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September 11, 2012
By Eric Vidal
Despite Steve Jobs disdain for them, slide presentations in general, and PowerPoint in particular, are the de facto standard for presenting information in business and training settings.
They are so pervasive, in fact, that the military has coined a phrase Death by PowerPoint” to describe a day where training consists not of firing weapons or climbing over/under nasty obstacles in the mud or jumping out of perfectly good airplanes, but sitting in a dark room watching an endless series of slides while a lecturer drones on and on and on. You can be assured that nearly everyone in that room would rather be doing any of those other things.
Now imagine taking that same colorless, word-heavy presentation and using it as the basis for your webcast. Theres a good chance youll lose your audience in record time. While they may share some attributes, live presentations and webcasts are two different animals and need to be treated as such. Here are six ways to make your next webcast rock.
1. Stay with one concept per slide. Presenters often like to try to jam as much information as they can onto every slide. They think it makes them efficient, but more often than not, they overwhelm their audiences and obscure the message. Keeping to the rule of one concept per slide helps provide focus and prevents attendees from reading ahead to the next topic while youre still discussing the previous one.
2. Use simple graphics as often as possible. Humans are very visual animals, and we tend to relate better to a colorful, well-chosen graphic than we do a bunch of words on the page. If your webcast viewers can read everything you have to say on a topic on the slide, what purpose are you serving as the presenter? Use the graphic to support and illustrate the main point (literally) while keeping the focus on the presenter.
And avoid using too many stock photos. Weve all seen the same images of young, attractive, multicultural people smiling about who knows what. Wherever possible, use original photos, illustrations, charts, etc., so viewers have a reason to react to them.
3. Build interaction into the presentation. Educators are moving away from the Sage on the Stage” style of lecturing and toward interaction between students and instructors. You should learn from their example. One way to encourage interaction is by creating two or three polls that you can intersperse throughout the webcast. One can seek to determine the audiences knowledge/experience/expertise in the subject matter, which will help guide the rest of your presentation. Answering questions throughout the presentation that are sent in through the chat feature (rather than waiting until the end) helps include your audience and break up the monotony of one person talking.
4. Build the presentation to the audience. Its tempting to take a one size fits all” approach to your presentation, especially if youre pressed for time. But a presentation that works for an audience made up of Ph.D.s or business analysts wont necessarily work for an audience made up of office workers. The more you can tailor your presentation to the concerns of your audience ahead of time, the better chance you have of keeping their attention throughout the full webcast.
5. Keep animation and transitions to a minimum. What may look good in a live setting may not translate well in a webcast. After all, in a live setting you have control over the technology because its all coming off your laptop. In a webcast, you are somewhat at the mercy of the quality of viewing devices, Internet speeds and other factors on the viewers end. Keep it simple and direct so participants think about how smart you are instead of wondering why the presentation looks so choppy.
6. Keep it moving. Research shows that human brains tend to get tired after 10 minutes, unless theres new information to stimulate them. While holding on the same slide can be dull in a live presentation it can be deadly in a webcast. Because if webcast participants get bored they dont just check out mentally theyre likely to check out physically by looking at email, searching the Web or picking up on work they left to attend the webcast. The more you can keep the webcast lively and engaging, the better chance you have of holding the audiences attention all the way through, and making sure your core messages are communicated.
Yes, it does create some extra work, especially if youre used to taking a just the facts” approach to your presentations. But taking the time to build your presentations specifically for webcasts will help you attract, engage and retain a more loyal audience. And isnt that the point of this exercise in the first place?
Now its your turn. What have you done differently to convert a live presentation for a webcast? Whats worked and what hasnt?
Eric Vidal is the director of product marketing for the Event Services Business segment at
, one of the world’s largest conferencing and collaboration services providers. He can be reached at
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