Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Presentation Tip: Don't start with an apology

It happens at too many conferences every day. A speaker starts with an apology, and by doing so, sets the wrong tone for their presentation. Apologies destroy your credibility with the audience and put you in the wrong frame of mind, which leads you to not deliver the presentation you had hoped. I see it happen so often that in this article I want to share the three most common apologies I hear and what presenters should do instead.

The first type of apology presenters use is to apologize for their lack of ability presenting. They might say that they are nervous, not prepared, or aren't very good at speaking. What this does is suggest to the audience that they are in for an uncomfortable experience. The audience has an immediately negative impression of what is going to be presented. If you have been asked to present at a conference and don't have a lot of experience or comfort, make the time to prepare for the presentation. Plan your message and review it with others who are familiar with the audience and expectations of the conference. Reserve time in your schedule to rehearse your presentation. By rehearsal I mean standing and delivering your presentation in a room that hopefully gives a sense of how the room will be set up at the conference. Rehearse until you are comfortable with the presentation. If you need help planning your presentation, use the RAPIDS approach in my latest book Present It So They Get It.

The second apology I hear is when the presenter says something like, "I am not sure how to follow such a great presentation." By inviting the audience to negatively compare you to what they have just seen, you predispose them to not like what you will say. This apology is related to the first one because at the root is a lack of confidence that you can be considered an effective presenter. I believe that presentation skills can be learned, it is not something you either have or don't have. Be confident that you have prepared well and that your message is something the audience wants to hear. One way to be inspired to get better is to watch great presentations that have been delivered at TED conferences. Go to their website at TED.com or watch on one of their mobile apps. TED speakers carefully craft their presentation with the help of top coaches, and you can learn from watching the resulting presentation.

The third apology is one I hear from presenters who speak after me at conferences. The apology goes something like, "I know Dave Paradi is here and I apologize in advance because my slides don't follow the principles he just spoke about." It can be an apology for slides, clothes, video, or any other aspect of the presentation. They may refer to an expert who is at the event, or someone who is well known to the audience. By using this apology, you put yourself down and promote the expert instead. If you are following an expert at a conference, don't mention any differences with the ideas they shared and instead, proceed to do your best. If you know you need help in an aspect of presenting, get the coaching and help you need so you don't feel embarrassed and apologize to the audience. 

If you are tempted to apologize at the start of your presentation, stop yourself. Instead of apologizing, resolve to be better next time and do the best job possible delivering this presentation. If you make a mistake during the presentation, don't apologize or correct yourself unless it is a factual error. No one will know what was supposed to happen. By apologizing, you diminish the effectiveness of your presentation. Prepare, plan, rehearse, and get the coaching you need to be an effective presenter.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Presentation Tip: Presenting legal/regulatory quotes

Yesterday I spoke to a conference of real estate and legal professionals about how to create more effective PowerPoint slides when giving training sessions. They commonly show quotes or regulations from legal documents in their training sessions. Often presenters end up just reading the text of a paragraph because there doesn't seem to be any better way to present this type of information. In this article, I want to share some tips for presenting legal or regulatory quotes.

As much as we would like to be able to avoid sentences or paragraphs of text on the slide, the reality is that we are sometimes required to show the entire text because it is important to discuss with the audience. One of the ways to focus the audience on an important phrase or words is to highlight them on the screen like you would use a highlighter on a page in a manual or book. While PowerPoint does not have a highlighter function, you can achieve the same result by having a rectangle appear using the Wipe animation effect behind the important text. Each item on a slide is on its own layer, so you can draw the rectangle over the text and then move it behind the text. If you use this technique and the audience has the text in a handout, ask them to highlight the text in their handout so they will remember the point you are making.

Another technique for focusing the audience on a portion of text is to make the selected text zoom out of the paragraph on the slide. Start by showing the entire paragraph of text on the slide. Then have a callout shape, such as a rounded rectangle, indicate where in the paragraph you want the audience to focus. Finally, have a larger version of the text zoom out on the slide so the text is larger and easier to read for the audience. You can create a large version of the text by creating a new text box and increasing the font size.

