Thursday, February 22, 2007

Again with the Presentations

At the risk of being redundant, as I've delved into the subject on numerous occasions, I want to talk about a couple of seemingly minor, yet crucial, things to remember when making presentations: timing and equipment.

First, let's talk about timing. Simply stated, if you have been alloted 15 minutes, then you MUST complete your presentation, with built-in time for questions, in that 15 minutes. You should never go over your time. Recently, I was in the audience at a program where one of the speakers nervously spoke for about 15 or 20 minutes longer than his alloted time. As a presenter, I couldn't help but notice the body language of the audience. As he continued talking well past his time, the audience was shifting, yawning, looking at their watches, and mentally checking out. I believe his nerves got the best of him, because he didn't even notice. The sad truth is that he lost this audience.

Why do you think presenters exceed their time limits? Many times it is lack of preparation. Most people are going to be nervous when making a presentation. If you not properly prepared, nerves will take over and you run the risk of rambling. I've done it, and its a killer. You are hating being the speaker, because you know you're not connecting with the material or the audience, and the audience hates it because they are captives.

The key is to rehearse. Rehearse in the mirror, rehearse with a friend, or have your child be your audience. Tape record yourself doing the presentation. Whatever it takes--learn the material and be prepared. It eases the nerves and lifts your confidence.

Now, what about equipment? Let's assume that you've worked diligently to put together a very visually appealing powerpoint presentation. You have made sure it is well structured, on point, and is designed to motivate your audience. You are ready to make this presentation and win over this group. When you get there, with your jump drive loaded with your presentation, you see that the hosts have arranged a Mac PowerBook for your talk. Nice computer! Wrong computer! If you don't have a back-up plan, your toast. (Always have a back-up plan!) Make sure you get these details straight when you agree to a presentation. Think about these things:
type of computer
type of software
projector issues
Internet capabilities (if relevant)
audio issues (if relevant)

Are there any equipment questions you can think of?

By the way, here's a tip. We've all seen the person fumbling with the mouse to try to go the previous slide when they have accidentally advanced the presentation. On PC's loaded with later versions of PowerPoint, there's no need to right-click and select "previous." Just use the forward and back arrow keys. It's that simple.

1 comment:

Nathan G. Tipton said...

This is a good reminder post, and I'm glad too that you brought up the ever-problematic Powerpoint. I noticed in our last session (at Rhodes) that one of our presenters relied far too heavily on her Powerpoint presentation, which ended up backfiring on her for all the reasons we discussed in earlier LEAP sessions (e.g., the audience can read the slides, so there's no need for the presenter to repeat them verbatim; the slides are meant to enhance the presentation rather than filling in for lacking presenter's skills, etc.).

Rehearsing is also and always a good thing for presenters to do, more because it gives you a good sense of how much time you may (or may NOT) have alloted for both presentation and questions. And, as you noted, watching the audience is also important, because it too tells you whether or not you need to start drawing your presentation to a close before losing the audience completely.