Archives For technology



I haven’t written actively for about a month now.  And I have been more or less away from technology (outside of my day job) for a couple of weeks now.  It’s not that I’ve been relaxing on the beach.  I’ve been busy moving (did I mention I hate moving?)!  In the past 7 or so years, I have not really spent too many whole days staying out of touch with technology (or using my gadgets).  I had forgotten what it feels like.  A few hours without my phone made me fidgety.  I could not envision being disconnected.  And yet, 10 days of disconnection later, I feel good.  I’m physically tired, but really energized.  
The first couple of days, the separation from my phone was out of necessity.  We had to pack or we were not gonna make the move.  I still found myself squeezing out 20 seconds to unlock  my phone and check my notifications as I went from box to box. On moving day, it was so packed that I could not find those 20 seconds without holding someone up. And then, the unimaginable happened.  As we unpacked the next day, I found myself reaching for my phone less and less.  And by the following day of the move, I didn’t know where my phone was! 
The break is refreshing and it feels great.  I may have missed out on super cool news (I am yet to catch up on the reviews for Moto X), but I don’t feel compelled to play catch up.  I feel content picking up from here.  If there was something that was super cool and I missed it, I’m sure it will surface again. 
It’s an amazingly calming effect to be out of the constant connectivity for a while. I resolved to do it periodically – it’s cost effective therapy after all!  Not sure that I can, once I get caught up in the sea of tech activity again – but, I’m going to have reminders to take a break, breathe and do other things every once in a while! 


As I listened to a CEO (with an impressive background of a pipeline of senior titles) of a young, somewhat already successful company deliver a keynote at an extremely popular conference to an audience of about a 1000 people or more, I wondered about this – why are there so few execs who can really capture the audience?  I will refrain from the particulars of the individual, because it is not important.  The presentations that followed were all similarly styled – eye charts on colorful tables for the most part.  We are all familiar with this – sitting through boring presentations that page through packed bullets and tables on slides and conclude with 10 takeaways packing the last slide.  Why didn’t someone give these people a lesson on presentations?  Why do they fail to learn from the most brilliant presentations that have been delivered by a select few leaders and visionaries?

I’ve been guilty of packing a lot of material on slides, but over the years, I’ve increasingly learned that it doesn’t help.  The corporate template in a previous company I worked for was designed to fit more text than available default templates in PowerPoint.  It is really tempting to fit that one last relevant point, without which the presentation will be so incomplete!

I’m not going to say that there is a blanket rule about how to do presentations – of course, the audience and scope of the presentations should help us tune it appropriately.  And sometimes, slides are guiding material for a deeply technical discussion – a substitute for a white board (although it is a terrible idea generally speaking, it may make sense at times).  In those cases, go ahead and put your equations on the slides and pack it up with barely readable font that can be zoomed into for your discussion!  But, more often than not, you are presenting to an audience that wants the gist of your talk and is potentially coming in without the deep knowledge you have in the topic you are about to talk about.

Many people have written about how to give presentations and there are many that make a career teaching people how to present effectively.  There are a couple that I consider amazing material that is a must-read for anyone doing a talk for any sizable audience:

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Simon James On Giving A Research Talk


Guy Kawasaki’s 10-20-30 rule

The Internet is filled with tons of other content on how to do presentations, but these two are what you’ll need to check out for the most part.

I’ll close with a few points on what should be on our minds while preparing for a talk.  Much of this is borrowed or observed from inspiring thoughts and presentations from some of the best speakers out there.

  • When slides don’t matter
    There are some truly amazing speakers.  So good they don’t need something on the monitors to engage the audience or assist with talking points.  When you are that good, skip the slides entirely.  Or, fill it up with junk.  Because, you are the focus of the audience when you are that good.  But, many of us are not in this category and hence need to focus on other points.
  • Know the key message your talk should focus on
    Every talk needs to drive home no more than one message to its audience.  Not two, not three, just one.  Focus on that and make sure the entire deck is converging towards that message.
  • Tell a story around the key message
    Humans think and connect in terms of stories rather well.  So, tell a story.  Not on your slides, but construct a flow of a story in your head, leading up to the key message.
  • Your slides are not the handout material
    Don’t treat your slides as the handout material – if you need material that will live beyond the talk, create a separate version or add notes.  Your live audience does not need to be tortured with tiny fonts because you may have other readers – after all, if your audience didn’t think the talk was great, you failed anyway!
  • Resist the temptation to use bullets
  • Look at your audience, engage them, take cues
    Understand when you need to pivot your talk in some way by observing your audience.  It is really hard to do this when you are already nervous about the talk, but, this is as powerful as it gets.  Engage your audience when you can.  Make it interactive rather than a lecture.
  • Don’t leave your passion behind!
    Last but not the least, be absolutely, truly passionate about your talk.  If you are not passionate about the topic, try not doing the talk! There are circumstances when your job requires you to do presentations, but, try to be in it.  You’ll enjoy your job a lot more that way too!

Great ideas need to be communicated.  An idea is only worthwhile if others can see the value of it.  Presentations are clearly important.  Make a conscious effort to do them right!