How to make effective presentations – A Survival Guide for Techies

Lot of folks in the security field, would rather be in front of a computer instead of people. But, in order to grow professional and become a leader in any field, one needs to be comfortable talking, presenting, teaching in various settings and group sizes. I am not a natural public speaker. I envy people who jump in front of a group and speak eloquently and give effective presentations. But, I would like to get better at this skill. I teach course on Defensive Security for Developers and them on implementing & verifying security controls in their code to mitigate OWASP Top 10 vulnerabilities. I will blog about teaching techniques in another post. Recently, I had to get in front of the CTO, Managers and other Lead architects in the organization. This is a situation where if you do well, it will be a “no op”, you may get a compliment or two, but if you don’t that gets amplified. Talk about pressure 🙂

I want to share the techniques that I used to prepare and give the presentation. Luckily, it went well ! So, hopefully these techniques would be useful for you if and when you need to make a presentation to a senior leadership or your peers. Some of these may be just obvious and intuitive, but here it goes.

Prep work before the presentation

  1. First, just the thought of giving a presentation may induce anxiety. The key is to get started on planning and preparing the presentation. The longer you procrastinate, the anxiety just grows. So, just get to action !
  2. Be passionate about the topic you are presenting. Its very hard to get yourself excited and get the audience excited if you are not in to the topic and it shows.
  3. Make sure you master the topic that you are going to present. You may not be able to answer every question, but you need to have reasonable mastery on the subject. I always fret about not being able to answer every question. You do not have to. You can always ask for time to research and get back to them. Do not react and say something that you are not sure about.
  4. Prepare, prepare, and prepare ! You do not and should not memorize your script. But, say the words out loud and run through the presentation more than once. Not only this gives you a sense of time it takes, but also makes you presentation go smoother when it is time to deliver for real.
  5. The first minute of the presentation is always the most anxious one. So, prepare the few minutes really, really well and everything else will follow through.

Few minutes before getting on the stage

  1. Loosen your vocal chords. I always find a quite place where no one can hear you and practice what Julian Treasure presented in this wonderful TedTalk. It is 1 minute long from minute 8 – 9. Excellent, always works for me and gives me stronger and confident voice.
  2. Make mental note to self to
    1. speak slow
    2. speak loud
    3. speak confident
    4. pace your presentation
  3. See if you can weave in some humor during the introduction.. this will help you relax and get the audience to join you in the journey

During the presentation

  1. The first minute of the presentation is always the most anxious one. Given you preparation to the point, trust that Adrenalin will kick in and you will become alert and at the same time relaxed as you progress through the talk.
  2. The feeling at the end when the audience learns something from your talk and appreciates your talk, that makes it all worthwhile.
  3. Enjoy the ride !

I am sure effective presentation skills will allow you to showcase your skills and grow in your professional career !

Please drop in a comment if you have your tips and tricks in your arsenal that helps you make a fantastic presentation.


Author: appsecfordevs

I am an Application Security professional helping organizations secure their Applications, and Data from internal and external threats. I have expertise in Application Architecture & Development, providing me the insights in to developing controls to defend applications against security vulnerabilities. Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are my personal opinions and do not reflect those of my current or former employers and clients!

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