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April 2, 2009

Esben Ehrenskjold:Bringing presentations into the web 2.0 age

When I go to conferences and seminars I’m always dismayed to see how similar all the presentations are. More often than not they consist of a PowerPoint presentation with a lot of slides, a huge amount of text in small fonts and almost no graphics. Have these presentations really been made with the audience in mind or are they simply there to help the speaker remember what to say?

Next time you find yourself sitting through a presentation like this, have a look around you and see how the audience responds to this. At best, only half of them will actually be trying to read what is written on the slides, and eventually even they will give up. And I bet you will spot at least two people actually sleeping.

I know we can do better than this!

There is no doubt that a good presentation starts with a good presenter; a humorous inspiring speaker who really knows what he or she is talking about. However, we can not all be that humorous and sometimes what we are trying to deliver can be fairly ordinary. Even the best presenters need a good set of tools to help them create a presentation that people will remember. And it takes practice to do it right, but it’s well worth the effort.

Hold your audience
• Introduce yourself and keep your brand on-screen at all times.
You should always start a presentation by telling the audience who you are and who you represent. If you want some inspiration on how to do this, take a look at this presentation by Dick Hardt.
• Remember the 10/20/30 rule.
The 10/20/30 rule was created by Guy Kawasaki, and states that when you create a PowerPoint presentation you should use no more than 10 slides, the presentation should last no longer than 20 minutes and you should not use a font size less than 30 points. This really forces you to know your presentation. You can see Kawasaki explain this himself.
• Graphics says more than a thousand words.
Think carefully about where you can use graphics instead of text. A relevant picture or a graph will do more to help people to remember the content of your presentation than bombarding them with words.

Do not distract your audience
• Never show your audience your desktop, or even worse search for folders to find a document that the audience needs to see. Members of your audience will be busy people, if they see a bunch of icons and maybe your summer holiday wallpaper or family picture that they can’t relate to appear on the screen, then they will almost certainly take this opportunity to check their mobile phone for messages or start thinking about their next meeting. In other words you will have lost them and you will struggle to get them back.
• Never run through slides that you don’t want the audience to see.
How often have you seen a PowerPoint presentation where the speaker rapidly runs through a couple of slides while saying “These slides are not relevant to you”? And what do you do in this situation? You spend the next couples of minutes wondering what you missed, distracting you from the relevant content of the presentation.

Give yourself the opportunity to focus on what you need to say
• When using multimedia elements consider recording.
Using advanced multimedia elements can certainly make your presentation more memorable, but you need to ensure they work correctly. We’ve all seen a presentation or live demonstration grind to a halt because some piece of software or technology fails to work correctly. However well your presenter recovers from this you will have lost your audience and the chances of them buying into what you’re selling will be greatly reduced. You may think that only amateurs will experience this sort of thing, but I was recently among 300 other delegates at a Microsoft seminar when this is exactly what happened. It’s crucial that you do not waste your audience’s time.

Instead of doing a live demonstration you should consider prerecording it using a desktop recording tool. This will give you peace of mind and allow you to focus on delivering your presentation and not on running your application. At the very least you should consider using this as a backup.

Here are a some good products you might want to look at:
AutoScreenRecorder 3.0 (Free)
Camtasia Studio (commercial).

This presentation by Hans Rosling shows how successful a multimedia presentation can be
Give something back to your sponsors
Events cost money and if you are hosting a seminar or conference you might want to consider covering some of your expenses by inviting sponsors in. With Streamline Presenter’s Presentation Menu you have the ability to import you sponsor’s trailers into your presentation shell so that they run seamlessly during breaks.

Esben Ehrenskjold is managing director of Streamline data, which produces groundbreaking presentation management packages Streamline Presenter.

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