Not-so-Inconvenient Truths for Remote Presentations


51wTcQtP6vL._SS500_.jpgIt’s okay if you don’t recognize the name Nancy Duarte. You know her work. She is a Principal at Duarte, the agency that designed and produced Al Gore’s stunning Keynote presentation for the movie An Inconvenient Truth. When a business presentation is done really well it can be magical and change your perceptions, as anyone who has gathered for a Steve Jobs keynote knows all too well.

Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking with Ms. Duarte as she is getting ready for the August release of her new book, slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations. While her firm is best known to the public for their work on An Inconvenient Truth, they boast a client list of many Fortune 500 companies.

Not everyone is going to have the chance to deliver their presentation in front of millions with a 50 foot screen behind them. As web workers, we’ve all suffered through those webinars where you have half an eye on the boring, dry PowerPoint in the WebEx window and half an eye on your email. A few of us have had to present such webinars. They’re tough. You have no feedback from body language or eye contact. After all, you can’t hear people nodding and smiling, you can only imagine their nose hitting the keyboard as they doze off. These presentations can be almost as painful for the presenter as the attendee.

Never fear. Nancy offers us some tips for engaging an audience while presenting remotely…

WebinarAudience.jpgStand up: Body posture influences how your voice projects over the phone during an on-line presentation. If you’re scrunched at your computer and over your phone, your voice might not come across with authority. And you could be perceived as unprepared. Pretend that you’re in a real presentation environment. Cover the windows in front of your office, tape pictures of faces on you wall so you have an audience with eye contact, stand up and even use a clicker. It makes a huge difference.

Burst the content: Multitasking is inevitable during your presentation. It’s the nemesis of the medium. Instead of ignoring that reality, you should use it as an opportunity to communicate differently. Create such a visually rich presentations that they won’t cover up your webinar screen with their e-mail screen. Also, raising and lowering your voice creates auditory bursts that are effective and create auditory emphasis within your content. Humor also creates interest. If you sound like you’re having a good time, they’ll want to hang out with the cool crowd. (Wouldn’t it be great if you could add a laugh track to your presentation?)

Present with two: When two people share responsibility in presenting, the audience will tune in each time the presenter changes to the other person. They will feel like there’s a new topic being introduced and the first few seconds will pique their interest. Granted if you can’t sustain the interesting content they might drop off. So the first few seconds after it transitions to a new person there’s a great opportunity to re-engage their interest. Plan those moments out and take advantage of their engagement.

Make it interactive: Take advantage of nature of the web and collect feedback and interact with your audience during the presentation. Most applications have installed extensive feedback mechanisms so that the audience can float questions, chat as a community and give live feedback. If it’s a large on-line audience, it’s best to have an administrator handle the incoming questions and comments. You can also extend the reach of your presentation by recording it and posting it. Then, the audience can watch it (and pause it) in their own timeframes.

Understand the technology: When delivering a presentation on-line each application used to display your content is very different. Host a dry-run of your presentation where you click through ALL your slides. Many of the applications lose transitions, build and animations. What works in PowerPoint might not work in the application hosting your presentation.

Need more inspiration? Nancy points out her favorite sites for presentation tips & tricks:

Sign up for news about Nancy’s book launch here.

Do you have do remote presentations? Share your own experiences in the comments.



It’s also a good idea to provide a back-channel for the audience to participate in. Chances are an informal back-channel will form anyway, if people are engaged with your talk. Using a presentation tool that has a chat room built-in will help ensure that they are still looking at your presentation while they are discussing it amongst themselves. And being clued-in to the back-channel gives you an opportunity to see if your audience finds something you said unclear, or if they are experiencing technical difficulties hearing and seeing you.

Judi Sohn

Jim, I’m still a bit fickle about these things…trying different services as needs change or the next “shiny” comes along. For my personal needs, I like Yugma and for my day job we’re pretty happy with Ready Talk. But ask again tomorrow and I’ll probably have a different answer.

Jim - ki work

Just out of interest – what online webinar systems do people recommend? I’m feeling the one I use ‘cld try harder’

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