and the audience have a positive experience during your presentation.
Giving a presentation is one of the most rewarding experiences you will have. It is a lot like teaching. I have always felt that that teaching is itself a learning experience. The mere process of breaking down your subject matter into teachable segments will give you much more clarity and a deep understanding of your subject. It's also a way to emerge as a leader in the tech community, and you can gain superstar status amongst your peers. You will come away with a whole new perspective that you just can't get anywhere else.
Here is some information and my own personal list of best practices that I hope you will consider.
Meeting Framework (6:45-9pm)
Before the date of your presentation
- 15 minutes before start
We go around the room and ask people to introduce themselves, why they are here, and how they found us. In some cases we may even hand out name tags.
- First 10 minutes
We will give an introduction to Boston PHP. We have several slides that introduce our group, as well as some ads for upcoming events and announcements. We usually allow for announcements such as anyone looking for work. We will then introduce you and your topic.
- 60-90 Minutes: Your presentation
- Wrap up with questions
We allow some time for questions, comments
We usually have some things to give away like books, shirts, prizes. This is usually determined by a raffle, or even by asking you to select the winners based on the best questions that we're asked.
- Bar talk
After the presentation, we typically go out for beer and food at a local nearby pub. We encourage you to join us. This is a great way to socialize and make connections with people. Some of the most interesting discussions actually happen at the bar.
During your presentation
- Review the description on the Meetup site
Ensure to hit the points described in the meetup site. Users who have registered are expecting for those points to be covered. If needed, you can edit the description.
- Make an outline
This is one of the most important things to building a good presentation. Open up a text editor and make a list of the things you want to hit on your presentation. If it gets too long then make two columns - "Need to have" | "Nice to have". This way you can weed out what is important to cover and what is extra information. Sometimes you can confuse the users with too much "Nice to have" information. So work on an outline and use this as a baseline framework for your presentation. It will be the best thing you ever did.
- Prepare your slides - but don't overdo it!
It's a good idea to prepare some slides as talking points. It's a great way keep you on track with the flow of the presentation. Try not to bore everyone with too many slides. Whenever possible, give live demonstrations and examples. You can use PowerPoint, Keynote, Google Presentation, or anything else you like. Just know that we would want to share the slides later with the community. Don’t overload your slides with too much text or data. In general, using a few powerful slides is the aim. Let the picture or graphic tell the story. Avoid text.
- Provide a list of resources where people can learn more.
As part of your slide deck, add a single slide with a list of web resources to learn more.
- Bring business cards.
People will often want to contact you later, and send you follow up messages. These are usually nice messages thanking and praising you for your time. Make sure to bring plenty of business cards.
- Showing Code Examples
Keep in mind that others in the back of the room may not be able to see code in you IDE. Some presenters have struggled in past meetings to find how to increase their font size. If your going to show code, please experiment and adjust your font size so everyone can see it.
Take the time to practice your presentation prior to the event. Don't wait until the last minute to do this. Practice on a friend or colleague. If you have a day job, then consider presenting it at work as a brown-bag lunch presentation. Practice speaking and going through your presentation in the allotted time.
- Add a contact slide at the end
Your last slide should say "Thank You" and include your contact info. People will applause when they see this.
- Make sure your know how to get to the venue
Print a map, program your GPS. Please please make sure you know where it is, where to park, and how to find the room. Make sure we exchange cell phone numbers so we can contact each other. Plan enough time to eat something so you're not hungry during the presentation.
- Prepare your laptop
Be sure to bring your power chord and that you have your presentation loaded. It's a good idea to save your presentation to a USB drive in case something goes wrong. Do yourself a favor and organize your files on an easy to access folder on your desktop. This way you don't have to fumble browsing for them. Perhaps you can take this opportunity to clean your desktop.
- Print Handouts
Your audience will love you if you print and give out copies of your slides. This way they can skip taking notes and focus more on you and your presentation. Have handouts ready and give them out at the beginning. Tell audience ahead of time that you will be giving out an outline of your presentation so that they will not waste time taking unnecessary notes during your presentation.
- Spread the word
Help spread the word about your presentation. Put a posting on your Facebook, Twitter, and post it to any other meetup groups you belong too.
- Send us a copy of your presentation and outline
Allow us some advanced time to look over your presentation and suggest any edits you can make. This also helps us promote your presentation as we get to see it in its final form. We will not allow presenters who will not share their slides in advance.
After your presentation
- Don't be late!
Be sure to get there early. I usually like to meet with presenters an hour ahead of time to go over logistics, answer and questions, and prepare. Don't get stuck in traffic - plan to arrive plenty early.
