Show, Spectacle, stand-up comedy and IT presentations


How can you interest an audience which was both technical and non-technical? for more than 1 hour? Without repeating yourself

Non-native English, in particular French-native, speakers are very unfortunate when it comes to know what you should do to spread your ideas faced to a given audience.

For example, in French, you will probably going to “faire une présentation”, which literally means you’re about to make a presentation to your colleagues, whereas an English speaker is about to show something. And here starts the problem. There’s no associated unsaid meaning that you’ll have to entertain them. In fact, the french sentence even implies some kind of deadly boring seriousness.

This was blatantly obvious at the Microsoft BeLux Services day when I attended a 1hr30 show about “what is big data?”.

The US-based architect who spoke most of the time was doing a real show. So here are the advices I mentally noted from his performance.

How can you interested an audience which was both technical and non-technical? How can you do it during more than 1 hour and a half without repeating yourself? How to have your message understood?

  • Make a promise of entertaining your audience, something like, “it’s not going to be what you expected, but you won’t get bored at least and you’ll learn something”. In our case, the guy told us that the presentation was not going to be technical but still interesting.
  • Know your stuff and don’t use your slides at all: they are just there to give a colored tone to the room. Of course, for the few slides you still have to do, follow the best practices, such as very few bullet points, readable text…
  • Since your slides are no longer your target, you can move around room: not only from left to right where the hoster generally doe but also from front to rear, near the audience.
  • Keep moving around and from time to time do short breaks (no more than a couple of seconds) for drinking waters but also to let the audience have its own break and eventually ask questions.
  • Be a storyteller. Not necessarily one big story, it can be smaller ones which will repeat your main message. For this kind of presentations, it was easier as you can build around user cases but for very technical ones, you can imagine that your story will be something like “how I solved this very user-annoying problem”, “how I bring new usage -and more business- to an existing technology

In fact, if you carefully read all those steps again, you’ll soon realize that for showing something to your colleagues, you have to… create a little self-contained show.

More precisely -and that’s maybe because this architect was from NYC,- you may want to think in term of one-time stand-up comedy to be created.