Presentation attendance is important for keeping sharp and up to date on topics and techniques. With that in mind, I often attend seminars and presentations on a variety of topics, Clickshare Meeting in South Africa from business development and consultancy to investing and asset management. Most recently, I attended a seminar from David Lerner and Associates on “Building and Protecting your Assets.” While this is clearly a sales seminar, looking to create a buying impulse, it also provided great information and food for thought. Mostly, however, I want to discuss the techniques used in the seminar, as I found it to be very well done.
I will begin by saying that David Lerner is a very polished and entertaining speaker. His use of technology was well integrated with his manner of walking the room. Three video screens were used, Barco Wireless Presentation One large central screen and two smaller screens to allow the viewers at the peripheries to see the information clearly as well. On top of this, a wireless sound system was used to project the speaker’s voice effectively. The facility was a moderate sized convention center/ballroom, with a crowd that I would estimate at 600 people.
Utilizing an array of speakers connected to a wireless receiver, and a handheld wireless microphone, every word was able to be heard clearly. Volume and clarity are both key factors for successful speakers. However, it was not so much the technical details which made this a good presentation, it was the presentation style. Mr. Lerner made several overtures to connect with the audience effectively. First, he was adept at using humor, which is often touted as a public speaking tool.
I personally liked his references to Mel Brooks’ movies, as I am a huge fan of his work. Bringing the audience back to those references at points throughout the presentation also created memory points for the audience. This is a fantastic technique for getting an audience to remember key points, Barco Clickshare Button Holder without seeming like a pushy teacher. Mr. Lerner also connected with the audience by sharing details and experiences from his personal life. Humanizing yourself as a speaker should not be discounted; an audience is far more likely to “buy in” to a speaker’s pitch if they see him as one of their own rather than an outsider. Sharing stories that the audience can relate to is crucial, but a speaker must know the audience well enough to make this work. Both the humor and personal connection set the audience at ease and allow for a greater capacity to listen and accept what is being shared without a highly guarded affect.
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The arrangement of chairs, the sound system, the lighting and the overall climate of the room can make a big difference in the way a public speaking engagement is received. You may not think you have much control over these items, but think again, because you do.
If you have prior access to the room where your speech will be held you should always get there as early as possible. I have never had a speaking engagement where everything about the room set-up was perfect. There is always something amiss. Expect minor problems to be the norm.
I have had many public speaking engagements where I had a few minor problems. The sound man who had the mixing board, wireless microphone and tape deck didn't show up. The videographer was delayed with a speeding ticket and showed up 10 minutes before the program was to start. That caused a 40 minute delay. Fifteen minutes into the program the video projector, an integral part of the program, conked-out. So what did I do? I had a back- up, hand-held microphone with a long cord with me so I plugged it into the meeting room's public address system. One of the other speakers had a portable cassette player so we played the opening music on the cassette player and put the microphone in front of the speaker. It wasn't the best sound, but it got the job done. I had a good quality home-grade video camera there that was supposed to shoot secondary footage. It was just being moved to the main camera position when the video technician showed up. The video projector quitting on me was a different story.
All the other problems were handled before the public speaking engagement actually started. Since the projector was to be used throughout the day something had to be done and done quickly. I told the audience to take a five minute break and we all scrambled to check out the projector. We determined that it was nothing that we could fix fast, so I made plans to bring in several monitors arranged as back-up. This was not as good as an 8 foot by 8 foot screen, but it would have to do. While we were checking out the video projector one of the seminar participants was watching us and overheard my decision to bring in the monitors. He said, 'Listen, I've got a video projector at my office. I can go get it and have it set up in 20 minutes.'" He did, and I gave him a $90.00 audio tape album for his trouble.
These were obviously more than minor problems, but being prepared with back-up equipment and being in the room early enough to do something about the problems saved the day. A little help from a friendly participant didn't hurt either.
Create an Atmosphere Conducive to Laughter and Interaction.
