When You Are the Speaker

When I first started speaking to groups, I always assumed the organizer would have everything I needed. Keep in mind, this was long before we had laptop computers. In fact, I know I presented a few times using an overhead projector. Later, I would bring my presentation on a thumb drive. Sometimes, though, my file was a much newer version of the software program and the organizer’s computer couldn’t handle my presentation.

One time I was dinged because I had to stand near the laptop so I could advance my slides. Yep, the organizers didn’t have a wireless remote. And then there was the time, the organizers didn’t provide a glass of water.

By now, you probably have figured out where I’m going with this. I’m fully prepared as a speaker to be self-sufficient with the exception of the projector. Here’s what I take with me when I am presenting:

  1. Personal laptop with my presentation stored on the desktop and in the cloud (just in case!).
  2. Cables to connect my laptop to a projector. It seems that more and more every computer has a cable that is a slightly different size than what you need to plug into. I now have a few combinations to ensure that I can connect.
  3. Thumb drive. On the off-chance that I can’t connect to the projector and the organizer has provided a laptop or has a smart classroom, I can simple insert my thumb drive with my presentation, and I’m ready to go.
  4. The cloud. Technically, I don’t take this with me, but I always store a copy of my presentation in the cloud. If all else fails, I can access it via the web.
  5. Wireless clicker that allows me to advance my slides from most anywhere within the room. I don’t like to stand behind a podium because I prefer to engage with my audience. That means I need to move around the room.
  6. Bottled water so I can clear a tickle in my throat before it becomes a full-on coughing fit.
  7. Hard copy of my presentation. Sometimes technology doesn’t work no matter what you do. I’m always prepared to give a presentation without any technology.

Creating a Powerful Presentation

I recently finished – or so I thought – my PowerPoint presentation for NFPW. However, as I always do with any presentation, I reviewed it through a checklist I created to ensure that I would be providing my audience with valuable information.

Because it was a new topic for me, I quickly realized that I had fallen into some familiar traps. I definitely did not want my audience to suffer a “death by PowerPoint” experience.

To avoid such an experience, I strive to make my presentations as visual as possible. This has several benefits:

  1. It avoids using slides as a script.
  2. It ensures that I have done my research, including finding images that reflect my key points.
  3. It enables audience members to focus on me the deliverer of messages instead of trying to read slides.

A TEDxRVA speaker toolkit noted that, “People need to process everything you are saying while simultaneously absorbing your slides.”

That means eliminating complex slides. With that in mind, I reviewed my presentation and realized I needed to do some tweaking, including:

  1. Using only one idea per slide.
  2. Identifying the great image that would convey my message.
  3. Creating short phrases for bullet points the few times I used them.

I reworked my presentation, and now I’m ready. I also must remember to pack the tools of public speaking. To learn more about them, check out this article from Inc.

If you are looking for tips on how to begin to build your presentation, check out this blog about how to use PowerPoint to support your presentation.

How not to give a good presentation

At least once each year, I attend a workshop, lecture or training in which the speaker does not do the topic or himself justice.

If you are giving a presentation, here are four things NOT to do:

  1. Don’t read the slides. Your back should never be to the audience. Don’t try cheating by standing sideways. I’ll allow the reading of one slide if it’s a quote, but realistically, we can all read the quote so instead tell us why the quote resonated with you. As for the rest of your slides, if I wanted to read them, I could go on SlideShare or another sharing site and find relevant slides on the topic. I want to hear from you the expert. I want to hear your insights and your experiences.
  2. Don’t be boring in your delivery. A monotone delivery will put the audience to sleep. Ideally, you should be passionate about the subject and your energy will excite us, and we’ll be engaged with you and/or the subject. If you are that bored, you should not be presenting. One of the pieces of advice I was given when I first started offering workshops was to stand in front of the audience, smile and share how delighted you are to be presenting. It sets a positive tone for everyone.
  3. Don’t go past your time. This is rude on many levels. You aren’t being respectful of my time as an audience member. If you are on a panel, you aren’t being respectful of the other speakers. And you aren’t being respectful of the venue, which most likely needs to clear the room to set up for the next event. To avoid running long, be sure to practice. You should always ask your facilitator how long he expects you to speak and adjust your talk accordingly.
  4. Don’t deliver something other than your topic. Most speakers possess a wide skill set. But if the program tells the audience they are going to get tips on building an airplane, don’t give them tips on building a sailboat. The audience is there because they expect to learn something about the topic, and you are the person who will deliver it.

