Let’s admit it, we’ve all been there. You’re at a conference and eager for the speaker, we’ll call him “Joe” to get started. Only there is some sort of technical glitch. Maybe the PowerPoint slides won’t advance. “Wait a minute, I’ll get this taken care of,” Joe says. Or perhaps the slides advance, but they don’t line up with what Joe is saying. “Oops, back that up,” he might say to an assistant or conference staffer.
But technical stuff can happen, and so I think most of us are pretty forgiving about such snafus. But if these sorts of goofs happen time and again throughout the presentation, one can’t help but wonder about the speaker’s qualifications – although Joe might just need to brush up on his technical skills. Still distracting though, isn’t it?
A MUCH bigger pet peeve of mine is when the presenter does little more than recite from the PowerPoint. Referring to it sure, I get that, but reading from it word for word? In such cases, Joe may as well have handed out his PowerPoint on your way in to the conference room, and allowed you to check out a different session!
What to do? I for one am more apt to be engaged when the speaker moves his or her way around the room. There’s nothing like a speaker who stands practically motionless at a podium, sometimes without even having an interesting voice, to put you to sleep! Good speakers know how to talk to you, and not talk at you. Joe needs to smile. Tell a joke. It’ll remind the audience that Joe is a human being and not a talking head.
Second, Joe must not rely so heavily on his technology! As we have all seen at conferences, technology can and does fail, even when it’s run by people who know what they’re doing. There are just too many variables… the conference center’s laptop doesn’t work right, the microphone might have feedback, and so on. Joe needs to be prepared to talk loudly if his mike goes out. Joe should know his material well enough that he can speak about the topic and not just read from it. Joe should also have some thorough, well-written notes he can fall back on if the PowerPoint fails…
… Or better yet, is the PowerPoint even all that necessary? How many slides will attendees remember? Usually not very many. If you do use technology, my experience is that a segment from a movie or other video is much more memorable. I recently attended a conference in which a keynote used clips from the movies Office Space (a favorite of mine!) and Miracle (about the 1980 gold medal-winning U.S. hockey team) to make some important points. Talk about effective!
It’s much more important for speakers like Joe to consider the big picture and not sweat so much about the technical stuff. After all, attendees are there to learn, and not to be dazzled by your video and audio prowess.