Unless you are using slides or video projection you want the room lights at maximum intensity. Half your effectiveness when speaking with humor is realized because the audience can see you. The audience wants to see your face. They want to see your expressions. They want to see your body language. It is easier to establish a bond when the public speaker and the audience can see each other which is one good reason to avoid reading your speech from behind a lectern.
I recently attended a speech in Washington D.C. by a 'big name' author. He conducted a three hour slide show with no breaks. He was totally 'in the dark' behind a lectern. I am an audience watcher so I know he never connected with the audience.
Besides being in the dark the man made several other inexcusable mistakes that indicated little regard for his audience. Three hours is too long to go without a break. Starting at the 1 1/2 hour mark people were constantly getting up to go to the restroom or getting refreshments. Before the speech the man was in the room with three hundred people with a bored nasty look on his face. I tried to make eye contact with him when he walked by me and he stared right through me.
What could this speaker have done to dramatically increase the effectiveness of his public speaking engagement? Since I'm supposed to be talking about lighting right now, I will. All he had to do was put a soft light on himself that lit him or at least lit his face. A low intensity light placed properly would not have affected the visibility of the projection screen at all, but would have helped him connect with the audience. They would have been able to see his face. As it was, all they heard was a voice coming from the darkness.
The other problems I mentioned were not lighting related, but I'll tell you how to fix them now anyway. Take care of your audience's basic needs. Three hours is too long to go without a break. Schedule a short break and you won't have audience members interrupting the speaking engagement every few minutes.
If you are nervous or scared or bored before a public speaking engagement don't let the audience know. This presenter would have been better off hiding from the audience rather than alienating them with his sourpuss face. If you're nervous or scared, go out and greet audience members. It will make both of you feel better. If you can't do that, stay hidden until it is time to start.
It was a shame this presenter had no basic public speaking skills because his content was excellent. I'm sure his book sales suffered at that event.
Seating arrangements are a critical part of any successful public speaking engagement and are especially important for humorous speeches. As a professional public speaker you must consider not only interaction, but safety and comfort parameters as well.
The best situation is when you have total control over the seating style and set-up of the room. For this discussion I'll be using laughter and interaction synonymously. Semi-circular and straight theater style arrangements do both enjoy one advantage. Both these arrangements have the audience members sitting very close together. This togetherness allows laughter to pass immediately from one person to the other. You will even see audience members elbowing and slapping their immediate neighbor on the knee.
By far the best seating arrangement for laughter is semi-circular. When public speaking audience members are seated on a curve they can look to their left or right and see the faces of each person in the row. Laughter is contagious. Many people will laugh just because they see others laughing. In a straight-row theater style, when an audience member looks left or right, all that she sees is the ear of the next person in the row. If that next person is not laughing, the other audience member is less likely to laugh. If you change the seating arrangement to semi-circular where each audience member can see everyone's face in the row, you will create a much higher likelihood that that person will see someone else laugh. As the speaker you will have a much higher chance of having your audience enjoying laughter because of this seating style.
Audience comfort is another advantage of semi-circular seating. The room can be set to face each chair directly toward the area where the presenter will be standing. This is much better than straight theater style where the audience members at the end of a row must turn their heads sharply to see the presentation. This creates an uncomfortable audience member in a very short time. An uncomfortable audience member is less likely to laugh; more likely to tune out all together. If the bulk of the presentation consists of looking at a screen you could point all the chairs at the screen instead of where the speaker will be standing. Do whatever it takes to keep your audience comfortable.
Always attempt to be as close as you can to the first row in whatever seating arrangement you have. Distance between you and the audience is a definite barrier to interaction. Don't use a riser unless it is absolutely necessary for you to be seen.
You may get some resistance from room set-up personnel who are not used to semi-circular seating arrangements, but don't give up. If you get to the presentation site early you can usually make changes yourself. Remember--you are the one who will look bad if the speech doesn't go well. No one will ever blame the set-up crew.
