At a recent ATD International Conference & Exposition, I presented in an auditorium that seats almost 2,000 people. The layout and dynamics of a larger space is very different from those of a room designed for 300 or fewer. To be prepared, I asked for permission to enter the auditorium the day before. I walked the space by myself and checked my connections. I tested ways of moving through the space. I jumped on and off the stage to see how it felt. I presented out loud and imagined an audience. I made myself more comfortable with the space to eliminate as many new and unexpected variables as possible.
For me, presenting live evokes the most anxiety. Fear itself can cause that which I dread the most: looking foolish, forgetting what I wanted to say, or a technical issue from which I cannot recover. I want to diminish my worries and be confident and comfortable. To do so, I practice and know my material. I have a backup plan and will walk the space before I present. I recommend you do the same.
When it’s time to give your live class, here are several in-person presentation rules to keep in mind:
Arrive EarlyGive yourself time to set up, check the space, and modify, request, or acquire anything as needed. For example, the room may not be configured as you requested, or perhaps the projector hasn’t been delivered yet. More time allows you to resolve issues with far less angst.
Know How to Adjust the Lighting and SoundIf your audience cannot clearly hear or see your content, your presentation will be less successful. When I arrive early, I test the audio and learn how to control the lights. (If AV professionals are present, work with them to set up the audio and visual equipment to your requirements.) No one enjoys constant buzzing, humming, or feedback, so make sure your audio is clear. Lighting helps control where your audience is looking. For example, during my presentation, lights are dimmed for maximum slide legibility, and during an exercise, they’re brightened.
Know How to Resolve Technical IssuesWhat do you do in the event of a technological problem? Know whom to call for technical support. Keep the correct adapters for VGA or HDMI connections in case the facility does not supply them. Have extra batteries or know where to get them. Know how to contact technical support for a quick response. Be ready for anything—even if that means having a workaround in the event that technology fails. For instance, I once arrived early to set up for a workshop. I connected my computer to the projector and nothing happened; the projector did not sync with my computer. I tried every trick I knew, but nothing worked. Luckily, I had a copy of my PowerPoint presentation on an external drive. I copied the file to another computer, connected to the projector, and everything worked perfectly. Whew!
Move AroundAvoid being stationary, unless it is your preferred style or the situation requires it. Moving channels nervous energy. Walking through the space freely reminds your audience that you are comfortable being the host. If the event is being recorded, work with the videographer to know the safe zones so you do not leave the frame.
Do Not Read From Your Slides or ScriptAttendees want you to be the expert. Reading from a script indicates that you aren’t familiar with the material. Also, a lack of learner eye contact while scanning your pages stifles engagement. If you have text that is meant to be read, invite your audience to do so. When text appears on your slides and attendees read it to themselves, you are interrupting. If you want people to read the slide, ask them to take a moment to do so and then address the content.
Use Your Laptop or Monitor as a PrompterIn the Slide Show function of PowerPoint, choose between standard view (Slide Show) or Presenter View. Standard view mirrors what is displayed on the projector, whereas Presenter View shows the current and upcoming slides, your speaker notes, presenter controls, and a timer. Alternatively, you can use cue cards or other notes, if needed. Choose what works best for you; it comes down to personal preference and the space. For example, if you don’t have access to a teleprompter, then cue cards are best, if you need them. You can further customize how your PowerPoint presentation is shown using the Slide Show tab. You can change monitors, present on two monitors, advance slides automatically, and much more under Slide Show. It is a simple interface and easy to learn.
Face Your AudienceAvoid turning your back to your learners. Walk backward, if you can. Would you turn your back to someone with whom you were speaking? I hope not. It’s acceptable if it happens occasionally, but steer clear of frequently doing so out of respect for your learners. Watch their body language. If you see signs of disinterest, adjust your presentation as needed. For example, if I see that someone is distracted, I’ll ask the audience a question and prompt that distracted learner to answer it.
Do Not Compete With Your SlidesRemember that your presentation is a conversation. The focus should be on you and not your slides. Slides support the presenter, not the other way around. If it is just a slide show, then why are you there? Also, when you want the focus to be anywhere else but your slides, click the B key, which will cause the screen to go black. Press the B key again to return to your normal screen.
Editor’s note: This post is excerpted from A Trainer’s Guide to PowerPoint (coming out October 2018). Check it out for more insight and advice.