- Speak loudly and clearly.
Sound confident. Do not mumble. If you made an error, correct it, and continue. No need to make excuses or apologize profusely.
- Introduce yourself
It's easy to get caught up and forget this. Greet the audience and tell them your name. Tell them a little story of how you came to be giving this presentation.
- Smile and have fun
Don't take yourself too seriously. Lighten up and have some fun with this. If you seem nervous, then the audience will be nervous too. This only compounds and makes you even more nervous. Try to smile and relax. Don't worry, nobody will ask for their money back - they didn't pay to attend!
- Be funny, tell a story or joke
Believe it or not, this is the best thing you can do to engage your audience. Add humor whenever appropriate and possible. Keep audience interested throughout your entire presentation. Remember that an interesting presentation makes time fly, but a boring presentation is always too long to endure even if the presentation time is the same.
- Go slow
Remember that not everyone is at the same experience level. It's important that you don't lose your audience in tech jargon. Introduce topics and concepts slowly so everyone can follow. Look at the audience and see if people looked confused. Ask if things make sense and if not, try explaining it again. I actually have a habit of talking too fast, so I place a sign facing my direction that reminds me to "Go Slow".
- Drink water
Be sure to have a glass of water nearby. Speaking can really dry you out. Take sips at various points of your talk.
- Allow for questions during and after your presentation
Encourage people to ask questions throughout your presentation. Ask them to raise their hands. If there are no questions than something is wrong. If this happens, pause and ask if there are any questions. If the question is too far off topic, then just say you will take that question offline (after the presentation).
- Repeat questions from the Audience
Don't directly just answer the questions from the audience members, please repeat the question so everyone can here. This is also helpful to clarify that you understand the question.
- If you don't know the answer to a question - ask the audience
I've presented many times and sometimes get questions I don't have an answer for. If this happens, be humble and turn it to the audience. Just say "I'm not sure - does anyone in the audience know the answer to this?". People will respect you more for this and it allows others to share their experience.
- Do not read from the slides
If your showing slides, the cardinal rule is to never read them. The audience is not dumb - they can see and read the slides for themselves and you should never read them. Talk instead.
- Check the clock
At various points in your presentation, check the time and make sure you are going to finish on time. Don't get too carried away on one topic and not be able to make it to the end. Plan to finish 5-10 minutes before the end to allow for questions, etc.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Ask for any remaining questions.
There are always a few questions and comments, so please encourage people to ask.
- Tell everyone you have business cards if anyone should want one.
People will flock to the podium to shake your hand, tell you their story, and grab your card. Take full advantage of this - you’re a superstar!
- Assure people you will send out the slides for them to refer to later.
Folk will want to get a hand on your slides as soon as possible. Consider uploading your slides to slideshare.net and/or mention where to get them.
- Encourage the audience to provide you feedback on the meetup site.
Encourage people to rate your presentation on the meetup forum. I can't tell you how humbling and rewarding this can be. This probably won't be your last presentation, so take any praise or criticism and use it to improve yourself.
- Thank the attendees for their time in listening and participating in your presentation.
Also be sure to thank Boston PHP and the Venue for hosting you presentation. Now you can relax and have a beer.
- How many people will attend?
Boston PHP has been having a tremendous turnout at our meetings. It largely depends on the marketing that has been done, and the popularity of the topic. Plan to expect upwards to 100 attendees.
- Will there be a projector? Can I use my Mac?
Yes - there will be a standard projector, but you should plan to bring your own converter for the Mac. Although someone usually has one of these for loan.
- Should I allow for questions during or after my presentation?
Yes - we have found this to be the best approach and will ensure that people are following you.
- Will my presentation be recorded?
We do record all presentation (audio and video). It takes us a few weeks to do all the post production and get the files hosted.
- Will there by Wi-Fi access?
Yes - we strive to ensure that all venues have Wi-Fi access. However, you should plan for a case where you can still get through your presentation even though the internet is not available.
- Can I charge the attendees for the meeting?
No - We are an open group and non-profit. We never ask anyone to pay for attending.
- Can I plug my product/company?
Yes - if you are presenting and want to plug your product/company you can do so.
- I want my presentation to be interactive, can I include exercises in my presentation
Yes! - We love this style of presentation and we strongly encourage it. Just make sure we communicate on the description that the presentation is interactive and attendees should bring their laptops. Be advised that there will be more questions with this style meeting. Allow plenty of time to allow people to do the exercises. We also suggest you bring a friend or colleague equally experienced in your exercises to help you proctor the room.
See you at the next meetup!
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