If you're responsible for the whole event, you'll need to consider a handful of ancillary tasks that aren't part of your presentation, yet have a huge impact on your audience's experience and therefore their receptivity to what you're saying.
Know how to unlock the doors, adjust the lights, and control the temperature. If you have to dim the lights to see the screen, make sure there's a light projecting on wherever you're speaking from so your audience can see you.
If you have control over the way the room is set up, place the podium at center stage and your screen off to the side. The slides are for speaker supportwhat you're saying is the main attraction.
Set up and test the equipment, or coordinate with your tech support people who'll be running the lights and the public address system. Try everything well ahead of time so you can solve any problems before the audience arrives.
If your audio person needs to manage inputssay, from your laptop's sound output to your microphoneprint a slide list for him (see Section 11.2) with all the audio cues clearly indicated. For example, he might need to fade out the "walk in" music and turn on your microphone input; or he may need to turn up the sound from your computer's audio during a part of the presentation, while at the same time turn off your mic.
Set up tables or set out information packets or programs.
Make sure there are clear signs prominently posted to help attendees find the room so they know they've come to the right place.
Figure out the parking situation, handicapped access, and restroom locations.
Meet people as they come in to make them feel welcome and help them get oriented.
When it's time to start and your audience is seated, don't launch right into your program. First do your best to put your audience at ease, and get them feeling safe and comfortable. Welcome them, introduce yourself, and tell them what presentation they're attending so they know they're in the right room. Make sure everyone has a seat and a program. Tell them how long the session is, if there's a break, and where the bathrooms are.
Go over any special ground rules for the event, such as confidentiality or nondisclosure agreements. Explain how you'd like to handle questions from the audiencewhether they should shout them out at any time, save them until the end, line up at a microphone, or whatever.
Tell them they don't need to take notes because your slides are either included in their information packet, or available online at the Web address listed in their program ( assuming you've arranged for that to happen, of course). Note where you'll be immediately after the presentation for people who have further questions, and indicate if they can contact you by email.
Explaining these seemingly simple things to your audience may seem like a waste of time, but it actually serves to increase their comfort level, lower their defenses, and make them feel like they're part of the groupall of which will make them better and more receptive listeners.
The time has come to finally talk about your topic. Try to open with a bangcatch the attention of your audience and tell them how this presentation is going to be valuable to them, and what they're going to take away from it.
At this point, you may want to query your listeners to see how they relate to your topicboth for your own benefit and theirs. Ask for a show of hands: "How many of you are running OS X Server?" "Who has, or has a loved one who's had, breast cancer?" "How many of you are parents of seventh or eighth graders?"
Choose your questions so all the audience members see themselves as part of one or another of these groups. The responses you get will give you a better idea of the makeup of the audienceand it helps everyone feel like they belong as they identify with others who respond similarly.
Finally, consider telling your listeners that you certainly don't want to waste anyone 's time and if, for example, they have absolutely no interest in learning your "never-fail opening lines for telemarketers ," they're free to get up and leave.
Now that your audience has told you something about themselves, tell them something about yourself. For example: why are you especially qualified to speak on your topic?
Try to transition smoothly from the introduction to the meat of your presentation. After all your preparation, planning, and practice the presentation should be a piece of cake. Actually, it should be fun! You've got great information, you know it inside and out, and you've tailored it to this particular group of people. Relax and enjoy the process of sharing. During your talk, keep these points in mind:
If you don't feel relaxed , fake it. Your audience will never know the difference. Never make apologies for being nervous.
Speak to the audience; don't just read from a script or recite. Look your listeners in the eyein all parts of the room.
Don't stare at your laptop or look behind you at the screen.
Enthusiasm is contagious; let the audience see how enthusiastic you are about your topic.
Vary your cadence when speaking; pauses are powerful.
Don't read your slides (unless there's a compelling need to for the benefit of blind or foreign-language speaking members of the audience).
If you have a slide full of text, it probably doesn't need to be therethat's what should be in your speech. In fact, don't even use complete sentences in your slides; sentences belong in your speech.
Don't hide behind your slideshow. Remember, the slides are there to support you .
Wrap up your presentation with a review. This is when you "tell them what you told them." Let audience members know what you hope they've gained from this presentation and what you expect them to do with it: buy your product, sign up for a time share, host a foreign-exchange student, or whatever.
Make any other concluding statements, put up a slide with your contact information, and remind them where you'll be after the presentation if they have more questions.
Explain how you sincerely want their feedback on this presentation so that you can improve it in the future. Urge them to take a moment to fill out feedback forms, if you've chosen to prepare them.
