A skill often overlooked – but no less important – in the field of Computer Science is presentation. Apple’s keynotes, along with those of other major tech and gaming companies, compete with the year’s most highly awaited speeches. A new startup needs funding, and for that its founders need to be able to pitch their ideas. And even the typical professional or academic will present several papers or projects, often in situations where persuading the audience to believe in their idea has direct and significant consequences. So when the time comes, you need to be able to present effectively, which is why Dr Rice gave us a talk aiming to teach us this crucial skill.
Following annual tradition, we began by dissecting the “How (not) to give a presentation” video published by Neil Dodgson, a former member of the Computer Lab. Apart from more obvious issues such as a lack of preparation, absence of a script, and crazy transition animations and sounds, we were encouraged to pick up on the more subtle mistakes Dodgson (intentionally) makes. By the end, everyone knew the pitfalls to absolutely avoid.
People say that the best way to learn to present well is to practise. But you don’t always have someone at hand to listen repeatedly to your presentations, and if you don’t know what to look for in a good presentation, you can’t even practise usefully by yourself. Therefore, it’s very helpful to give feedback to others; by running critical eye over others’ work, you learn how to evaluate your own. The word “feedback” alone is quite nebulous, so Dr Rice suggests that we make use of a structure: we should comment on script (verbal content), slides (visual content), verbal delivery and body language.
To conclude the talk, Dr Rice covered a few tips to maximise the persuasive appeal of a presentation. Group things in threes. The first 30 seconds are paramount. Appear motivated.
And finally, make your ending snappy and memorable.