If your text is copied from a PDF document, it will appear on the slide like an image. You can use one of the image tools to help make the text easier to work with. To remove the white background behind the text, use the Set Transparent Color tool. Select the background of the text and the tool will make the background transparent. Now you can use the highlight technique above if you want to. To use the Zoom In technique with a text image, you make a second copy of the image, use the cropping tool to remove the text you don’t need, and stretch the image so it becomes larger.

After you have shown the text and explained it, I suggest you also demonstrate what the text means by using a visual, such as a photo or diagram. This makes the meaning easier for the audience to remember. For example, one of the topics in real estate is how funds collected for transactions are held separate from the real estate company's operating funds. After you show the regulation that states this, why not show a diagram with two bank accounts, one labeled as customer deposits and the other as operating funds. It makes the meaning of the text more real. 

Sometimes you can't avoid putting a large amount of text on a slide, especially if you are presenting legal or regulatory topics. Use these tips to make the presentation more interesting for the audience. These tips will also make it more interesting for you as the presenter and you will avoid reading the slides to your audience.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Presentation Tip: Repurpose your presentation as a web video

If you read the statistics about online video, you will see that online video is growing dramatically. And it is not just people watching funny cat videos. Executives and professionals are watching video online and making decisions based on the content and quality of what they watch. Earlier this year I was hired to speak because a C-level executive watched my video online.

The expectations of online video have changed. A slick professional video is not expected, and too fancy of a video could be seen as trying too hard to impress. Viewers are looking for insightful content, which you already have in your presentations. One of the quickest and most cost effective ways to create online video for your organization is to repurpose an existing presentation. Here are four ways you can create an online video from a presentation.

Option 1: Use a product like Camtasia (www.techsmith.com) that records your screen and you speaking at the same time. This allows you to capture everything in your presentation, all the builds, animation and content. It syncs your voice perfectly with the visuals because they are being captured at the same time. Camtasia is a paid product, but TechSmith also offers Jing, a free product for videos under five minutes long.

Option 2: Use an online meeting service that allows you to record the meeting. Since your screen or slides are being shown using the service and you are using the audio system provided by the service, it allows a synchronized recording to be made. I have used GoToMeeting and GoToWebinar to record webinars for years with very high quality recordings resulting from this service.

Option 3: Use a service like Brainshark to create an online video. Brainshark allows you to upload your PowerPoint presentation to their site. You can then add audio via the phone, your computer mic, or MP3 file. The audio is added per slide so your audio is synced with your slides. You can even set when the animation happens on the slide based on your audio. This video can be embedded in your website with easy-to-use code that Brainshark provides.

Option 4: You can create a movie file from images and an audio track. Save all of your slides as PNG images using the Save As function of PowerPoint. This will create one image per slide. Record the audio track using your computer mic and an audio program like Audacity. Now, you can put the two together in a simple movie editing program like the free Windows Movie Maker or iMovie on the Mac. Import the audio track first. Add each slide image, setting the length of time that the image is on the screen to the correct time based on how long you speak about the slide in the audio track. You can add a Fade transition between the slide images to make it look smoother. The result can be output as a movie file.

Once you have a video of your presentation, you can upload it to YouTube or embed it in your website. One easy way to embed the video is to upload it to YouTube and mark the video as Private. This means that no one can search for it on YouTube. Only people who have the exact URL link can watch it. Once it is on YouTube, you can use their code to easily embed it in your website. 

These methods of creating and using a video on your website can be used for product demonstrations or introductions, financial updates, operational change notices, or even customer case studies. By creating a short, 3 to 10 minute video, you capture the attention of web visitors. And by repurposing an existing presentation, you dramatically cut down the cost and effort required to create the video. Now you can extend the reach of your presentations and leverage the effort in creating them.