For a lot of people, actually standing in front of a room and speaking is the hardest part about giving a presentation. You might be one of those people. It's possible that you've skipped parts one, two, and three of this series because you're the kind of person who is pretty whiz-bang with a pen, but a bit of a milquetoast in front of the board room. That's alright, we welcome all sorts here.
In reality, as long as you're truly comfortable speaking with a crowd, you can always learn to wow a crowd. If you're not entirely comfortable in front of a crowd, that's okay. You can present or you can choose not to present, but here we hope to give you some pointers on presenting, much like we have every other step of the process, in the hopes of providing a framework upon which you can build. Rather than go through the entire presentation beginning to end, we've elected to give you a collection of things to do, and things not to do. We hope you'll find it helpful.
DO: Rehearse and Rewrite
I had a writing teacher in college who was handily trekking through his seventies without any sign of stopping. Occasionally, he admitted, he would go and dig up things that he had published (specifically this one column for a computer magazine he'd written for in the 90s) and go back and edit them. There was no purpose to this, these were published pieces, it was only to hone the craft of editing his own writing.
The point being that if this professor was going through works that he had already published and editing them, then the night before your presentation isn't 'too late' to make any changes, as long as you can adapt to them that quickly. Find where you need changes by rehearsing, much like we did while we were writing our presentation initially. If there are any pieces that seem to defy your objective, or worse, interrupt your narrative, cut them. It's never too late.
Try presenting to an empty room first, then start testing for people. You'll feel much more comfortable.
DON'T: Read Off a Script
While having some notes is fine, you are not a 1-800 psychic, so you shouldn't be trying to read cards for people. How do you remember your presentation? Simple, you've already rehearsed it. You'll do fine. One notecard with some general information on it isn't so bad, but reading off a script will seem artifical.
Please note that this does not mean use your slides instead of notecards. If you have enough text on your slides that you can read them aloud for 20-60 seconds straight, you need to edit your slides to contain less text.
DO: Invite Input
The entire reason we brought our product into existence was to end slideshow fatigue. Everyone who has sat through a lecture or presentation in the last decade or so has had the pleasure of having someone drone on and on about their slides (or just reading them aloud, ugh). wePresent is all about collaboration, so when you're rehearsing, think about good places to invite input, and good ways to do so. A quick question requiring a show of hands is enough to get the attention of those around the table, or you can invite more in-depth discussion. However, when a presenter talks, they are expected to be interactive with the audience. Go back and look at part three of this blog series, and you'll find some suggestions on ways to use our hardware to invite collaboration and input. and keep your eyes on this blog for more tips on that front as well.
DON'T: Be Afraid to Speak Up
I see a lot of presentations in my line of work, and the one thing that will kill a presentation faster than anything is being unable to hear a speaker. I've seen college classrooms slowly empty out as a lecturer struggled to be heard, I've seen boardrooms begin to collectively roll their eyes at mumbly, hard-to-heard presenters. The best thing you can do for your presentation is find a speaking voice and don't be afraid to use it. Remember: you have been invited to speak, so you have nothing to fear.
This is going to sound very repitious, but this is another place rehearsal helps a lot. When you've improvising, it's easy to get lost ("uhhh, ummm, well...you see, ah...") or to just get so caught up in what you're going to say next that you forget to use your speaking voice. Rehearse and build that confidence.
DO: Create a Presentation Summary
I've already mentioned how many presentations I see, but let me tell you the ones I like the best: the ones where the speaker comes out and says "hey guys, don't worry about taking notes, you can find a summary of this information in X location." This was especially appreciated when I worked as a reporter, so if you're giving a media-facing presentation, this is an easy way to earn good press for yourself.
A presentation summary is pretty simple, just a bullet point document about each slide, along with links to any websites you might mention, and a summary of any data presented. Usually, these summaries are issued with the slides themselves online somewhere. Think about attaching a shortened URL or a QR code at the end of your presentation to provide a link for people who might want more information.
DON'T: Assume a Level of Knowledge
You would be surprised what an audience is learning for the first time, so don't forget that you're presenting because you're probably the expert in the room about that particular subject. It's your job to explain it to the audience, so if you're talking about a highly technical or complex subject, pause every 5-10 minutes and make sure your audience is following you. Ask how many people in the room are knowledgable about a subject (a good way to solicit input from your audience!) and then gauge how much background you need to give from there. Your audience will appreciate that you're not trying to leave them in the dark about anything.
DO: Be an Active Speaker
A lot of lists like this would specifically tell you not to move around too much, or to use your hands too much, or a whole litany of things involving moving your body that you absolutely should not do under any circumstances. I'm going to go a different direction and tell you to move around. Why? Because so many people read those tips about not moving too much or being too distracting, and they end up standing stock still.
A good place to see how this works for an audience is standup comedy. Watch any given standup comedy special, and you'll see the comedians (who are arguably some of the greatest 'presenters' to look at) doing something they call "owning the stage". This doesn't mean they pace around, or fidget nervously, but they aren't afraid to walk around, to occupy the stage, or to use movement for emphasis. Now, you don't need to own the stage as melodramatically to deliver your presentation, but don't be afraid to move around, to use your hands, or to emphasize with annotations or laser pointer.
It is, however, entirely possible to be TOO active.
You Can Do It!
This is is for the basics, moving forward we're going to be covering certain subjects far more in-depth, especially collaboration and multimedia, but this does not mark the end of this series. I think, in the last 2000 words or so, that I have laid out a good framework to build on, and hopefully you agree. However, if you have any suggestions for things you might like to hear about in this series, or questions about anything I've written so far, don't be afraid to email.
In the mean time, think about checking out some of our technical tutorials, so you can be as proficient with running the wePresent as you are with giving presentations on it. Rehearsal builds confidence, after all, and that includes technical rehearsal. Luckily, our product manager has produced a series of videos showing you how to use different functionality on the wePresent. Follow the link below to see them.