View Full Version : Presentations - Wake up!

9th Aug 2010, 04:54
Hi All,

SB is presenting at a conference to some two hundred people. I have prepared my presentation, NOT utilising the "death by power-point" or "death by bullet-point" methods and I am confident about my material, and preparation and rehearsal - some more rehearsing to do over the next two weeks.

My speech is about an hour and I have a QnA at the end, but my session is 4-5pm so I need a little bit of a shake up to keep the crowds interested. My presentation has some humour in it, and flows pretty nicely, but I think some-way through it I should have an 'energiser' or something similar to keep everyone focused and awake. An interdweeb search reveals many icebreakers and energisers but none that appeal to me. All standard, or hard with a large crowd. Apart from sending the odd member of the crowd to get SB a beer, have you guys and gals got some interesting, different ideas to keep the crowds awake and focused?

SB would be quite grateful for any feedback! :-)


9th Aug 2010, 06:42
Start the presentation with an apology for having Tourettes Syndrome and explain that you might let out the odd obscenity now and then....... they will hang on every word. And of course this excuses you letting out the occasional curse if things DO go wrong !

9th Aug 2010, 06:49
Go with a round of Gin and Tonics at four, some nice canapes

9th Aug 2010, 08:29
Have a few points or illustrations on a power point slide show with one two saucy seaside postcards or what the butler saw type pictures interspersed. Make some reference to your old Dad must have been browsing his etchings again. It'll raise a titter or two.

9th Aug 2010, 08:29
Our lecturer at Cranebank used to insert soft porn pictures into his presentations to wake us up during the boring bits.

You could try some live walk-ons at odd times during your one hour presentation. Of course you'd need a bit of Beefcake for the ladies. (No, Sorry, I'm no longer available)

9th Aug 2010, 08:34
Surely, in your case Blackie, Muttoncake?

9th Aug 2010, 08:41
I often seem to get the 'graveyard shift', just after lunch. Where possible, I have a couple of pints to drink while presenting. I used to use a few slides of naked girls when making a point, but in these PC days, that's frowned upon. So I have a number of other pics - steam locomotives and cats - that can be judiciously used. A joke at the right time can be useful, but make sure that it has some relevance - for example, the whore in Venice is a good one for pointing out that things are not always what they seem. See the Pprune Friday jokes thread for material.

The PC business can backfire, though. Some 25 years ago, I was presenting in San Diego, and the sales rep (called Gene) told me that I shouldn't have the naked girl slides, as there was a woman in the audience. I ignored him and was talking to her after the presentation when Gene came up and apologised for the slides. Her response was 'Gene, I have known radeng for many more years than you have, and if he'd removed those slides because of me, I would have been seriously annoyed!'

I knew her husband and her before they emigrated.....

PM me if I can help further

9th Aug 2010, 08:46
"The base shrink has reliably informed me that anyone who yawns after lunch is overtly displaying homosexual tendancies"

(Circa 1988) Brig.(retd) J R S*******n, Commandant AAC, commencing his presentation just after the midday break.

Ancient Mariner
9th Aug 2010, 09:44
Compressed air horn.........blaaaaaaaaat. "And now that I have your full attention, a few important points".
Don't be shy.

9th Aug 2010, 10:00
I was hauled over the coals for giving a presentation in which, to liven things up, I inserted a slide of a man in a mac 'flashing' - nothing was visible unless you'd taken a microscope to the slide, and another of a girl quickly flashing her assets. Some petty minded idiot decided it was in 'bad taste'.

9th Aug 2010, 11:42
Surely, in your case Blackie, Muttoncake?No such luck. Mrs BS describes me as mutton dressed up as goat. Her grasp of English colloquialisms has never been that good, but in this case she surely has a point.

No need for any unsavoury stuff though, simple surprise appearances are all that is required. Even better if you can have them in context.

Cardinal Puff
9th Aug 2010, 11:49
You can get novelty rattlesnake eggs in packets at joke shops or on the net. Wind up the buzzer and hand a couple of packs out to folks who answer questions correctly or something. Your talk will be interrupted by screams when they take a peek and it goes off like an angry rattler.

9th Aug 2010, 12:13
"Anyone nodding off or yawning will have to stand on his/her chair and sing a song".:)

green granite
9th Aug 2010, 12:25
http://www.dilbert.com/dyn/str_strip/000000000/00000000/0000000/000000/90000/6000/900/96945/96945.strip.gif :E

simon brown
9th Aug 2010, 13:56
I was doing a seminar to 200 or so Architects at the Emirates stadium a couple of years ago. It was going Ok with very little feedback to questions etc. All of a sudden the fire alarm went off for half a minute or so then stopped.

