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What you can learn about presenting watching Neil deGrasse Tyson

February 26, 2013

Dr. at the November 29, 2005 meeting of the NA...

Dr. at the November 29, 2005 meeting of the NASA Advisory Council, in Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Neil deGrasse Tyson came to speak at Colgate. He was awesome. Here are three reasons why:

1. He can tell a story.  The presentation was funny, but at times poignant. In those times, he created drama with props or just his voice. There was one moment where he stopped talking and walked to the back of the stage to get a chair. He pulled the chair to the front of the page, sat down, and sighed. THe theatrics helped make the point about scientific illiteracy.

2. He stood the whole time (with the exception of above) It seems obvious that when presenting one must stand. Indeed, it isn’t called sit down comedy. If you want to capture a room, you must stand up. True story, a marketing firm recently came to present at Colgate and they sat down for the whole thing. They bored us all because it is impossible to be energetic sitting down. Never sit down to present. Ever.

3. His slides had no more than 10 words and were mostly pictures. Slides should add to the presentation, they shouldn’t be the presentation. Never read off a slide. Always use a slide to add to what you’re going to say. If you find yourself reading off a slide, then you will find yourself with a room that pulled out devices and checked e-mail.

Your turn. What makes a good or a bad presentation?

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One Comment leave one →
  1. February 28, 2013 5:05 pm

    This is a great post with valuable insights.

    My view is that effective PowerPoint presentations look a lot like this post:

    — They have brief sentences.
    — They have clear headings to show the outline of the thinking.
    — They have as many words as they need — and not more.

    I’d add one asterisk to the observation about the value of pictures. To have a chance to reach a worth of 1,000 words, a picture should be — a picture. Or maybe a simple pie chart or bar graph. Complicated diagrams with circles and arrows do not, I respectfully submit, guarantee the addition of value.

    Pictures can be great, but words work, too. Cicero in Rome and Lincoln at Gettysburg used them, and they did fine.

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