Let’s talk about supporting guest speakers who have been invited to share their expertise as a one-off presentation. Sometimes they get a short familiarization/rehearsal session ahead of time. Sometimes they say, “Oh it’s all right. We can cover how things will run in that half-hour before start time.” In neither case is a class on speaking techniques welcomed or appropriate. The goal is to spend the minimum time possible to make the guest speaker feel comfortable and familiar with the technical environment, with maybe a quick tip or two to help them come across better on the webinar.
I usually stick with just a few pointers in terms of speaking style. I urge the presenters to “go big” and put much more energy, enthusiasm, and forcefulness in their voice than they are used to. People simply cannot understand how boring their normal speaking voice sounds on a 20, 30, or 40 minute presentation to a remote audio-only audience.
I reinforce the need for crisp, clear, audio – prohibiting the use of speakerphones or cell phones.
And I tell them they need to practice the entire presentation ahead of time to work out their timings and to feel comfortable with their choice of words and presentation flow.
When it comes to technical familiarization, I am bemused by my clients who want to go over every last feature of the web conferencing platform, overwhelming their guest speakers. I try very hard to cut down the operational overview to the minimum number of things the presenter needs to know. How to move slides forward, where to find audience questions, how to see and type private messages behind the scenes.
Once they have those basics, I assure them they are good to go just with those few items. Then I try to judge their interest, technical sophistication, and presentation needs to add on a few optional activities. “By the way… we can add a poll if you would like. Let me show you what that would look like.” “By the way… You can highlight items on your slides by drawing with this arrow pointer or highlighter tool.” “By the way… You can direct-access a slide out of sequence by clicking over here, perhaps to reference it during Q&A.”
For some of the web conferencing technologies I use a lot, I have created little slide decks to help me point out the key features of interest. I take screenshots of the platform tools so that I can show them as I explain each one. I find it frustrating and inexplicable that the web conferencing vendors do not make these orientation aids available to their customers. A simple slide deck with isolated screen shots of the various commands and controls used by presenters would be invaluable in conducting orientations. Moderators or hosts could use the pieces they want to focus on with their guest speakers.
If you are a vendor, I urge you to create a PowerPoint file with the presenter’s view of the console, in full and in detailed closeups of the controls they are likely to use. Make it available for free download to your customers.
I don’t mind picking through your slides and choosing the controls I want to highlight, in the order I want to talk about them. I don’t mind adding my own little animations and highlights on the slides. I don’t mind developing my own script. I don’t need you to do any of that. I just need you to give me some ready-to-use pictures of your software controls.
And fer gawdsake, update it when you update your GUI… I can’t believe how many vendors continue to use old versions of their product screenshots on their own orientations!