In a previous article I focused on some best practices for designing a presentation to be delivered via a web conferencing system. In this article, I want to cover some best practices for delivering that presentation. If you haven’t been involved in designing and delivering presentations over the web yet, it is an important skill to learn. With businesses having a global scope and travel budgets being reduced, more meetings will be virtual instead of in-person.
Use a second PC as a participant
No matter how fast your web connection is or how fast the connection of each participant is, there will always be a slight delay between when you show the next slide and when they see the slide on their screen. By the time the service takes your new slide, transmits it to the system’s server and then sends it out to each participant, anywhere from one to several seconds will elapse. The challenge is that you will not know when the participants are seeing the new slide unless you set up a second PC on your desk and connect that PC as a participant. That way, you can advance to the next slide and keep transitioning with what you are saying until you see the new slide on the “participant PC.” This way your speaking can always match the visuals that your participants are seeing.
Use a standard screen resolution
Many computers today come with high resolution monitors that can be quite large. Even laptops have wide screens that can show full HD resolution videos. But in almost all cases, the higher resolution will hurt instead of help your presentation. The 1680 by 1050 widescreen monitor I am using right now has almost 2.25 times as many pixels as a normal XGA resolution of 1024 by 768 (which is the resolution of most projectors). That means that the web conferencing service will have to send 4.5 times as much data each time (2.25 times from your computer to the server and 2.25 times from the server to the participant). This means much slower load times for each slide and longer waits for the participants to see the next slide. And what if the participant doesn’t have a high enough resolution on their screen? Your well-designed visual may appear distorted or even not appear at all. It is best to reduce the resolution of your screen to 1024 by 768 (or something close) so that the slides appear quicker and looks crisp on each participant’s screen. You can always change the resolution back after the web meeting is done.
Don’t use drawing tools
One feature that the web meeting services will highlight is the ability to use drawing tools during your presentation. Most of the services allow the presenter to grab a virtual pen or highlighter and draw on the screen. While this sounds like it would be a great idea, be careful. Movement is very hard to show smoothly during web meetings. Too often your drawing or a circle around an important concept or highlighting a key phrase will look jerky to the participants. This jerkiness makes the participants think that something isn’t working properly or they missed something – both distract the participant from your message. Instead of using the drawing tools, create proper callouts that direct the attention to the important spot on the slide.
Don’t restrict yourself to slides
Too often presenters think that the only content they can share is a set of slides. Not true. Within PowerPoint, you can link out to other software programs and provide a seamless transition for your audience. For example, if you are meeting with a prospect and you are discussing how big of a problem they have, you will want to put the numbers they give you into a spreadsheet to calculate the magnitude of their issue. Why not hyperlink out to that pre-created spreadsheet from a slide and fill out the numbers right there so they see the calculation happen before their eyes. Then they can also see the impact of changing parameters as the figures automatically recalculate. This also gives you an agreed upon measurement that can be easily included in an e-mail or formal proposal after the meeting is done.
As you start to replace in-person meetings with web meetings, keep these best practices in mind. You will find the meetings more productive and you will reach your objectives faster.
Dave Paradi has over twenty years of experience delivering customized training workshops to help business professionals improve their presentations. He has written nine books and over 100 articles on the topic of effective presentations and his ideas have appeared in publications around the world. His focus is on helping corporate professionals visually communicate the messages in their data so they don’t overwhelm and confuse executives. Dave is one of less than ten people in North America recognized by Microsoft with the Most Valuable Professional Award for his contributions to the Excel and PowerPoint communities. He regularly presents highly rated sessions at national and regional conferences of financial professionals and is NASBA registered to deliver CPE credit courses to CPAs.