Monday, 29 July 2013

Plan Your Presentation for Q&A

One area where a lot of presenters fall down on the job is Questions and Answers. When you are preparing your presentation, be sure to plan for Q&A. And plan well in advance!

While you are rehearsing your presentation, give some thought to questions that your audience may ask. Are there any complex topics that some members of the audience might need clarified? If you have spoken on the same or similar topics before, what kinds of questions have previous audiences asked? If possible, show your presentation to colleagues, and get their input on possible questions.

When the time comes to do your presentation, be sure to allow time for Q&A. Some presenters are comfortable taking questions throughout the presentation but many would prefer to take questions at the end. If that is your preference, announce up front that there will be a Q&A at the end of the session. If someone jumps the gun and asks a question before you are ready, just thank them for their question, and promise to answer them in the Q&A session at the end of the presentation.

During the Q&A session, listen attentively to the question, then restate the question with words like, "So if I understand you correctly, you would like to know..." This serves two purposes: it ensures that you really do understand the question, and it also ensures that any of your audience who didn't hear it will also know what the question was.

Try to keep your answers short and to the point. Don't let one questioner dominate the Q&A session; make sure everyone who wants to ask a question gets a chance. If the question is way outside the scope of the presentation or is going to take too long to fully answer, invite the questioner to stay after the presentation for an off-line discussion.

If you don't know the answer to a question, be honest. You may offer to find the answer, and you can invite members of the audience to leave an e-mail address, and you can send out the answer when you have found it. (A great way to collect some leads!)

Don't go over the time allotted for your presentation. If you are near the end of your time, and it looks like there are more questions, invite anyone who wishes to stay after with questions. This is probably a good idea in any case, since there will always be a few with questions who were just not comfortable asking their question in front of an audience. I always like to offer my e-mail address in case anyone has a follow-up question.

Finally, don't just end your presentation with the last question. That is a weak ending. Prepare a few closing remarks, and even a slide or two to wrap things up.

With a bit of planning, the Q&A session can be an effective part of your presentation.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

How Long Can You Sit Still?

Some members of your audience may consider attending your presentation a welcome respite from being tied down to a desk all day. But many of your spectators may come from active or dynamic jobs. For these folks, sitting still through a long presentation may be nothing short of torture.

The next time you host a long meeting or training session, keep this in mind. Find a reason to get your audience up and moving.You should, of course, schedule an adequate number of breaks, but it's even better if you can make getting up and moving part of your presentation. Maybe arrange a hands-on product demonstration at the front of the room. Or set up an activity where your audience breaks up into smaller groups for a while. Even something as simple as asking for some help passing out handouts will get a few folks moving.

If your presentation extends over lunch, hold lunch in another room. If the weather is good, maybe you can arrange a barbecue. That gets people on their feet and gives them a shot of fresh air.

Also, don't forget the welfare of the presenter! Give yourself a break too. If you can manage it, share the presentation duties, taking turns presenting so the you can take a break. If you are on your own, maybe you can include a video or two in your presentation, but nothing too long.This has the side benefit of adding some variety to your presentation.

So the next time you plan a long presentation or all day conference ask yourself, how long can you sit still?

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Take Ownership of Your Presentation

What a relief! You have a presentation to make, and someone has handed you a Powerpoint or Keynote presentation all ready to use. So you quickly review it the night before the big presentation, and you are good to go, right?

Boy, I sure hope not! Trust me, if you didn't build the presentation yourself, you don't know it without putting some real time into it. You have to take ownership of your presentation.

I can't count the number of times that I have sat through a presentation when it was clear that the presenter did not know the material. To effectively use a slide deck you need to have your material down pat. If you are lucky, the presentation that you have been handed has good presenter's notes. It would be nice, but in my experience, it doesn't happen very often. The solution, review each slide with care. Why is this slide part of the presentation? What is the key point? What questions may your audience have, and are you prepared with answers?

Don't hesitate to edit the presentation if it doesn't make sense to you. Lets face it, if you don't understand it, your audience won't! Don't trust the presentation. Check it carefully for typos and content errors. Does the sequence of the slides make sense? If not, change it! Make use of the presenter's notes field and add your own notes.

I always stress the importance of rehearsing your presentation, but it is even more important when you are using someone else's presentation. Once you have made your first round of edits, run through the whole presentation. Stop and take notes if you are unclear on any point and go back and edit your slides where appropriate.

On the day of the presentation, set up your computer in dual screen mode. Place your laptop so that you can see it when you are facing the audience, and set up the Presenter's Screen to include your notes.

If you have taken the time to master the presentation, just relax and enjoy the experience. You will do great!

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Speak Up Please!

I have talked quite a bit on this blog about making your presentation slides clear, effective and readable, but when you prepare for a presentation, make sure you take some time to be sure that you can also be heard!
Visit the venue ahead of time to check things out. Take a friend along, and have them sit at the back of the room. Speak in your normal presentation voice and make sure that you can be really clearly heard. Remember, when the room is full, your audience will bump up the ambient noise quite a bit.

