I said we had a lot of questions from the audience! Here are a few more of the many questions that were asked in my webinar on presentation skills for online speakers.
Richard: At what size audience do you recommend automatic mute?
Answer: Anything over three people. Now before you start jumping up and down while screaming, I’m talking about a giving a presentation… Not conducting an interactive meeting. If the primary purpose is to “push” information to an audience, you are almost always better off with their lines muted. That way you aren’t interrupted by whispered conversations, ringing cell phones, and so on. With small audiences, it is definitely a good idea to be more interactive and check in with them, so make regular breaks along the way to unmute their lines and ask for feedback. But in general, you should be the focal point during the delivery phase of your meeting.
Bart: Is your timing and planned story line more important than responding to questions that can help you focus on how to convince your audience?
Answer: Bart was commenting on my statement that in most large group presentations I prefer to save questions for the end of the presentation. It helps me make sure I don’t run out of time, and it lets me maintain the flow I have worked out ahead of time, rather than chasing down tangential subjects. Obviously there are exceptions. If you note a large number of questions coming in on the same topic (especially if your audience seems confused or hostile to your statements) then it is worth taking some extra time to deal with it. But if one person in a 100-person audience disagrees or misses my point, I won’t stop my flow to deal with his question. I will also occasionally cherry-pick a question to answer quickly during the flow of my presentation just to prove that I am paying attention to my audience and responding their participation.
Karen: I noticed you didn’t use text on your slides. When is it appropriate to include bullet points or other text?
Answer: Text on presentation slides works best when it has the same impact and support functionality as a clear, unambiguous graphic. Your audience should be able to take in the concept at a glance, without a “read and comprehend” mental exercise. One- or two-word phrases in big bold letters can support your points and aid as memory jogs for the details you are presenting verbally. People just get carried away with writing complete sentences. Try thinking like a rap music producer. Where do you want to punch up a single word in the lyric by putting overdubs on it? I sometimes include very short text phrases in a nice big font to support and drive home the points I am making. Your rule of thumb is to avoid placing more than three such text points on a single slide. And you don’t need to use bullet points. Try placing the words on a colored box, or on a waving banner, or something else to make it look less like a high school class assignment outline!