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How Great Virtual Moderators Avoid These 5 Presentation Blunders

Tuesday, October 10, 2017 - 12:00
Presentation Mistakes

In a recent column for Inc. magazine, professional speaker and best-selling author Shawn Doyle rolls out his seven cardinal sins of presenting. Here’s a digest:

  1. Turning your back on the audience.
  2. Reading from your slides.
  3. Treating your slides like a script, not a backdrop.
  4. Showing complex charts and graphs.
  5. Considering PowerPoint a presentation instead of a tool for presenting.
  6. Using font sizes so small text is unreadable and graphics so intricate they’re inscrutable.
  7. Turning down the lights, making the room dark and the audience sleepy.

Doyle believes these errors arise from a misguided mindset: “Remember that giving a presentation is about communication and conversation, not presentation.”

Communications coach and presentation specialist Stephanie Scotti elaborates on Doyle’s perspective in a piece for SmartBrief.

“The very best public speakers approach presenting as a conversation. Consider the most skilled and effective speakers you’ve heard. In a room of hundreds or even thousands, the speaker’s relationship with the audience feels intimate, doesn’t it?”
– Stephanie Scotti

Engaging, effective conversing, Scotti explains, is all about your intent. When talking casually with a friend or colleague, your typical objectives are:

  • Sharing ideas, opinions and information
  • Helping listeners understand your point of view
  • Entertaining or eliciting emotion in the other person

“Those are the same goals you’re looking to accomplish with a business presentation, aren’t they?” she argues. So, why not treat any presentation in any setting like a conversation?

Moderating Tools Can Transform Online Presentations into Collaborative Conversations

In their respective articles, Doyle and Scotti refer to speaking during meetings in person rather than by internet. In fact, two of Doyle’s primary pieces of advice are “ban the PowerPoint” and “burn the podium.” Well, in virtual settings, conveying information, even in modest detail, becomes much more difficult without some way to show and share materials such as slides or documents.

And for her part, one of Scotti’s keys is making eye contact, which is very tricky when addressing a group of meeting participants who are not all sitting in the same room. Sure, video conferencing helps, but meeting the gaze of everyone involved remains a challenge.

But Doyle and Scotti are espousing guiding principles more than providing specific techniques. When exhorting speakers to prohibit PowerPoint and pitch podiums, Doyle is talking about removing obstacles between you and your audience. And when Scotti encourages eye contact, she means to inspire moderators to engage the participants in their meetings. So, we analyzed the counsel offered by Doyle and Scotti to discover the five essential presentation problems they address – we believe one or more of our moderating tools can address these gaffes nicely.

5 Common Presenting Mistakes and How Moderating Tools Mitigate Them

Blunder #1: Allowing Obstacles

If the point of any presentation is to, as Scotti elaborates, “inform, persuade or entertain listeners,” then we’re seeking a connection with others. So, why would we tolerate barriers between us and our audience? During a live presentation, a podium is a literal obstacle, an object between you and the people listening to you. In a virtual setting, distance is the figurative divider. Our moderating tools make sharing slides, files and applications as simple and easy as sliding a packet of handouts across a conference room table. Another way to bridge digital space is sparking engagement with an opening poll.

Blunder #2: Standing Still

Anyone who has watched a TED Talk appreciates the power of movement during a presentation. Indeed, meeting moderators are tied to their desktops, laptops and smartphones during a virtual session. But that physical restriction need not limit their creativity. Try using the zoom tools to add motion to static slides and documents. Try annotating these items in real time, too. And remember a little rehearsal goes a long way with these techniques.

Blunder #3: Forsaking Fun

“You have to entertain them, or audience members will check out quickly, and you will lose them,” Doyle writes. But you don’t have to be a veteran performer to be entertaining. Maybe play a few video clips using our sharing tools. And consider injecting a little humor. One of my recent posts shares a few pointers for doing so in a virtual setting.

Blunder #4: Opting for Oration

Scotti observes that some speakers automatically raise their pitch and vocal volume when addressing more than one other person, even in virtual environments. This tendency can come across like shouting, she cautions. Her guidance is: “Forego talking at people and instead talk with them using an animated expression, a conversational tone and volume, and appropriate hand gestures.” Video conferencing is an obvious facilitator for this approach, but don’t underestimate what you can accomplish with inflection and cadence.

Blunder #5: Smothering with Structure

The crux of several of Doyle’s “cardinal sins” is adhering rigidly to the bullet points and text on the screen. If great presenting is like friendly conversation, drop some formality. Address participants by name occasionally. After all, as the moderator, you have a list of everyone attending available to you. And of course, keep courtesy in mind and include everyone involved – within reason.

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