Technology can be your friend. Or it can work against you.
Have you ever noticed how some people tend to get bogged down with the bells and whistles when they speak in public?
I recall one presentation skills training workshop that drove the point home. The project involved teaching a handful of leading experts who were to serve as panelists in a discussion before a professional society. Some worked from notes, some from prepared text, some extemporaneously. Others relied on presentation software in an attempt to give their remarks a punch.
Unfortunately for the latter group, they were so preoccupied trying to line up their slides, not one had the opportunity to practice their delivery. All the cutting and pasting, deciding what fit and what didn’t, and general technical mayhem meant they had to take to the podium the next day cold as ice.
What lessons can we learn from this experience? Remember that your presentation is not about a passel of glitzy slides (unless, of course, your topic is glitzy slides!). Your key is connecting with your audience –not your software.
Practice is a basic ingredient of any successful presentation, and that also applies to your software other video aids. All smooth presentations (and presenters) demand rehearsal with the final set of slides they plan to use. That is the one and only way you can sense the rhythm of your presentation and gauge how it will impact your audience.
I consider presentation software as props. Any prop should add something to your offering. Using one just for the sake of having it is meaningless, whether it’s a series of slides or a physical prop you hold up and display.
Props are but one of what I call your “video tools” that can help open your audience to your message. They must fortify your message; in no way must they distract from it. If a prop requires a lengthy explanation or if your fumbling with a remote control shifts attention from your message, don’t use it. A presentation skills training workshop should be designed to help you work out any of these kinks.
Slide shows introduce an entirely new dimension into your presentation. You must be facile with the controls, know when to change slides without distracting your audience or yourself, and practice at using them as part of a seamless presentation.
Remember that there are many methods to delivering a solid presentation. You can work from full text, an outline, talking points, slides, or handouts. When deciding which to opt for, choose what works best for your style and what is most appropriate for a given format and audience.
I am sometimes the only person on a program without slides or video. If everyone else uses them, my style sets me apart. That’s a good thing (and you can almost hear the collective sigh of relief from an audience once it learns that it will not be subjected to a dense, boring slide deck).
Whatever your decision, don’t get lost in the technology. Give yourself plenty of time to organize your remarks and practice, practice, practice!