Throughout your career as a developer, you'll undoubtedly learn new skills, while brushing up on old ones. Aside from "hard skills," such as design and programming, don't forget to continue developing your "soft skills." Necessary in many fields, these skills often include teamwork, collaboration, time management, and notably, the ability to give a presentation. Presentations are a great display of your expertise, so ensuring they go smoothly is imperative.
We've identified the most important types of presentations for junior and mid-career developers alike, as well as general presentation skills that will make your slideshows, speeches, and product demonstrations both memorable and compelling. Let's get you to stand out!
Presentation Skills for Junior Developers
Just starting out? No problem. Master these specific types of presentations to make your transition seamless!
- Interviewing. The interview process affords you the chance to present yourself in the best light — showcasing the skills you have and downplaying those you have yet to master. The secret to this? Discuss the types of projects you've completed and cite the skills you developed through training or previous employment. When you show how you combined your skills to complete more challenging tasks, it proves your ability to develop skills you haven't yet mastered. Also, review the job description and come up with specific examples of how your background aligns.
- Introducing yourself. When starting a new role, it's important to show your team your authentic self and how you'll be an asset. Be engaging and open — just make sure you're not providing too many personal details. Family history and other information should be shared only if it fits naturally into the conversation (for example, if your sister attended the same school as your new co-worker).
- Building your portfolio. Here, you'll be focusing on non-verbal presentation skills. Gather your projects and reflect on them (write it out!) to provide a complete picture of your work and education history. This portfolio doesn't need to include everything you've ever worked on, just the things you are proud of — your developmental skills, problem-solving abilities, and, of course, your ongoing growth. Also, make sure your portfolio is easy to access for the end-user. (No encryptions needed!)
- Describing your projects. When collaborating on a project, prepare to share the progress you've made on any tasks with your team. You may need to use slideshows to illustrate what you've done or simply describe your work aloud. This could be done in morning meetings, scrums, or with over-conferencing tools (if you're part of a remote team).
- Explaining your solution to a recent task. This is related to the previous type of presentation you'll be expected to make. But where the earlier one focuses on the tasks completed, this entry focuses on describing work in progress. You'll be sharing why you've chosen a particular solution to a task to get team and supervisor buy-in.
Presentation Skills for Mid-Career Developers
As you progress through your career as a developer, you'll find yourself relying on the skills you acquired as a junior. As you become more senior, your skillset will adapt accordingly.
- Calls with stakeholders or clients to explain the best parts of your solution. Whether you're working within a company or with private clients, you'll be required to present your ongoing progress on a project to secure funding or other resources. The key to this type of presentation is to know your audience. Ask yourself what role the stakeholders in your organization hold and what information they need to do their jobs. Focus your presentation on those details, being prepared, of course, to answer any questions that come up about other components of the project.
- To make a case for your solution. As you work through a project, you may need to convince others to support you as you explore a particular tactic or solution to a task. To successfully do this, explore other options and be prepared to explain why your chosen solution is the best course of action: Does it maximize resources and potential? Or does it fit best with the work other developers are doing?
- To convince a supervisor to take on a new project idea.** One of the most rewarding parts of working as a developer is seeing project ideas come to fruition. To make these ideas a reality, you must often convince supervisors or executives of the project's value. Because you're likely to be excited about your idea, these can be very fun presentations to create. However, ensure that you're using a critical eye and addressing any potential objections. Be ready to answer questions and show why your idea is worthy of investment.
- To teach and mentor newer developers. Giving back to those on the come-up is a beneficial part of your work. It supports your employer by ensuring that junior team members are learning and progressing, and supports the field by helping developers grow and become better at what they do. These mentoring tasks can be informal one-on-one teaching sessions, or they can involve creating educational materials to teach a group. When you're taking on this task, try to provide all of the guidance you needed when you were in their shoes.
How to Develop Strong Presentation Skills
If you need to improve your presentation skills, we have some recommendations that will help you feel confident presenting in any situation and to any audience.
- Decide which format is most effective. Some cases may call for high usage of visuals, whereas others are better displayed through text and verbal descriptions. If you're using slides, ensure that the slides aren't too dense and that you aren't relying on them to tell the entire story. Slides are most effective when they emphasize the most critical points. And ensure you're never simply reading off your slides — your presentation is a conversation between you and your audience. Be sure to make eye contact and ask questions.
- Tell a story with your presentation. Explore the needs of your potential audience and craft a story that gives them the information they need to understand what you're presenting. This tactic can be highly effective when you're trying to get buy-in from supervisors to explore a new project or solution.
- Watch others present. TED Talks and other presentations by those you admire can show you what you can emulate. However, don't try to be someone you're not — see how the tactics your favorite presenters use can work with your personality and style to improve your own presentations.
- Memorize talking points. Have the content you need to cover memorized so you're not looking at your notes too much. Depending on your style, you may want to fully script what you're going to say, or you may memorize the bullet points and data.
- Ask for feedback. You can practice your presentation with a friend or teammate so you can see where you need to improve and what information and questions you should be prepared for. If you're looking for feedback on your overall presentation style, a group such as Toastmasters International can be invaluable. These meetings allow you to see others present on a regular basis and receive feedback and helpful tips from experienced presenters.
No matter where you are in your career, as a developer you need solid presentation skills to showcase the work you've done and convince hiring managers, supervisors, co-workers, and others of the effectiveness of your solutions.
Presentations are an important part of the Practicum curriculum. Find out more about how we develop your job skills and soft skills to succeed as a developer.