As part of its role The Presenter's Handbook is asked by clients to view and comment on their presentations. This includes the general feelings of the audiences and their perception of the presentation.
On a recent trip to an exhibition I began to query whether the quality of the presentation actually mattered given the very poor presentation facilities open to clients. At The Presenter’s Handbook we feel it is the responsibility of the conference organisers to provide the facilities that allow speakers to present to the best of their ability. Conference organisers need to think long and hard about the venue layout. They have asked presenters to fill the schedule so at least give them the tools to make a good job.
During one trip to an exhibition at the NEC in Birmingham I witnessed the following.
Every presenter had to present from behind a lectern. This automatically creates a barrier between you the presenter and the audience. The one idea of a presentation is to breakdown any barriers between presenter and audience. Let the presenter move around the stage, a radio microphone is inexpensive. All presenters should be using a clicker of some description rather than relying on a mouse click to advance slides.
Visiting several of the break-out theatres created within the exhibition venue the same issue was evident. It is fine having a projection screen but please have it high enough for those at the back to be able to view the slide content. The photograph below highlights this problem. The view from my seat was not brilliant to say the least.
The best presentation in the world will not be received well given this scenario. Get the screens higher which will allow all to have a decent view of the presentation.
Seating at exhibition theatres we accept has to be at floor level. Else a cost of building lecture theatre style seating would be incurred. If as a conference organiser you are placing seats in a venue do not have seats at the side of the lectern, all delegates see is a side view of the presenter and lectern. Having part of the slide deck obscured by a lectern is extremely frustrating as a visitor to a crowded theatre.
Make life easier for yourself and tell a story, do not simply read bullet points from a screen. The slide is designed to be information for the audience not a prompt screen for you. Just because a graph appears in a typed report does not make it immediately relevant to a PowerPoint presentation. The two media can be treated independently, a report can contain complex graphical information as a reader has the time to analyse data. At a presentation in a conference venue the delegate does not have time to analyse the content. If it is relevant make the full graph available offline for download later. Incidentally not one speaker I witnessed made their presentation available offline, to make the presentation carry more weight allow delegates to download or watch on-line.
As an invited presenter at a conference or exhibition you are walking into a theatre or venue that you have little or no control over. The issue lies with the organisers and their perceived perception of what makes a good venue. Poor seating arrangements, low projection screens and poorly positioned lecterns do not aid the presenter. If organisers have asked for presenters to fill a schedule allow those presenters to present to the best of their ability. As a presenter make sure your message carries beyond the conference venue, make notes available off line. Greater detail can then be added to the presentation allowing for considered understanding and explanation for those particularly interested in the presentation.