I’ve been presenting for years. I enjoy doing it. But I still get a little bit nervous every time. And I’m okay with that. It reminds me that presentations matter to me. If I didn’t care about communicating clearly or connecting with my audience, I probably wouldn’t get those butterflies in my stomach before a presentation.
But I’ll let you in on a little secret. It’s not the presenting itself that makes me the most nervous. It’s the stuff that I have the least amount of control over–the technology. The audio and visual components of my presentation have been known to keep me up at night. That’s because I’ve seen how quickly technology issues can derail a presentation, and I don’t want that to happen to me. Or to anyone!
So in order to put worries at ease, I developed a simple 2-part checklist that I always do before the audience shows up. First, I check the functionality of my slide deck and second, I check my audio levels. This practice gives me confidence to go into my presentation knowing that I’ve done everything I can to make sure it runs smoothly. Here’s the process I follow.
Slide Deck Functionality
Sometime before the start of my presentation, I do a “dress rehearsal.” This is a term taken from theater. The idea is to account for every detail that will be used in a live performance. For a presentation, that means running the presentation in the same space and using the same technology that I’ll be using the day of. If I have time to run my full presentation, I always do so. But if I don’t, a quick check works fine. Here’s what I’m checking for:
- The slide deck is responding to any slide remote I might be using and advances smoothly and quickly
- The presentation looks okay on the screen (I’m checking that the colors are adjusted properly, the resolution is good, and the presentation is set to the correct screen size)
- Any links embedded within the presentation pull up correctly on command, run as expected, and stop after viewing (For more information on embedding videos and setting up how they function, check this out.)
- The slide transitions are working and any dynamic movement within the presentation is functioning properly
The other thing I always check ahead of time are the audio cues and volume levels within my presentation. This includes my microphone if I am using one. I have seen speakers forget to check these things ahead of time, and it’s always awkward to watch them fumble to adjust the volume during the presentation. It interrupts the flow and can negatively impact your credibility as a speaker because you seem unprepared.
As you are checking the audio levels, remember that things can sound very different on the stage than they do out in the audience. So walk around the room and test the volume from several places. On the day of the presentation, the audience will soak up a little of the sound, so if you are testing the levels in an empty room, it’s okay to set the volume just a tad higher. Dr. of Electroacoustics Richard A. Honeycutt says, “full occupancy has small but noticeable effects upon the acoustics of the room.” If you want to read more about how people affect the acoustics of a room, check out his full article here.
This 2-part checklist is not some magic formula that insures nothing will go wrong with your presentation. You can have a perfect run-through and still encounter technology issues on the day of the presentation. But those true malfunctions are much more rare than the issues that come up from someone simply not taking time to check them ahead of time. So, first check how your slide deck is functioning, and then adjust your audio levels.
If you’ve checked everything ahead of time and something still goes wrong after that, just make sure to handle it as smoothly as possible. Don’t get ruffled. Remember that pretty much everyone in your audience has gotten flummoxed and frustrated by technology at some point, so use it as a way to connect. Make a joke. Take a few seconds to try to fix it. And if you can’t, just move on without it. Use the ancient art of storytelling to explain in detail what they would have seen or heard had things worked as you planned. You can’t always control how the technology will function, but you can always control how your presentation goes. It may not run smoothly like your dress rehearsal, but that doesn’t mean it can’t still be a great show.
For more tips on presentations from design to delivery, check out the resources available at Ethos3. And contact us today to find the perfect solution to your presentation needs.