I suddenly remembered a joke or quip i'd heard bearing in mind the venue...

"Its Ok the fire is out and Arsene is'nt suspected" I said.

Got a good laugh and livened things up a bit.

9th Aug 2010, 14:00
"This is not the first time I've got up today off a warm seat with a piece of paper in my hand..."

The old ones are the best ones.

Ancient Observer
9th Aug 2010, 14:01

the way in which you described your presentation gives us a clue. Your words were all about YOU and what you thought.

Your acknowledgement of the audience was just about keeping them awake.

Keep the material, but adjust your thinking. Audience, audience, audience. Put yourself in their shoes. Who are they? Age? Gender? Nationality? Interests? What are they there for? Why? Who's paying them?

Audience, audience, audience.

9th Aug 2010, 14:47
When it starts to drag, and it will, I've found that a looong pause will even wake up the sleepers. It takes a bit of willpower to hold it with all those eyes looking at you wondering if you're about to do a Tommy Cooper.

After about 20 seconds say (with a grin) "Sorry, I must have dozed off there. I see I'm not alone".

9th Aug 2010, 15:30
If its a really long and boring lecture, tossing a chinese firecracker into the sleeping throng generally does the trick!

We were being lectured on the Five Pint Brazing Lamp by Chief Technician "Monotone" when it went out. "Geordie" Dobson was awoken from his slumber to relight it. As he picked up the methylated spirit can to top up the preheat pan there was a long drawn out "Nooooo!" from the doomed Chief Magician.

Too Late! Too Late! :uhoh:

Geordie tipped the meths into the pan, there was a dull thud and the can went flying, leaving the poor apprentice minus fringe, eyebrows and eye lashes. The brazing lamp clattered twice and fell to the floor, with a dying hiss. The whole class was back on full alert. One of the more interesting lecture experiences on my way to becoming a qualified elektrickerist. And I shall certainly never forget the proper way to fire up a five pint brazing lamp.

9th Aug 2010, 15:56
Thank you Blacksheep or a welcome laugh on an otherwise frustrating Monday so far.

SB, I've done four hour presentations. One hour should be a breeze.

The best tip I can offer. Keep moving if possible. Don't stand at the podium. Walk back and forth across the front of the audience. It helps keep their attention.

Since you have so many folks, I presume you will be "miked". See if they have a wireless available. Oh, one other thing. If you leave to go to the bathroom, make sure the microphone is turned off.

Frank Drebin

9th Aug 2010, 17:42
One of those remote control fart machines placed under a seat in the middle of the audience should do the trick.

Loose rivets
9th Aug 2010, 18:01
Although to a very much smaller audience, I once used a vivid description of an aircraft crash to grab the attention of the aircraft electrics candidates.

It was truly horrible, with some considerable time after the aircraft lost its amps, to the time the outer wings came off.

This did get their attention, but left the class focusing on the imagery somewhere inside their heads, speechless and motionless until I manage to find something to break the spell.

Sort of own goal that.

9th Aug 2010, 18:47
1986. BRNC Dartmouth. After lunch. The big theatre building for a Naval History lecture. Air conditioning turned up to 'comfortably warm enough to doze off'. The Naval method for keeping the attention of Midshipmen and Sub-Lieutenants under training was 2 pool cues carried (one each) by two Petty Officers of 22 years service a-piece. The pool cues were administered roundly to the head in Good Naval Fashion. One 'tap' was generally effective for about 5 minutes before the eyelids became heavier than the eyelid muscle could bear.

Probably not appropriate for your audience though.

9th Aug 2010, 19:21
Thanks guys, some great suggestions there, keep em coming!

Ancient Observer - I do agree, audience, audience, audience. This is why I am bringing in humour as much as I can, they're a dull crowd that need a good pick up.

In these PC days I just cannot do much of what is listed here as much I would love to use them all! Between firecrackers and scantily clad women, I'm sure there would never be a dull moment. My HR manager saw a glimpse of a photo I had of oneself in the presentation where SB is holding a beer, "Oh no no no, you can't be seen with alcohol!" To hell with that, the picture stays!!! :ugh:

Mac the Knife
9th Aug 2010, 19:41
4 hours! Good grief! Hope there was a bathroom break!

