You're in charge of a big project that requires the support of lots of people. It would be easy to engage and inspire them if they were all in your office, but as often happens today, they're spread out around the country. So instead of connecting with each person individually, you decide to set up an online presentation so everyone can hear the same details at the same time in a collaborative manner.
You'll want to make this an effective, efficient process and get it right the first time, so here's a little primer for delivering an effective online presentation.
1. Start with the right tool. You could ask for everyone to jump on a conference call and email them a PDF, but then you don't really know who's there or if they're on the right page. Collaborative software such as Go-To-Meeting or join.me allows you to monitor who's online and makes sure that everyone is communicating about the same slide.
2. Help everyone be on time. Nothing is more irritating than sitting online waiting for a meeting to start because one or two people didn't show up. Some online tools have calendaring features that can help make sure everyone gets there on time and knows the topic. If people do show up late, go ahead and get started so you don't inconvenience the others. Late people can use the software to watch a recording later.
3. Keep your slides simple. Slides with lots of text are confusing and hard to read. Worse, people won't remember much of what's on them. Use your slides as brief reminders of the topic. Use a simple headline and three or four bullet points to support the main takeaway. Later, your team can go back and review the presentation and the brief slides will act as simple reminders.
4. Be clear and efficient. Make sure the presentation is easy to understand and concise. Each slide should represent about three or four minutes of material, and any more than 15 to 18 slides can be overwhelming. If you have more material, consider splitting the presentation. Practice before you deliver your talk to make sure the order makes sense and that you can deliver it with good articulation and at a pace everyone can understand. The record feature on collaborative software is a great tool for reviewing your presentation skills.
5. Make the presentation entertaining. Just because the presentation has lots of factual information doesn't mean it has to be dry and dull. You can add a lot of flair without making your talk unprofessional. Use stories and humor to make it fun. Not only are people more likely to listen closely, they'll remember more of what you told them. Whatever you do, don't be boring!
6. Use visual examples. Words are fine but graphics are great. Find a few pictures that are truly worth 1,000 words. Don't overload the presentation with cutesy art unless it has a purpose truly relevant to what you need to communicate. Taking screen shots off the Web can be really useful when referencing online material. You can even do this in real time for time-sensitive material. If you plan to use video, just make sure it's short and to the point. Otherwise, just share the URL and let people watch on their own time.
7. Encourage conversation. The great part of collaborative software is that it allows people to communicate with the presenter and each other during the presentation through messaging, so the talk isn't interrupted. You should encourage your team to do this from the beginning. Watching the online activity will give you a sense of how engaged your listeners are and allow you to tailor your presentation along the way, if need be.
8. Set action steps. The time to start an action-step list is not during the presentation itself. Ready this list before the presentation. When you're done with the basic information, you can discuss the steps in an organized way and modify them after you get feedback from the team. Make sure everyone is clear on what they need to take away from the presentation.
9. Leave time for questions. If you set an hour for the presentation, at least 15 minutes should be used for questions and discussion. You can review any written questions that were left unanswered and allow for discussion amongst the team. Don't let the questions drone on or get redundant. Manage the session kindly, with purpose and authority.
10. End on time. People are busy and they have most likely scheduled other activities after this meeting. Show them respect by finishing at the designated time so they can move on. If they still have questions or want more information, tell them they can connect with you later. But let everyone else go. Give everyone the software link to review the presentation if needed. Then thank all for their time and get to work.
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