Sometimes changing seating arrangements will not be possible. Shoot for the best when you can and be persistent. On the other hand, don't be distracted if you end up with a poor seating arrangement. If you are prepared and have a powerful message, you will still do a good job.
If you have to speak in a situation where the seats are fixed, don't despair. If the seats can't move, you can. Be more animated and move around. This will cause the audience to move their heads to see you, thus creating more interaction and increasing the chance they will see another face that is laughing. Another trick you can use if you're stuck with fixed seating is to ask the audience to choose a new seat after they come back from a break. Anytime you use this technique you must tell the audience why you are doing it and you must give the instructions before the audience takes a break. American audiences have a 'homing instinct' for the same seat they started with and you'll upset them if you snatch it away for no reason.
For example, tell them that part of the reason to come to a speech is to meet and interact with new people and by changing seats this goal will be accomplished easier.
Another thing to watch out for is a situation where seating arrangements in an organization have been established over a long period of time. If you come in as the 'new kid on the block' and try to make drastic changes you may upset many 'old timers.' Make changes slowly and always tell them why.
Additional Seating Tips
When possible set the presentation to the long side of the room so the last row is as close to the speaker as possible. Avoid long narrow rooms which put audience members far from the speech as if they were in bowling alley. People prefer to sit by aisles.
Avoid chairs next to walls. Audience members will feel trapped. Aisles should get bigger as they get nearer the exits because they must accommodate more people.
Seat for least distraction--no audience member should have to cross more than six people to get to a seat.
Make people sit as close as possible to the front. Force them to front with reserved signs on back tables or keep chairs stacked until all front rows are full. Don't tip chairs up to reserve seats or force people forward because they may trip over the legs of the chairs.
GET A SOUND SOUND SYSTEM If it is hard to hear, people won't listen. As a humorous public speaker you must have an excellent sound system because most of the time you will be talking while your audience is laughing. Stand-up comics are different because they tell a joke, then people laugh (they hope). They tell another joke, then people laugh. A humorous public speaker will be rolling right along making points, showing product features, telling stories, and dropping one- liners and must be heard all the while.
A humorous presentation demands a better sound system than a serious talk. In a serious talk, words can be missed and the main message can still be very clear. In humor it doesn't work that way. If key words are missed in a joke or story it will ruin the humor. No one will laugh and you will look like a giant goober.
The need for a thorough sound check is another good reason to be in the room early. You need to check the microphone to make sure it works. You need to check to see how far your mouth should be from the microphone. You need to know how loudly you should talk. Realize that during your check the audio level should be too loud. People will absorb the sound once they get into the room.
Make sure the sound system is carrying to all parts of the room. If someone is speaking prior to you, try to go to the back of the room to see how he/she is coming across. If you have someone at the presentation with you, have them signal from the back of the room if changes are needed in the volume of the public address system after you have started.
Uncomfortable people will not listen to you. The unwritten rule is that meeting rooms are always too hot or too cold so you'll have to do your best. When setting air conditioning levels, the room should be cooler than you think it should be. The body heat of the audience will bring the room to the comfort level. Make sure it does, and be ready to make adjustments as you go. If you can't get the right temperature, make sure you acknowledge the audience's discomfort and encourage them to make the best of it. Your care for them will automatically make things a little better.
Paging Systems for Wireless Facility Communication
I don't need to tell you that PowerPoint and Apple's Keynote applications are probably your number one tool for presentations but be aware that what you see on your computer screen is not necessarily what you will see on a video or projection screen. Here are some important techniques and tips to consider when building your presentations for your next meeting, seminar or special event. Let your attendees get the most out of your hard work.
I have worked on countless programs that have used PowerPoint and Keynote as a major focal point for their sales meetings, award show celebrations and other events and I can't tell you how many times I've seen attendees struggle to see what they were invited there to see. Why loose your audience in the back of the room if you don't have to? One or more of them quite possibly could be your next company superstar but they missed your presentation because they simply couldn't see it and decided to play solitaire on their smart phone.
