Whatever your personality type, you can learn to present.
You don’t have to be a naturally public or outgoing person to be good at presenting. Private, quiet people make brilliant presenters too. Whatever your personality, the Codeworks program puts a lot of emphasis on transferring these soft skills to our students. Each student presents several times during our Software Engineering and Web Development courses. After they graduate, they leave campus as not only better presenters, but better communicators for life.
On average, students will present two or three times during their course. That’s a lot. Through the students that graduate from our courses every 6 weeks, we play an important role in shaping the culture of the tech industry.
Clear presentations play a vital role in making that culture more accessible to wider audiences. The need for these skills is inescapable. Hear it from Codeworks graduate Anna Collins:
‘’I used presenting skills in teaching, as a student at Bootcamp, and now in my job, talking in front of others in daily stand ups.’’
Anna works at Barcelona green energy organization, Hola Luz. At work, her code needs to be as crystal clear in person as it is on screen. There’s no escaping it, presenting is essential for life after a coding bootcamp.
“Being able to write code is one thing, but being able to explain it to someone else is another.
“Like Einstein said, if you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.”
Firstly, why do coders need to present?
Some developers might think presenting is something super senior and scary. Something for managers or ego-maniacs. But really, presentations are just one way of transmitting ideas and thoughts.
Luckily presenting is something you can improve on, with practice. Keeping it regular helps students overcome the angst so they can pitch to clients in the future. Matt Boardman, Madrid based elevator pitch consultant says:
“Your expertise, product or idea is worth nothing unless your client or investor believes in it enough to pay for it.”
Presenting for a better life
Even if you’re not pitching for investment, we’re going to get radical. Better presenting will quite literally make your life better. With presentation skills, you’re more likely to give a better interview and get that a decent job.
With a job that pays well, you’re better able to buy a beer for your friend, without the stress of being broke. So the cycle continues. You present. You get paid. You have a beer. Life gets better.
But more importantly, the more you present, the more your confidence continues to soar. So you get happier at work. You start to speak up more in meetings. All of a sudden, you’re getting noticed. You present a little more. Maybe you get promoted. You buy more beers. Okay, we’ll stop there, you’ve got the idea.
Our top presenting tips
1. Nail your slides
- Slides should support what you say, not the other way around. The less things to read on slides — the more attention you get. Check out the 10/20/30 rule for more.
- Start with the why.
- Tell a story. If your audience can connect with your topic, you are winning! If you’re presenting your product, present the pain points that you are solving!
- When talking about your tech stack, don’t just list the logos of frameworks and tools you used. Make your audience understand your choices and the flow between them. This shows the way you thought through the architecture of your project.
- Know the content of your slides by heart. Never read what’s on them, just glance on them as a reminder if needed.
2. Remember your body language
- Don’t turn towards the slides. If you need to, point at them if they support what you want to say. Never show your back to the audience!
- Pay attention to your hands: don’t put them in your pockets or cross them in front of your body.
- If you are nervous, keep a pen in your hands! This way you will make your hands return to a natural position holding it, and you can use it to point on your slides as well.
3. Speak to your audience
- Don’t read the slides! People can read them by themselves.
- Test the microphone, be aware of the volume and your voice through the speakers.
- Keep up the energy!
- Use pitch and volume as strokes in a paint. Don’t be monotonic. Control the pace of your speaking and avoid cutting off the end of sentences.
- Don’t feel the urge to fill every second. Use silence to create attention when you speak. There’s nothing like the loaded pause.
4. Show your product in the best light
- Keep it simple. It’s not necessary to show how users log in (unless it’s something special).
- Connect the features to user stories while demoing.
- Don’t highlight things that don’t work, are glitchy, or you didn’t have time to implement. Just focus on the parts that you’re showing.
- If you use dummy data (which is completely fine when you are making MVPs), don’t tell it to your audience. They don’t need to know that, and it’s not important either.
How to improve your presentation skills at work
- Try to formulate the lessons you learned throughout your project, pitch, or demo so others can benefit. We use a saying at Codeworks: Stay hungry. And stay foolish. We all make mistakes! Share your original assumptions, what mistakes you made, and how you can overcome them in the future.
- Watch Ted talks, and take a note of presenters you respect. Ask yourself, what traits can you mirror?
- Film yourself and ask for feedback. From colleagues, friends and even the dog. Always put yourself in your audiences’ shoes.