Many years ago I was asked to speak for a few minutes on the floor of a huge trade show. I was kicking off a silent auction for charity that was just one of the dozens of activities going on.
I inquired about the mic and was told it was a handheld that worked well. I asked if I could arrive early to do a sound check, but the organizer told me they were setting up just minutes before the start. I had been to the event in the past, so I assumed I could pull it off without difficulty.
But when I took the stage, the handheld squealed. The building echoed like an aircraft hangar. The A/V unit looked like it came from a karaoke bar.
Suffice to say, there are many moving parts and potential pitfalls in a high-stakes keynote or presentation. Microphones, slides, computers, clickers, creaky stages…and any of them has the potential to interfere with your mojo.
Let’s take a tour of FAQs about presentation technology.
Should I buy my own equipment?
The equipment you can control is your own laptop, cables and remote control to advance slides. If you speak often, consider buying your own microphone, and remote clicker for your slides. But if you’re not a technical person, be careful. If you don’t understand receivers, frequencies or the top brand names where this equipment is concerned, you’re better off without them.
If you are technically savvy and make the investment in your own equipment you may still have trouble; many hotels have union contracts or an exclusive agreement with a specific A/V company. Talk with the person responsible for the room setup and A/V long before the event.
Request a lavalier/wireless mic or even the head-worn microphone some professional speakers use. These mics free you up to gesture, move and grow your presence.
If one isn’t available, opt for a hand-held wireless mic. You can still move, but your gestures will be limited.
What if I don’t have a remote clicker?
Never show up relying only on the venue’s projector and the client’s lap top. At Interact we always email the slides to the client, and come with them loaded on one of our own lap tops, complete with remote clicker (we use one by Logitech). It also a good idea to carry a variety of cables that allow you to connect with different model projectors.
The best scenario for the speaker who wants to command their slides is to move, connect with people and gesture freely. To do this, use a wireless mic and have a remote clicker.
If the equipment is limited and you’re stuck with a stationary mic at the podium, make sure you are animated from the waist up. Don’t become a mannequin behind a piece of furniture.
Turn your shoulders toward slightly toward each slide of the room from time to time. Use your eyes to connect and shorten the distance between you and the audience.
How should I arrange the monitor?
Position a monitor in front of you—on a table or the floor. This way you can glance at it while facing the audience.
Remember that the slides are not your note cards. It’s crucial to know your material so well that you can give us the summary of your slides without craning your neck to see the screen. Otherwise you might treat the screen like the source of energy in the room.
Speakers often make the mistake of looking at and talking to the screen as though it were the expert in the room. They gesture to it, read from it and step to and from the screen. Suddenly the audience is looking only at the screen and you have lost ownership of the material.
Is it okay to use notes?
Okay, notes aren’t technically “technology” but they are often part of the mix. It’s fine to check your notes for reference, but not to read, which will disconnect you from the audience and interrupt the flow of your talk.
Practice and preparation make up the heart and grit required to give a great talk. Despite the reward, many people don’t realize it until they’re in front of the room.
A few bullets and a basic outline are all that you need to stay on track with a conversational delivery of material you know so well it comes from deep down in your bones!
What do I do when things go wrong anyway?
When you find yourself in an aircraft hangar with a squealing mic, the show must go on. Use the equipment the good Lord gave you:
- Put the mic down
- Step out to the end of the stage
- Speak slowly and turn up the volume and projection on your voice
- Don’t try to be a comedian, but laugh it off (“I think this is a sign that they don’t want me to speak too long”)
- Shorten your comments and ask the audience to use the extra time to bid heavily