IMHO, no matter how skilful you are (and I'm very good) 45min is about the maximum anyone can do before the audience gets tired of you. It's a presentation after all, not a classroom.

Having said that, I tend to use a LOT of slides (sometimes with double projection) - I keep the info on individual slides small and use many slides - 10sec is a lo-o-o-ng time to gaze at a simple slide.

I create the presentation on Powerpoint '03 and save it in multiple formats (.ppt, HTML, .pdf and a series of simple bitmaps) to cope with all eventualities.

I use an single interesting but readable font (Titles at 48-44point and Body at 36-40point), usually a plain back blackground (no decorations or whizz-bangs) and a lot of images. If I don't have a relevant image I use a "set" of theme images (animals, flowers or whatever) that often recur, as "decoration" to add colour and interest without being distracting and to balance the visual effect of the slide. Quite tedious building up or creating a library of "black background" images!

I put in all sorts of funny/pretty/silly images from my personal collection of nearly 10,000 images - its nice to rotate bordered images a few degrees left or right to get away from the repeated rectangle. I spend weeks preparing and balancing the visual "look" of a presentation and get a couple of reliable people to proof-read it for slips.

I never use any of the provided "Themes" because they're all old-hat, boring or distracting and I never use animations or "reveal" text - irritating and adds nothing.

I try to keep the slides reasonably consistent, so that information is in the same place most of the time and the audience don't have to hunt around playing "where will it be next?"

I never use a text or notes but talk "from the screen" - this allows me to keep eye-contact with the audience and speak naturally. I don't often use a laser pointer (my slides shouldn't need it) and move around a bit gradually without fidgeting too much.

When you've got lots of time it's easy - if you can't get an encompassable point across in 20minutes either you need to rework it or you don't really understand what you are talking about.

The real challenges are at the big international meetings where you are often given as little as 3minutes for your paper, with "lights-out" at the 180sec mark and no excuses!



Pugilistic Animus
9th Aug 2010, 20:11
Some presenters don't care

YouTube - ‪Lecture - 3 Passive Components‬‎ (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZZEZUysFPDY)


9th Aug 2010, 21:27
Mac the Knife you make some good points and some that I have already done. I have 190 slides for my presentation using mostly single words and funny graphics which means a slide is usually up for about 4-6 seconds. Some longer since they are process diagrams to which I am speaking and need time to sink in. :ok:

10th Aug 2010, 10:22
I've found a few more humerous graphics which will help, I suspect I will include this...

After about 20 seconds say (with a grin) "Sorry, I must have dozed off there. I see I'm not alone".

With the airhorn as backup!

Another one I heard was to get people to swap seats, one to the right for example, gets the blood moving. A bit mundane and pointless to the presentation I think.

10th Aug 2010, 11:08
With todays PC fluffy wuffy brigade, I'd be very careful in the selection of any 'images' that aren't pertinant to your talk. If you do try and weave them in with a gag about the subject, last thing you want is to trample across their civil rights. Its a downer but cover your six!

Old but true
Briefly tell them what you're going to tell them
Tell them what you're telling them
Briefly remind them what you've just told them

If you do any demo's make sure the volunteers are paying attention ...
Brown Sugar Norven Munky’s Weblog (http://norvenmunky.wordpress.com/2009/10/10/brown-sugar/)

10th Aug 2010, 11:18

Briefly tell them what you're going to tell them
Tell them what you're telling them
Briefly remind them what you've just told them

is OK if yours is the only presentation. At a big international conference where you get it every time, it is such a turn off that people glaze over and don't follow it. Especially, I regret to say, when delivered in somewhat broken English by some guy from a University who hasn't a clue why one the things he specifically mentioned was chosen!

I agree about watching out for being PC these days. Personally, I'd like to strangle the little sh**s, but that's not allowed either....

10th Aug 2010, 11:42
SB -- Perhaps you might give us a few more clues about what you would consider to be the maximally successful result from your talk?
(Always helps to know how the scoring system works).

Given the 4-ish time, some peeps will surely be wishing for it to be over before you begin -- because lunch has finally caught up with them or because they have to catch a plane or because the stunning brunette from Group Z has left 'em a key and a note saying "don't be too late, or I might doze off."

To earn the eternal gratitude and respect of these folks, and from various of the others who are tired or bored or sick or terminally sleepy from botched travel schedules, start your presentation with a slide that clearly shows a web-site address where they can view the whole (well, at least the respectable part) thing at their leisure. You should then be able to estimate, from a glance at the discrete migration that follows shortly thereafter, how many friends-for-life you have made as a result of this courtesy.

