The summer conference season is around the corner and with it a number of PowerPoint presentations, slideshows, workshops, speeches and demos that all rely on modern technology to come to life. Make sure yours is the best it can possibly be with the following dos and don’ts:
1. Do position your mic properly
The most common mistake among presenters is holding the microphone at an improper angle that prevents the audience from hearing every word clearly. If you’re using a handheld mic, take a cue from broadcast journalists and make sure it is held approximately six inches away from you pointed directly at your mouth. If you are using a tabletop mic — especially one being used by multiple speakers — make sure the microphone is pointed directly at you before you begin speaking. This will prevent having to interrupt your thought to adjust the mic.
Also, if you plan not to use a microphone at all, don’t assume your voice is loud enough to be heard in the back of the room. Speak in your loudest, least screaming voice, but be prepared for a little technical amplification.
2. Don’t hide behind your computer
For many speakers, being very near to the computer during the entire session is absolutely necessary to keep up with the points to be made. Often though, the computer is being used a crutch and as an excuse not to face a room full of staring eyes. When making each point, step away from the computer and engage with those in the room, briefly making eye contact with the audience before stepping back to the table or lectern.
This is also important for sessions that are being photographed: if you never step away from the podium, you may appear as a bluish, alien-like figure.
3. Don’t pace
Walking back and forth while explaining concepts can be second nature to some speakers, but for the audience it can be distracting. The overall effect is much like watching a tennis match with eyes darting back and forth. If the session is being recorded, it can also be troublesome for the poor camera guy who has to pan back and forth throughout the session. It is okay to do a little pit of pacing, just make sure to stay in one spot for a while before doing so.
4. Do lose the badge
Conference badges are often hideous, ugly things; shiny white pieces of paper attached to the front of the speaker like a note pinned to a lost child. And this is exactly what you don’t want the audience to be concentrating on while you’re giving your amazing presentation. Take off your badge during your talk, especially if you are under glare-producing bright lights. The audience will likely already know who you are by the time you begin speaking and you can always put it back on after.
5. Don’t be a copycat
If you’re using PowerPoint or similar to software to conduct your workshop, be sure that you are not reading exactly what is on the screen. This is a surefire way to lose the audience’s interest as they will know in advance exactly what you are going to say. Instead, make bullet points with succinct sentences the give the general idea of what you are going to say. Expound upon these bullet points by giving examples, therefore giving the audience an incentive to keep listening.
6. Do prepare for internet failure
Usually when giving a presentation, the speaker has an allotted amount of time in which to make their points. Don’t usurp this time by trying to figure out why the live website or multimedia component you are trying to demo isn’t working. If your internet connection conks out, be prepared by having screenshots or static examples of what you were going to show and move on. If this isn’t possible, try not to make a big scene about it. Which bring us to…
7. Don’t fight with the tech
If something goes wrong, be it a failed internet connection or a faulty mic, do not have a beleaguered exchange with technical support or the audience about how everything has gone wrong. Profuse apologies, cursing, or muttering under your breath about malfunctioning equipment does not make the audience feel bad for you — depending on your level of exasperation you may come off looking like a nutjob.
8. Do pause for questions
Speakers often have a lot to say and a little time to say it in and thus feel rushed to get through the entire presentation. This, however, leaves the audience at a loss when it comes to asking questions about something that has just been said. The natural inclination is to take questions at the end, but often there are so many piled up that some may go unanswered. After making a major point, pause and ask the audience if they have any questions about what’s been said. Often they do and it breaks up the monotony of hearing the same voice for an hour or so.
9. Do have a takeaway
If your talk has included examples of online projects or sites, be sure to let the audience know where they can find the information you’ve just shared. Either make a handout or create an online site with links to all the relevant items you’ve just covered. Many tech-savvy presenters use sites like Scribd or Slideshare, featured below, to make the entire presentation available online.
10. Do some social networking
At the end of your workshop or seminar, have a slide or an awesome business card that has your Twitter name, email, Facebook link or wherever the audience can find you online and ask follow up or share networking opportunities. This ensures that the presentation you prepared so much for won’t be just a blip on the audience’s radar.
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• The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Multimedia Journalists