If you follow these tips, you most likely will deliver a workshop or presentation that not only resonates with the audience, but leaves them wanting more.

Good luck!

5 Commandments to Pull Off a Successful Presentation

Several months ago, I worked with a colleague to help prepare her for a TEDTalk. She already was a good speaker, but TED requires taking one’s speaking and presentation skills to the next level.

Here are some of the things we did to help get her ready, many of which were included in the speaker tool kit that TED provided.

The first thing to remember is that when you watch a TEDTalk on YouTube it may look effortless, but there are “hours of thinking, preparing, practicing, slide revising and memorizing involved behind each spectacular talk,” according to the tool kit.

It’s true.

We reworked the slides at least three times. Too often in the business world slides are dense with copy and images. For a TEDTalk, less is more. We worked to find a single, strong graphic. The visuals exist to develop the ideas presented in the talk, not to distract from it.

The talk underwent at least five formal revisions, not to mention lots of tweaking. The first version was too much like a formal speech. That version, though, allowed up to pull the strong themes out and rework it into a conversational style. Knowing how to begin a talk can be a challenge. Read “The Most Powerful Ways to Start a Presentation” for more tips.

Personal examples were included to advance the story and set the tone. The ones we included were powerful and succinct, and not experiences that others in the audience would have had. They set the path to explore the topic more deeply.

Practice also was critical since speeches needed to be memorized and needed to stay within the allotted time. We recruited colleagues to serve as audiences on several occasions. During the final practice run when one person was moved to tears, we knew my colleague had nailed it.

When it comes to giving a TEDTalk, or any presentation for that matter, it’s important to follow the commandments:

  1. Do dream big. You want this talk to be the best you have ever given.
  2. Don’t read your talk. Use the visuals as prompts and have a few notes to guide you. Be flexible in case you lose your path.
  3. Do make the complex simple. Don’t dazzle the audience with busy slides, too many statistics and pompous words. Instead, strive to connect with the audience.
  4. Do end your talk on time. It’s rude to steal time from the people that follow you.
  5. Do rehearse. This allows you to practice for timing, for clarity and for impact.


Using PowerPoint to Support Your Presentation

PowerPoint can be an effective tool in making a presentation, but only if used properly.

Presenters, though, often forget that audiences are “there to see you, not your slides,” says Richard Harrington, a digital video expert. I recently took his online course, PowerPoint: From Outline to Presentation through Lynda.com.

“Effective speaker support is the goal,” he says.

SlideShare recently discussed 2013 trends around presentations and noted the following:
·         People want short, visual content
·         They want less text, meaning show it, don’t write it, and
·         They prefer images and fonts that are big

The key to a successful presentation is to organize it through an outline. Then gather the images, videos and links, finally creating the presentation.

You can build your outline in a Word document or using the outline feature in PowerPoint. Either way, you are determining the critical elements of your presentation.

Once you have your outline, determine what visual elements you can use to illustrate your points. These elements also will serve as triggers when you are speaking. PowePoint’s job is to not be your presentation but rather to support you as you speak.

If you are new to presenting, include your notes on the notes page and then present using “Presenter View.” This allows you to view your presentation with speaker notes on your laptop or tablet, while your audience views the presentation sans notes. To do this, go to the “Slide Show” tab and in the “Monitors” group, click “Use Presenter View.”

Once you have everything prepared, be sure to practice. You want to check the timing to stay within your allotted time. Click through the slides and each item on the slides to ensure that everything is working. Also check for spelling errors.

Now you are ready to give a successful presentation. Good luck!