Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Effective Presentations by Software Architects

In an earlier post the topic of clear, concise, and terse writing was presented. This post raises the importance of effective architecture presentations. It’s critical for every architect to be able to create and deliver effective presentations in an amount of time allocated. The following tips, derived from experience, should be kept in mind. It is assumed you’ll be using a Power Point or similar software.

  1. Mind your audience. It’s imperative to set the tone and presentation content based on the audience and audience’s expectations. If someone requests a presentation on the architecture of a system find out what they want to get out from the presentation. This will make the process of creating the presentation easier and your results will be measurable.
  2. Mind your time. If you’re allowed 30 minutes for presentation you will only get 30 minutes. This is especially true with angel investors, venture capitalists, executives, and anybody who simply values their time. Extenuating circumstances aside – running out of time is a result of poor preparation.
  3. Preparation is essential. Throwing some diagrams together and trying to wing it will result in poor quality. The presentation must have a flow that tells a story that your audience cares about. Prepare a handout outlining the key aspects of your presentation, but only distribute it when you start speaking.
  4. Be professional. Your presentation slides must be in a consistent format. Font, positioning, color scheme must be uniform.
  5. Practice. Most people fear public speaking. Those who don’t are unique or liars. When you hear yourself talk aloud while standing you’ll feel the areas of the presentation that do not transition well. Practice presenting in front of an audience even if it’s just one person who doesn’t know anything about software architectures. Practice will logarithmically build up your confidence unless you don’t know what you’re talking about.
  6. Know your subject matter. The audience will be able to tell if you don’t know what you’re talking about – just by seeing your gestures, tone, and logic. Anticipate tough “why” questions and be able to respond intelligently. After all an architect must always explain why a give decision was made or not made.
  7. Backup slides. Include backup slides at the end of your presentation if audience wants more detail on some part of a system presented earlier. Backup slides don’t need to be polished.

Remember that as a software architect you’re the chief spokesperson for a software system.

- Firebrand Architect on duty: CK

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