March 5, 2008

Three Permanent Fears For Presenters

You're an experienced presenter. You've overcome a dry throat, a quaky voice and can even answer tough questions from the audience without getting flustered. Three fears remain:
  1. Misreading the audience
  2. Equipment failure
  3. Applause without action
Misreading The Audience
Each audience is different. Is your presentation? It's easy to get into the rut of using a presentation in the wrong place. The content can be too detailed or too simple. The big problem is a mixed audience (e.g., clients, investment advisors and accountants) since the focuses are different.

Equipment Failure
Your computer or projector can fail anytime. You never know. You probably won't bring replacements --- even if you have them. You can take basic precautions, though. For instance, a printed copy of the full presentation is cheap insurance.

You can backup your presentation on a memory stick (though there can be problems with corporate computers reading one). You can email the presentation to yourself, which lets you forward a copy (if there's anyone to forward it too). Incompatibility is a problem too. I've upgraded to PowerPoint 2007, but most computers only have Version 2003 or earlier. As an additional precaution, I save a downgraded presentation in an earlier version.

Having handouts of highlights helps, but you risk the audience looking down at them instead of up at you.

You know how familiar music become fresh when reimagined and performed acoustically? A presentation can too. Unplugging the equipment can invigorate you and engage your audience. Since few are good at speeches, I'd want a whiteboard or flipchart to create visuals. You might want to bring your own markers, just in case ...

Applause Without Action
Out of courtesy, audiences generally applaud. So clapping isn't a great benchmark of success. Action is. The departing audience returns to "normal life". We aren't their focus. So we need to followup.

For me, the worst part is waiting for the audience to arrive. What if it's right-time-wrong-place or right-place-wrong-time?

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