Lets add another layer to the necessity of reaching the attention of your attendees from the front row to the back row. With a phone or laptop, a wireless connection and a little social media at your attendee's fingertips, they may be posting in real time what a bore your presentation is. Not good. You can avoid much of this by following these guidelines when building your program for a projection screen in any venue or meeting space. You may have heard the phrase, "Presentation is everything." Never take this phrase for granted.
*Lets start with font / point size.
Here is a quick test you can try right now. Enter a sentence in your document in 6 different point sizes **(10, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20). Then simply move 4 feet back from your monitor or laptop screen. Without straining or squinting your eyes, which is the smallest point size that is easiest or most comfortable to read? I'm going take a shot and say you chose a point size of 14 or 16. Keep your font size at 14 or higher and you will be on the money every time. If you can't see your text content at this distance, neither can your audience or attendees viewing it on a projection screen regardless of screen size. We call this The 4 Foot Rule. It's a good idea to have satellite plasma screens in exceptionally large venues but you really want to keep your guests focused on the action on your stage.
Understanding Negative Space
For many years I've had discussions with event planners in need of a solution for making very architecturally busy meeting spaces or pre-themed environments disappear and turning giant, daunting spaces into intimate environments with the use of lighting. Understanding the concept of negative space is the key and the same applies to your screen presentations. Direct your viewers eyes where you want them. White backgrounds with black text is not recommended. The white space overpowers your text. You want your presentation to be dynamic. You want to hold the viewers attention. Use dark backgrounds with high contrast text, put borders around your photos and don't clutter your slides. An image with a single line of text or a handful of bullet points is the most effective use of your slide real estate. It draws the viewers eyes to the exact content you want them to see without distractions.
I'm going to cut to the chase here and say there are lots of web sites that discuss color schemes and the use of Primary, Secondary and Tertiary colors but for now, lets focus on what works on a projection screen. Color theory and colorimetry may be a topic for another day here. Take note, what you see here, the color saturation and contrast is not what you will see on a projection screen. **See link below for color image of this chart.
- Blue text will not work on dark or black backgrounds.
- Cyan text will work on dark or black backgrounds.
- Green text will not work on dark or black backgrounds.
- Yellow text will work well on dark or black backgrounds.
- Orange text will work on dark or black backgrounds.
- NEVER use red text on dark or black backgrounds.
- Pink text will work on dark or black backgrounds.
- White text will work best on dark or black backgrounds.
- Here is one last secret for squint proof, easy on the eyes presentation. If you have an extensive program that you can't break up with images or you must have slides containing a paragraph of text, go to your color picker and use a very very light shade of gray.
- Never use graphics that do not pertain to your message. The phrase "Less is more" in this respect is without a doubt, 100% true.
- Stick to one font set in your presentation. Sans Serif fonts are best for projection screens as Serif fonts are meant to be used with more text (Like a paragraph or book).
- Take a look at your favorite news program on TV and keep an eye out for how text is presented. Use it as a visual guideline. You will notice subtle movement such as swipes and fades, bulleted text and very minimal animation.
- Use or create custom key slide / key frame backgrounds or background images. Stay away from using the backgrounds included with the software. Everyone on EARTH has seen them already.
- Use the highest quality / resolution graphics and photos you can find. Don't acquire your images from the internet unless you know how to find high resolution images. Graphics and text decorations online are generally low resolution. Understanding some copyright law on using web images is a good idea as well.
Your presentation is not a stand alone document. If your slides are well crafted, your PowerPoint or Keynote document must require YOU, your narrative to have meaning. It is a tool to emphasize your key points, to add a bit of visual depth and possibly an emotional connection with your viewer to initiate action. It is a tool that ties a visual flow to your words, not the contrary. If it is more than this you have to much content on your screen. Put all of this together and you will have a successful presentation at your next event or meeting. Someone may even Tweet a nice comment about it back at the office.;-)
*The point sizes shown above will vary depending on your monitor or laptop screen resolution.
** See size and color reference.