Kinect hack for clear presentations

1 11 2011

We stumbled across the ingenious Kinect hack today and just had to share it.

Unless you have the pleasure of presenting at CES or another gala event where the screen can be measured in kilometres rather than feet, getting your positioning right can be a nightmare. Technology like this helps you focus on the presentation itself, rather than where you’re standing and also frees you up to cross the stage to answer questions and engage with the audience.

However, you’ll still need to brush up your presentation skills and make sure your slides are engaging if you want to deliver a truly successful presentation!

Dealing with tough questions from conference audiences

6 05 2011

This morning I came across this piece offering advice for answering tough questions at meetings and events and thought it was worth sharing as tips for dealing with tough questions from the floor at conferences or ambushes from your competitors.

This article offers great advice for ensuring you come over well when without with difficult questions, but doesn’t cover what we believe to be one of the most important steps – preparation. In many cases you will know the likely topics to be raised and can take the time to prepare some stock answers – whether it be making sure you have some helpful facts and figures to hand or just the company line on the issue. This is often overlooked as once you’ve planned your presentation and practiced in front of your mirror all evening it’s easy to forget about the Q&A and making sure you’re prepared for every possibility.

Unfortunately, preparation also has the pitfall of making your response seem prepared and insincere – it’s very important not to appear to be feeding someone a line. You must take the time to digest their question and appear interested. Points 1 and 2 of the linked article go some way to covering this, but it’s also important to pause before answering, helping you look like you’re contemplating the issue rather than towing the company line. Further to point 1, alongside not rushing to offer platitudes you should also be careful not to nod whilst listening to their question (particularly if you’re about to disagree with their opinion!). It’s a very tough line to walk, between being prepared to tackle tough questions and not appear to be fobbing people off with pre-prepared lines, but if you remember to take your time before responding and be prepared to adapt your responses for each question you’ll avoid any disasters.

As a final note, it’s very important to never get angry. Sometimes your competitor will ask an awkward question or make a quip from the show floor that’s solely designed to be inflammatory. It can be hard not to take this personally or see it as an attack, but it’s important not to let this get your back up – if you’re lucky enough to have a keen sense of humour and a quick mind, then quip back and swiftly move on. Otherwise, take the high ground and move the conversation on elsewhere.

Presentation Zen… A long time ago at a conference far far away

2 09 2010

Allow me a very geeky moment to share a post over at Presentation Zen (here). I know we’ve discussed presentations and the need to simplify slides previously, but the point really can’t be made often enough and I’ve frankly never seen it made so well.

Next time you’re prepping slides for a conference think about what you can cut; you want those delegates focusing on you, not reading your slides and missing that carefully crafted speech of yours. More than that, consider where you stand, how you use your slides and rehearse how you’re going to interact with the audience AND your slides.

May the force be with you.

Best practice using PowerPoint

14 04 2010

Think presentation – think PowerPoint.

Sadly this is the case for many professionals and as a result it’s been completely forgotten that PowerPoint is simply a presentation aid – not a presentation in itself. For many presenters, it is a program that is relied on so much that it ends up dominating their presentation, deadening the impact that great content might otherwise have had. Think of the best, most memorable presentations or speeches you have ever heard in your life, and chances are most of them will have either used less than five slides or not used PowerPoint at all. With no complicated slides to distract your eye and mind, you are forced to focus on the person speaking and take in what they are saying. Ever tried to listen to what someone is saying to you while you are reading a book? It is quite difficult to do, and it’s no easier reading busy slides while trying to listen to a presentation.

Use PowerPoint if you must, but keep in mind these tips to ensure that you use it appropriately and that it will aid your presentation – not dominate it:

1. Avoid crowding the slides with too much information

2. Do not rely on PowerPoint to hide poor presenting skills – rather sign up for some presentation training!

3. Do not read off the slides with your back to the audience

4. Make every word and image count – each one should help convey your message

5. Avoid using too many special effects – too much can be distracting

6. Do not use hard to read colour combinations

7. Use as few slides as possible

That’s not to say that PowerPoint doesn’t have its place, and in fact I stumbled upon a good blog post that does a better job than I could of outlining when, where and how to use PowerPoint.

The truth about keynotes: is it THE slot to have?