House lights brighter and dimmer a few times during the hour will make it seem like eternity is shorter than normal, if the means are available to do this from the podium.

Having a female assistant, respectably clad and very presentable, can provide you with another set of hands for any props that may be required, and can provide a consistent, easily understood sort of spatial modulation and punctuation for the goings-on. If she merely walks up to the podium, on cue, to hand you a document or folder or slide or umbrella or whatever, that will add some humanity to it, and it will cause people to perk up to see what might ensue. One knows a lady who has acquired great fame, fortune, and quite an extensive career by simply strutting onstage at predictable moments on a long-running television program, simply to conspicuously deliver an envelope and then stride back out of view... so pitch it as a career opportunity to your asistant.

Using cartoons and drawings from professional sources - rather than amateurish ones that your kids have drawn - is safer and more effective. Copyright normally is not an issue for single-time use (per the Fair Use concept) if the presentation content is not being broadcast on public television networks, or published widely.

Last, but certainly not least, given your time slot, you might do well to announce, early in the proceedings, that your presentation is scheduled for an hour but you'll do your very best to hold the body part of it to 45 mins, with the balance of the time for questions and discussion. Any who might need to leave early should wave their hands extra-hard at the start of the question period, so as to receive priority handling. This will put nearly everyone in mind to ask a question that permits early leaving, and thus will help them to remain awake while listening for the appropriate content item.

10th Aug 2010, 11:47
To be honest Arcniz, I was starting to doze off by the end of that:zzz::E

10th Aug 2010, 11:54
Parapunter To be honest Arcniz, I was starting to doze off by the end of that

Thank you for being so frightfully honest, Parapunter. I am sorry the prop-girl was not available to add some colour.

Perhaps we should classify our whole effort there as "leadership by counter-example"

(It has made me rather sleepy, as well....)

Loose rivets
10th Aug 2010, 17:57
I did read it, but I was fantasizing about how I would dress the female assistant, and suddenly realized that I hadn't taken another word in. :E

No, that's not true. I did pick up on the web idea. Made me think there was no need to go there in the first place. Americans spend millions traveling to these things, could all be done with a Tivo thingie now, so that you could spread it over a few days at the press of a button. Mind you, the questions session would be problematical.

10th Aug 2010, 18:02
That's funny, Parapunter! Subtle but funny!

10th Aug 2010, 18:48
SB -- Perhaps you might give us a few more clues about what you would consider to be the maximally successful result from your talk?
(Always helps to know how the scoring system works).

I want the audience to go away feeling a little more alive and informed. <-- BIG ASK!

I think back to all the mundane, boring presentations I have been to and I don't want to be that presentation. The good ones were entertaining AND informative.

10th Aug 2010, 18:51
I certainly wouldn't use images of scantily clad ladies (or men) - that's been done to death and went out years ago. Humour is OK but can confuse if your audience are not on your "wavelength".
Don't keep walking back and forth - it is very irritating and your audience should be concentrating on what is on the screen and on what you are saying - not you. Walking in front of the screen is a no-no as well.
Try not to read from notes but have them handy to consult if necessary.
Have you run through and timed it? If it takes half an hour to run through it will work out at about an hour in reality.
Make sure you have some drinking water handy as well.
Don't forget the technicalities. Is your PC compatible, do you have the right leads, do you need a remote to change slides, is the screen resolution OK, do you need speakers for the computer? I mention these from bitter experience!

With a presentation for an hour it should be easy to hold an audience's attention. Try doing it for 7 hours a day for 10 days!

1st Sep 2010, 04:43

For those the little bit interested, the presentation went swimmingly well with many a personal comment about the value and entertainment of the speech. I have been asked to return and speak at 2 similar events in the near future.

Thanks to all the input I had a great time and so did the audience! :ok:

Ancient Observer
1st Sep 2010, 13:12
Glad that it went well.
My consulting fee for my advice is never more than the total fee that you received, unless you did it for free, in which case just send me £500 in 50's in the post.

2nd Sep 2010, 01:56
Looks like I arrived to late to help with the presentation in question, but how about a variant of Buzz-word Bingo? Give each attendee a sheet with keywords from the presentation to spot in your presentation, and offer a bottle of something to the winner; it should keep them alert!

Personally, I have always believed lecture theatres should have each chair equipped with a red and green button, working similarly coloured lights on the lectern. When the reds excceed the greens, more than half the audience has lost track of what the presenter is on about...