Finally, thank them for coming and for their attention, and take a bow as the audience applauds and cheers.
You've completed your presentation. You think you did a pretty good job: the audience applauded, no rotten fruits or vegetables hit the stage, and several people told you, "Nice job." But how can you be sure? Getting feedback is a step that's often overlooked, and while not appropriate for every presentation, it's a vital tool for judging your success using something other than guesswork. Audience feedback can tell you whether you succeeded in getting your message across, how useful the information is to the audience, and how you might improve the presentationor similar presentationsnext time.
The quickest, most directand least accuratefeedback method is to simply question your listeners and ask for a show of hands (see the following sidebar "Feedback Fundamentals"). If you go this route, design your questions carefully , because you can only ask about three or four without annoying most folks.
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Gathering feedback from your audience shouldn't be an afterthought. It's the only way you'll know how well you're doing and how you can do better in the future. Whether you just ask for a show of hands or provide an evaluation form, the information you receive is invaluable.
For example, say your presentation is entitled "Controlling Gophers in Your Yard and Garden." You're presenting to a group of organic gardeners, many of whom you know object to killing animals. Your goal is for the members of the audience to learn about and choose from different methods of gopher control appropriate to their situation and their ethical values.
If you only have time for raised-hands feedback, you might want to ask your audience the following questionsand be sure to write down your estimate of their responses:
If you have a lot riding on the outcome of your presentation, consider hiring a professional evaluator to design evaluation forms and help you interpret the results. There are many different approaches to designing these forms. The type of presentation you're giving and the type of outcome you're hoping for will determine the kinds of questions you need to ask.
You can design evaluation questions as review questions (to see if your listeners recall the points you made) or you can ask participants what they got out of the presentation. Questions can be answered with a simple yes or no, with a set of multiple-choice answers, or according to a rating scale. Open-ended, essay -type questions are the ones people are most likely to skip, but these responses reveal most about what your listeners are really walking away with (Figure 8-2).
The primary goal for your evaluation should be to determine whether or not your audience understood the point you were trying to make. You should be direct. Come right out and ask how successful you've been in achieving your goal. For example, you could provide yes, undecided , and no checkboxes to answer this kind of question:
My intention was that after this presentation you would :
Be inspired to learn more about ivory-billed woodpeckers and the issues surrounding their habitat protection .
Have at least one new idea about how to teach old dogs new tricks .
Tell your friends how great our new Daytona Beach condos are and that you're going to buy one .
Other questions can best be answered using multiple-choice checkboxes.
The information presented today was :
Too basic. I knew most of it already .
Right at my level .
Far too complex .
Include questions about what would've made this presentation more likely to succeed or what you could improve on the next time. These kinds of questions are better answered using a rating scale like the following:
Neither agree nor disagree
Appropriate rating-scale questions include:
The presenter seemed knowledgeable and prepared .
The presentation needed more personal anecdotes .
The presentation needed fewer personal anecdotes .
The technical information was clearly presented .
I would like to have seen more charts and graphs .
The presentation needed fewer visuals .
The presentation needed more visuals .
The presentation needed better jokes .
There should've been more time for questions .
You can use another type of question to determine how much your participants have learned from the presentation or how their outlook has changed. These questions elicit a two-part response: where the individual was at the beginning of the presentation and where she was at the end. The responses show how much of an affect you've had on your listeners. These kinds of questions are the best way to really judge your successhowever, they are also more difficult and time-consuming for the participant to answer.
Before this presentation, I'd rate my understanding of gopher-control methods in the garden as :
I knew absolutely nothing .
I'd heard of the problem .
I knew a little bit .
I had above-average knowledge .
I was an expert .
After this presentation I'd rate my understanding of gopher-control methods in the garden as :
I know absolutely nothing .
Now I've heard of the problem .
I know a little bit .
I have above-average knowledge .
I am an expert .
The final part of the evaluation should ask open-ended questions that your audience members can answer with a word, a sentence , or more. To get people thinking of their own answers, you should give some sample responses to these open-ended questions. Research shows you should give three sample responses.
For example, "How could we improve today's presentation? (By using clearer descriptions. By covering less information more thoroughly. By using more visuals.)"
Follow the question with several blank lines for the answer.
The last question on your evaluation should always be something like, "Please use this space for any other comments or suggestions you have regarding today's presentation. Use the back of the page if necessary. Thank you for taking the time to fill out this evaluation."
When you ask your listeners to fill out an evaluation, you're turning the tables on themasking them to give you information. It's not always easy to get your audience to cooperate, so consider using some kind of incentive. For example, you could give a small gift in exchange for completed evaluation forms or use the forms in a drawing for door prizes.