11 04 2010

Good question.  We often have clients come to us and tell us that they only want a keynote when the speak at a conference.  Fair enough.  A keynote is traditionally the premier slot at any event and for the most part I would agree that this is an excellent slot to have as it sets you apart from competitors and the rest of the speaker list.  But this shouldn’t be used a benchmark for what value you get out of speaking at a conference, or whether you should bother speaking at an event or not.

There are few observations I’d like to share with regard to keynotes….

Audiences are expecting a lot more from conferences these days.  Long gone are the days when delegates were happy to pay full price just to be talked at – they want interactivity, they want to ask questions, they want networking.  In short, they want value for money.   In this respect, keynotes are not also the showpiece of every event and in fact if the conference organisers do a good job at putting them together, panel discussions are much more engaging and exciting for audiences.  A panel full of competitors for example or even representatives of different parts of the industry value chain can really get sparks flying and you often learn more from these sessions then you ever would from the one-way pulpit preaching that a keynote can sometimes be.

Secondly, some conference organisers can be a bit sneaky and many now call any old stand-alone slot a keynote in order to attract higher-level execs to speak at their event.  This can lead to speakers being misled as when most people think of a keynote, they imagine themselves being the first speaker or having a slot that is somehow exclusive.  There can often be disappointment when they arrive and find that they are one of 20 ‘keynote’ speakers throughout the day. Do your research and ask penetrating questions of the organiser about the format and structure of the sessions.

Finally, a keynote slot won’t hide poor presentation skills or a poorly prepared presentation and in fact, with the great expectation that a keynote brings from the audience, it can be detrimental to your communications goals and brand image.  If you are fortunate enough to have secured an opening keynote slot at a great event – PREPARE!  Treat the whole thing like a Broadway musical and practice, practice, practice.  Invest the time and effort in making the content great and the speaker the best he or she can be. It’s a show folks, the audience wants to learn but also be entertained. Many companies that we work with do this exceptionally well and even have a whole internal team dedicated to the task. As a result their presentations are outstanding and they are constantly asked back to present or asked to new events on the back of others.

So step back and have a think about what you want to get out of a conference (sales leads, networking, raise brand profile, etc).  Granted, you don’t want to be stuck in a back room session on the afternoon of the last day of the event, but if the people you want to meet or influence are at the event, chances are you can still be memorable, achieve your objective and gain value from paticipation, regardless of whether you have a keynote slot or not.

The three Ps: Best practice for delivering a conference presentation

9 02 2010


There is already a plethora of useful information available on presentation tips and best practice.  A quick search I did today for presentation tips uncovered some great insight, and one of the most comprehensive lists I found was from Cameron Moll and his 20 tips for better conference speaking.

I’d agree with all of Cameron’s tips with exception perhaps to #3 – ‘always err on the side of being more advanced’.  I hasten to add that this is probably due to the context in which most of my clients speak, which is the tech and telco industry.  Particularly with the recent convergence of technologies, these type of events attract a wide range of audience who represent all different elements of the industry value chain.  Accordingly, there are experts in each field but few that are experts in all fields.  With the tech industry’s penchant for acronyms and tech slang, it’s very easy to present at a level that is too advanced for many in the audience and they will immediately switch off.  In this case you might go from having the attention of 300 delegates to 30 within a slide or two.  Part of getting this right is simply doing the research to know your audience.

I’m not going to go into a lot of detail here, in fact, while I could go on and on there’s only one piece of best practice I’d like to share…and that is the ‘three Ps’:

Prepare, practice and practice!

Preparation is a given. Work out who the audience is and what’s going to interest them, then prepare your content accordingly.  How long have you got?  What are the likely questions you will be asked? What level of detail do I need to go into?  Asking yourself questions like this will ensure you’re delivering a relevant and well received presentation.

As for practice…that’s not a typo. It’s written twice because it’s THAT important.  Once you’ve got your content sorted, stand up in front of a mirror, your partner, cat, house plant – whatever, just get up and present what you’ve got out loud.  You’ll quickly find that you’re horrible and stumble and stutter your way through it.  But, keep doing it and by the third or fourth time you will start to smooth the bumps out and get a flow going.  This will also raise your confidence levels before the big day. Presenting is like acting, you need to practice your lines, timing, delivery, etc.

I believe if more senior executives follwed the three Ps, we’d see a dramatic increase in the quality of conference presentations.