Presenting for Software Developers

On Friday I will be presenting at Lindholmen Software Development Day. For some reason I’ve been warned twice that it is going to be a tough crowd. Something that I find strange, but I’m sure soon to find out.IMG_4884

I find this a bit puzzling especially considering that I do have a software developer background myself. Of course I wouldn’t consider myself as a tough audience, but maybe it was a blind spot for me.

I don’t believe in tough crowds, instead I believe in succeeding in tuning into the needs of the audience. Chances are that the presentation will be a total hit or a miss and probably nothing in between. In either case, I’m feeling confident that it will be remembered.

Preparing presentations.

Some questions that I ask myself in preparation for a presentation:

  1. Will the audience find the topic interesting at all?
  2. Is the problems that I address in the presentation relevant to the audience?
  3. Am I force feeding the audience with opinions and fact or do I let them connect the dots themselves?
  4. Is the topic/problem/solution of value to the audience?
  5. Am I conveying the message in a way that they can relate to?

It happens every once in a while that I do a persona slide that describes the audience: What keeps them up at night? What are they like? Why are they there? In some cases I also write a review of the presentation before I’ve had it so that I will clarify for myself how I want the presentation to be received.

Other ways of framing presentations is what I would like the audience to know, feel and do or alternatively what the Goal, Objective and Benefit for the audience will be.

If I know someone that is going, I will also ask them about their expectations for the day and why they are attending.

These are all examples of gaining empathy for the audience. Designing a good or even great presentation doesn’t differ from designing a great product or service. It is important to understand who you are designing for and not get your ego or one pet idea get in the way.

The creative process in presentation design.

There is a lot of great information on how to design a great presentation. I really like Slide:ology by Nancy Duarte. My approach to designing a presentation pretty much in the same way as I’ve used to deal with tricky software problems or complex logic designs, by letting it marinate in my head for a long time, sketching frantically and hacking away. Rinse. Repeat. Rewind.

I find designing a presentation to be a highly creative process that is iterative and fun. I would say that 50% of the time for preparing a presentation is brain processing, 30 % is hacking away on paper and post-its and in keynote, 10% is daydreaming or doing something completely different in order to serendipity and strange influences hit me causing the presentation to pivot  and the last 10% is rehearsing.

It might be a bit counter-intuitive, but the shorter the presentation, the longer time needed for preparations.

Earlier today I discovered that my fifteen minute presentation had grown to 50 slides which would exceed the Pecha Kucha pace of three SPM (Slides Per Minute) and the presentation also included a one minute long movie with pandas. Of course I will not cut down on the pandas! I might ditch some old s-curve diagram or an innovation framework or so. but the pandas are in! They say kill your darlings. Not if they are panda cubs, I say!

Hmm…what was that thing about ego and not letting go of some ideas that I mentioned earlier?! Well, I don’t aim to be perfect. Perfect is boring. I aim to be prfct instead.

To quote Leonard Cohen: “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” When it comes to people, I prefer to change the last sentence to :”That’s how the light gets out.”


Three things that I am grateful for:

  1. That the scaffolding that has blocked the deck at home all summer is finally being removed. Whoppee!
  2. A great uptake in the number of people following Unicornsulting on Facebook. Thank you for the likes! =D
  3. The feeling of focus and excitement for the cool stuff that is in the pipe for the next couple of weeks. Two months into this glorious, ever evolving prototype and the wheels are starting to turn. Awesome!



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