Consider using a microphone if you have a larger audience. Don't be shy about using a mic. It's no reflection on you if you need some help in a large room or with a large audience. Everyone does! You can get an unobtrusive lapel mic, so your audience will not be focused on the mic. Get a cordless so that you can move around without being tethered to the mic.

If you are using a mic, all the more reason to get to the venue early and check that the equipment is working properly. The last thing you want to do is deafen your audience with feedback!

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Back Up Your Presentation With Your iPhone

I am alway preaching about the need for a backup plan when you are making a presentation. Have a spare bulb for your projector, or even better, have a second projector on standby. Have spare batteries for your remote. Have a copy of your presentation on a flash drive in case your computer fails.

But here is another idea. You can now have a fully functional backup copy of your presentation on your iPhone. Apple has released a version of their popular Keynote presentation software for the iPhone. If you have already created your presentation in Keynote, you are good to go. If you are not a Mac user, or prefer PowerPoint, no problem, Keynote can easily import a PowerPoint presentation. So here is your backup plan. Buy a copy of Keynote for your iPhone ($9.99 in the App Store), pick up an an Apple VGA adaptor ($35.00 at the Apple Store), and you are good to go. If your computer fails, you can hook up your iPhone, and you have your complete presentation, ready to go.

Just a few things to be careful of. The iPhone has a smaller selection of fonts than your computer, so run through your presentation on the phone to make sure it hasn’t made any weird font substitutions. Some of the fancier animations and slide transitions that work on your computer might not work on the phone.

You will need a recent iPhone for this to work, the older phones don’t have the processor speed to run Keynote. If you aren’t an iPhone user, you can pick up an iPod touch for $199, still cheaper and a lot lighter than a spare computer. And you can always use the iPod as a remote (see HERE) to control the presentation on your computer or iPad.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Can You Email Me a Copy of Your Presentation?

How many times have you been asked, after giving a presentation, to give someone a copy of your slides? It happens to me all the time. I’m not really opposed to sharing my slides, but regular readers of the blog will know, my slides are not my presentation. I use slides to complement what I am saying, and I certainly don’t put every word of my presentation on my slides. In fact, my slides contain very few words at all. I just reviewed a recent presentation that I gave, and just 4 or the 46 slides that I used had any words at all! So a copy of my slides consisted of 42 random looking images with no context!
If you use the presenter notes feature of Keynote or Powerpoint, you have a simple solution. Make sure that your presenter notes are complete, well formatted, and grammar and spell checked, and you can print your slides to include the presenter notes. Then you can share your slides in a way that may be useful to your audience.
An even better way of sharing your content is to create a separate handout that summarizes or even expands on your presentation. This can be quite time-consuming, but it does add significant value to your presentation. If the presentation is sufficiently important, it may well be worth taking the time to make a top-notch handout.
A third option is to create a self running version of the same presentation. You might use your existing presentation and record a custom sound track, or you may design a unique presentation with additional text slides to explain the content. This third option is also quite time-consuming, but it has several advantages. A self running presentation can be used in a kiosk or a trade show booth. It can be posted on your website, or on sharing sites like YouTube or SlideShare. While an in person presentation may reach an audience of a few dozen, a self running presentation on-line may be viewed by thousands!
Only you can decide which approach is best for your application and your audience,  but do be prepared for the next time someone asks for a copy of your slides!

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Some Great Keynote Shortcuts

I recently ran into a problem setting up to give a Keynote presentation. When I hooked up to the projector, the audience screen was on my laptop, and the presenter’s screen was being projected, and I could not get them to switch. After several minutes of hunting through settings menus, I finally got thinks straightened out.

I seemed to remember hearing a solution to this problem a while ago in a podcast. When I got back to the office, I did some Google research, and sure enough, the answer came from Andy Inhatko in the form of a MacBreak Weekly tip of the week. Andy listed some useful Keynote shortcuts, one of which solved my problem. While giving a presentation, hit “X”, and the audience and presenter’s screens switch. As easy as that! Thanks Andy.

Andy mentioned a couple of other useful shortcuts that I already knew about, but are worth sharing here. Tapping “W” gives you a blank white screen, and “B” gives you a blank black screen. Nice if you want to pause your presentation to answer a question. Touch any key to return to your presentation. Sometimes, you need to quickly hop out of Keynote to run some other program (your web browser for example). Just type an H, and the last run application will appear. Type a C while your presentation is running, and your cursor will appear on-screen (use is sort of like a laser pointer). Type C again, and it’s gone. Be careful using this one, if you click the mouse button, or hit any other key, your presentation will end!

There is a complete list of Keynote keyboard shortcuts HERE.

Not using Keynote? Powerpoint has a similar set of Keyboard shortcuts, found HERE.

If you are a Mac user, and you aren’t using Keynote, you really should check it out. The software is only $19.99 in the App store.