As a speaker, technology can be one of your greatest friends. But it can also be one of your greatest enemies, as we have all seen a speaker go down in flames due to a technical glitch in their presentation.
Can it be prevented 100% of the time? Of course not, but there are certain steps you can take to minimize the chances of a technology snafu negatively impacting your presentation.
Technology can encompass many things in the speaking world so let’s talk about different technology-related topics—things that can impact you both on the platform and in the back-of- the-room. Things like:
- Mobile Technology
- Presenter Tools
- Back-of-the-Room Technology
- And More
Your effective use of technology in your presentation can have a dramatic impact of your ability to share your message effectively with your audience. For example, if you tend to ramble as a speaker then the use of PowerPoint or Keynote can help keep you on track with your presentation.
Don’t put every word that you are going to say in your PowerPoint. No one wants to hear you read your PowerPoint. Use a picture to remind yourself what you wanted to talk about next. Your audience will glance at your picture on the screen and then immediately refocus their attention on you.
If you are going to incorporate text into your PowerPoint, you should have no more than 4-5 bulleted items on a single slide. A combination of text and video is also fine as long as you keep the text to a minimum. You can also incorporate video into a PowerPoint presentation, but you should never, ever, ever try to pull a video directly from the Internet, whether it is a YouTube video or something you are pulling from another site.
You simply cannot trust the reliability of an Internet connection in any meeting room, even if the hotel or promoter tells you they have Wi-Fi in place. While an actual live demo of you performing some task online in real time can be impressive, if the Internet connection fails it can really kill the momentum of your presentation.
Instead, embed that video right into your PowerPoint so that you are not reliant upon an Internet connection over which you have no control. As a speaker you should always control those things which you have the ability to control to increase your chances of success.
Cross platform issues can also arise with PowerPoints. If you work on a MAC typically, but the event promoter is using a PC-based system at their event then you can have a problem. Never wait until the last minute to make sure your PowerPoint is going to work on the stage computer. You should save any presentation to PDF as a backup plan.
Some promoters will allow you to bring your own computer to hook up at the event. Just make sure you know in advance how all of this will be handled so you do not get hit with any unexpected surprises.
A second seemingly innocuous technology that can create unexpected problems for you as a speaker is the microphone. There are four basic types of microphones that might be available to you as a speaker. These are handheld microphones, over-the-ear microphones, lavaliere microphones and podium-mounted microphones.
Most people are familiar with your typical handheld microphone. Using this type of microphone can be a real challenge for many speakers, as they tend to be very expressive with their hands and they forget that if you do not hold the microphone at about chin level consistently not everything they say is being heard by their audience.
An over-the-ear microphone frees up your hands if you are that “expressive” speaker that likes to use their hands. If you normally wear earrings however, you may want to be sure they are not dangly earrings, as they can create unwanted noise or other problems.
A lavaliere microphone, also known as a lapel mic, is a small microphone that is typically clipped onto your clothing to allow hands-free operation. The cord may be hidden by your clothes and either run to a radio frequency transmitter or a pocket-sized digital audio recorder that you keep in your pocket or clip to your belt. With a lavaliere microphone you also want to be sure you are not wearing any jewelry or have clothing that can negatively impact your sound quality.
Just as dangly earrings can create an issue with an over-the-ear microphone, a large dangly necklace can create audio issues with a lavaliere microphone. Also, if you have long hair you should wear it over your ears.
When speaking at some events you may be given a podium with a mounted microphone. While we recommend working the entire stage to establish better rapport with your audience sometimes that simply is not possible if you have to speak at the podium and the microphone is fixed. Be sure, if at all possible, to get to the microphone in advance of your presentation so you can determine the optimal distance from the microphone from which you should speak.
To control your PowerPoint, you should always carry your own clicker to any event at which you are going to speak. We have seen many a speaker stumble around with a clicker they are unfamiliar with and it can cause a really herky-jerky presentation. You should be well-practiced with your own clicker and know the sensitivity of the buttons.
If you have an opportunity to get on stage prior to your presentation to test the range of your clicker and where you need to point it for best results you should definitely do so. This is also a good time for you to do a pre-presentation run through of your PowerPoint to make sure they are able to play it without issue.
You should also walk around the stage while you are miked up to test for spots you should avoid walking into during your presentation because that spot is sensitive to sound interference that can create an ear shattering unpleasant experience for your audience.
Technologies now exist that can allow you to capture audience information automatically via their smart phones or other portable devices. We have seen some speakers offer a copy of their PowerPoint presentation to the audience if they text something to a certain number. They are then automatically added to their list and they are able to do follow-up marketing to them. With open rates on text messages hovering around 98% it is a very hot technology right now.
Of course, you will want to check in advance with the event promoter to make sure they are okay with you giving their audience something for free. Some may not allow it because they view it as an attempt to “harvest” their list.
Many event promoters these days make “tools” available to you to help you keep on track with your presentation. They have given you an allotted time frame and you should stick to it. So you may have a large monitor, typically called a “confidence monitor,” in front of the stage facing you that you can see but the audience cannot.
This monitor will show your PowerPoint and, in some cases, also show you the next slide in your presentation in addition to the current slide that your audience is seeing. You should never have to turn your back to your audience with the monitor in front of the stage facing you.
This monitor can also usually feature a countdown timer that shows you how much time you have left in your presentation. At lower tech events your countdown timer may be nothing more than someone in the back of the room displaying cards that say 30 minutes—15 minutes—10 minutes—5 minutes— Time’s Up. If they are going the low-tech route, be sure you know in advance who will be displaying these signs and where they will be standing so you know where to look.
If you are speaking at an event that you will be selling at it is important you understand what back-of-the-room order taking technologies will be utilized. First and foremost, who is responsible for processing your sales—you or the promoter?
If the promoter is processing the sales are they doing it in real time or are they just collecting those order forms and processing them later? And who is responsible for providing those order forms—you or the promoter?
If the promoter will be managing the entire sales process be sure they clearly understand what your offer(s) will be in advance. Always make yourself available to answer questions
about your offer after your presentation and, if possible, bring your own assistant or trained staff to assist at the sales table, especially if you are selling a big-ticket item.
Whether it is you or the promoter actually processing the sales, if you are just taking orders at the event and the processing will occur later, you should always have a triplicate order form—one copy for you, one for the buyer, and one for the promoter. Triplicate order forms are available at my website MyEventMaterials.com.
If responsibility for the processing of your orders falls to you then you will need to decide if you want to process in real time or not. You always recommend real time processing, if possible, because if there are any issues with someone’s credit card you can address it on-site rather than having to follow up later. And, obviously, the quicker you process the quicker you will receive the money.
There are some great technologies such as Square you can use with a smart phone or table or other applications that allow you to process your sales on-site. Take advantage of these.
Technology is great, but it can also be a great pain. Plan and test ahead of time whenever you can to avoid problems such as cross channel mismatches and other issues.