It won't be long until you'll be giving presentations. You've got your first crit for Invisible Cities and you'll be presenting for Kath Abiker soon too. For some of you, the prospect of standing up in front of your classmates will fill you with fear and dread, but there are some practical steps you can take to ensure the experience is as positive and well-recieved as possible. See below for some warts-and-all 'hints and tips'. The short version is 'be prepared'.
1) Be on time! If you arrive late, then make everyone sit around prior to your presentation, everyone in the room is thinking dark thoughts about you…
2) Present only what you’ve been asked to present. Don’t freestyle. If you’ve been asked to present your ‘definitive influence map, final concept art image, digital set cg pipeline and final scene’ – then do it – and in the sequence requested. All additional content should be on your blog as a matter of habit. Your presentation is not your blog. Your presentation is the ‘essential oil’ of your five weeks work. It should be concentrated, pure and precision-engineered.
3) Prepare & rehearse. Weird though you’ll probably feel as you talk to yourself in the privacy of your bedrooms, you need to ‘hear’ what you’re going to say – and how you’re going to say it. DO NOT BUSK or BLAG IT on crit day. If you busk, you’ll waffle, miss out information and create a disorganized impression. If you blag, your tutor (and everyone else) will know and will feel embarrassed for you…
4) Use prompt cards – but do not read from them slavishly; keep your eyes up and only refer to your prompt cards if your mind goes blank.
5) Be concise – give yourself 5 minutes only (with five minutes for Q/A). If you can’t say what you want to say in 5 minutes, you’re not prepared and you’re probably boring everyone. Brutal – but true.
6) Remember what it is to be bored! You’ve all sat through presentations thinking ‘when will this end?’ – don’t do this to others. Keep your energy levels nice and high and learn to ‘read your audience’. If they’re fidgeting – or worse – asleep – it’s ‘game over’, so cut your losses and wind things up.
7) Don’t sound bored when you talk about your work – if you’re bored, we’re bored.
8) Modulate your tones; watch the television news and see how the presenters use the full range of their voices to maintain interest and add ‘colour’ to their delivery. If you know your delivery is a bit monotone (and there are a few of you) - identify ways to enliven it. One of the most efficient ways to identify if you have a ‘problem’ in this respect is listen to a recording of yourself. It’s a bit of a cringe, but it can be very insightful.
9) Don’t talk to the computer monitor or to the screen. If you’ve prepared sufficiently, you should be able to cut the apron strings between you and your presentation and simply ‘talk’ about the work you’ve spent the last five weeks generating. If you can’t, you haven't prepared enough.
10) Use the stage – don’t move around unnecessarily (don’t fidget) – and I’m not suggesting you do the hokey cokey - but use movement as an emphasis.
11) You’re going to need your hands – take them out of your pockets.
12) Speak clearly. Don’t talk too fast. Don’t talk too slowly. Don’t talk like your talking a) to your mum, b) to your mates, c) to yourself.
13) Stay ‘on message’ – leave out the ‘fascinating’ asides about ‘what you thought about what you thought you were thinking’. Don’t ‘think out loud’ in your presentations. Identify what you want to say – and say it.
14) Don’t talk your work down! No one wants to hear you think your work is ‘shit’. (If it’s as bad as that everyone will already know!). Likewise, false modesty is unappealing too. If you’re happy with something, say so.
15) Don’t talk your work up! If your work is underdeveloped be prepared to admit it, but do so as if giving yourself constructive criticism (see point 15). I hate used carsalesmen (and women) remember, and my ‘bullshit-o-meter’ is very finely tuned.
16) Never say ‘If I had more time'. You’ve had the same time as everyone else. It is what it is.
17) Be professional. Regardless of the project, imagine you are in a pitch – and your next six months of income rests entirely on your ability to communicate the conceptual thru-line of your five weeks succinctly and effectively to an audience.
18) This is serious: the message from industry is loud and clear; if you’re going to work collaboratively in a studio – or as a freelancer – your communication skills are as important as top-notch Maya proficiency.
19) If public-speaking doesn’t come naturally – learn to act! Do it enough, and just like perspective drawing or laying out UVs, it will become part of what you do routinely.