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How to improve my presentation skills?

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Senior Software Engineer [E5] at DoorDasha month ago

Alex and Rahul give amazing presentations! Would love to hear your tips for creating amazing presentations. For example:

  • What's your process for creating your slides?
  • How do you find memes/jokes?
  • Do you memorize your slides before the presentation?
  • How much time do you spend rehearsing before your presentations?
  • Any other tips?
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Discussion

(3 comments)
  • 4
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    Staff Eng @ Google, Ex-Meta SWE, Ex-Amazon SDM/SDE
    a month ago

    • Don’t create slides

    • Don’t try to be funny

    • No slides, no memorization

    • 2-3x the length running through it, recording, listening back, doing that again.

    • Other tips: Most of the above is joking, but not all of it

    It sounds like you’re not a “natural” public speaker. Public speaking is directing and maintaining attention. If you don’t have any of that yet, start small. Don’t try to give a company or org-wide presentation. I did and regretted it, but it did sort of “break me in” and make me more comfortable later. I would recommend owning team meetings for a while, running some social events, being the emcee at some smaller meetings (introducing other speakers, providing time checks, ensuring there’s a way for people to follow up with presenters).

    If you can, start a book club, and you get it organized then direct who will present what, then open each meeting, turn it over to the presenter, and set the table for the next session at the end.

    Work your way up. Do an engineer-only knowledge share or show and tell on something you’ve worked on. Be responsible for inclusivity of remote folk in meetings, getting questions addressed, ensuring microphones are used, and so on.

    Eventually you want to be able to run something with no knowledge of the subject matter, introducing and transitioning people, or to be able to give an ad hoc elevator pitch of the work you’re doing, or what your team does to someone who is unfamiliar.

    In terms of slides, my real advice: • Don’t. Show a demo video, or draw, whatever.

    • if you must, very few slides and NEVER READ the slides. The slides show graphs or demonstrate details that are harder for you to talk through. They have links or ways to reach out after (and you share the slides). They pace with per-topic intro slides. You don’t want to be reading slides, and you don’t want the audience to be reading a wall of text while you’re speaking.

    • I really don’t know about jokes. I consider this a nice-to-have once you have everything else down. Throwing memes in slides or gifs or whatever… you can maybe do one, but be interesting before you’re amusing.

    • You don’t memorize slides because you aren’t reading slides. I find memorization or a script kills any human element. I like to have a bullet list of important things, and go through the presentation filling in the gaps and record it, and see if you need to change order, add bullets to ensure you hit important points, etc. I like to use the presenter notes in slides to aid with pacing, but this is my bullets for the section, not a script to memorize or read.

    Dont be fussing with slides or bullets at the last minute. Give yourself a deadline and just finish it. You can still practice, edit if you absolutely must, but doing the work on the slides until the last minute means no practicing with your actual materials.

    If you are giving a huge presentation at some point when you work up to it, give the same presentation to your own team or org. Yes, they will have to hear it twice, but you get practice and can hone, get real feedback, etc.

  • 1
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    Tech Lead @ Robinhood, Meta, Course Hero
    a month ago

    What's your process for creating your slides?

    For courses, we start off with a detailed Google Doc outline. From there, converting it to slides isn't too bad. I try to include a diagram/clear example in every course lesson.

    How do you find memes/jokes?

    I spend way too much time looking through memes, so I rarely have to "find" memes/jokes. They just come up naturally as I'm building out the slides. A lot of Rahul's memes are given to him by me as Rahul's meme game is weak (i.e. Rahul doesn't waste nearly as much time on Reddit as I do LOL).

    Do you memorize your slides before the presentation?

    Never. Memorization in general is a recipe for disaster, not just for presentations but for interviews and general learning as well. It is extremely important to have a nimble brain as an engineer that is able to gracefully perform in situations where the path forward is unclear/unplanned/ambiguous. More thoughts here: "How to improve public speaking & your presentations?"

    How much time do you spend rehearsing before your presentations?

    Literally 0. I make the outline, make the slides, and then I go into it.

    Any other tips?

    Be comfortable being uncomfortable. 95%+ of software engineers are not natural public speakers. The mistake they then make to compensate for that is to "win" with sheer brute force, memorizing every single word they will say. This isn't scalable and just leads to worse outcomes when your brain inevitably flubs and forgets a sentence, which then leads to panic.

    If you have the "Let's just do it" mentality and keep putting yourself into these uncomfortable situations, your brain will eventually learn to be nimble and think smoothly on the fly. Over time, these uncomfortable situations will become comfortable. But you need to take the leap of faith first and just put yourself out there (start yourself off with low-stakes forums to start).

    Lastly, I recommend my Effective Communication course: [Course] Effective Communication For Engineers

    • 1
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      Engineering Manager at Mistplay
      a month ago

      This is super helpful, thanks!

DoorDash, Inc. is an American company that operates an online food ordering and food delivery platform. DoorDash went public in December 2020 on NYSE and trades under the symbol DASH.
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