AUDIENCE POLLING AT CONFERENCES – A Guide for Conference Organisers

Audience polling is a great way to drive effective audience engagement at conferences, and enhances the opportunity for information exchange between a speaker and the audience. Running a poll with an audience for the first time can be a daunting experience, for both you as the conference organiser and your speaker -especially if your audience size is large.

Preparation is essential to implementing a successful audience poll.

This guide will help you understand how to work in partnership your speakers to get the maximum engagement from your audience and avoid common pitfalls, making your conference a memorable event that stands out from the crowd.

Figure 1: Steps To Successful Audience Polling At Conferences

1. Define Presentation Objectives

Organise a briefing with the speaker whose session with involve the use of audience polling. Take the time to understand and be aligned on what the speaker’s objectives are. What are they aiming to achieve? What do they want the audience to do following their session/presentation?

Work together to identify opportunities to use polling to achieve the set objectives within the content/slides.Your objective is to have the speaker finalise their presentation and polling questions prior to the conference.

Hence this meeting should take place several weeks/months before the conference to kick-start the process. If you have a conference moderator or chairperson, involving them in this stage is also beneficial.

2. Create Your Polling Questions

If your speaker is using audience polling for the first time, consider these points when creating the polling questions that will be used:

  • Take into consideration the time allocated for the session and the content being covered. Audience polling should be an enhancement to your presentation, hence do not overload the presentation with polls so it becomes a distraction.
  • Keep the questions simple and relevant.
  • Consider language proficiency if your audience is international.
  • Use simple language. It should be very clear to the audience what they need to do to vote.

3. Technical Considerations

Prior to the conference, check the hardware and software set up available at the venue, and ensure you have met the requirements in Figure 2. If there is a conference APP being used, make the poll accessible via the APP.

ParticiPoll polling operates from a low bandwith website, and is able to cope with up to 2000 concurrent connections. Plan to run a “test poll” at the venue to check everything is working.

Figure 2: Software And Hardware Requirements For Audience Polling With ParticiPoll

4. Brand Your Poll

With ParticiPoll, you can upload your unique conference/organisation logo, and change your voting URL to reflect the event. Login to My Account > Customise at www.ParticiPoll.com to add customisations.

5. Manage Your Audience

The more audience members that participate at your conference, the more likely the message/learning objectives will be met, the more likely the session with be a success and the more memorable the experience will be.

To increase audience participation levels, tell them to bring their mobile devices so that they can take part in the polling session (have this information in the conference programme and communications prior to the event). Make it something they look forward to!

At the conference, have a placeholder slide on the screen notifying the audience that an interactive session will be taking place (Figure 3). Provide them with your branded URL and QR Code. If the audience is accessing the poll through a conference APP – ensure they have downloaded the latest conference APP.

Emphasising the poll is anonymous can also help drive participation. If you have a conference moderator or chairperson, involving them in this stage is also beneficial.

 

Figure 3: A Placeholder Slide To Help Drive Audience Participation

6. Run an Ice-Breaker Poll

To ensure you have the audience ready and online to participate, have the speaker run an icebreaker poll, to familiarize audience with the polling software. This can be based on anything of interest and appropriate to build up the anticipation for an effective session.

From this poll, the speaker can establish how many audience members are participating and nudge them further to drive up the numbers to the maximum.

7. Presentation with Live Polling

With everything in place your speaker can start the session and invite the audience to participate. If your audience is participating in a live polling session for the first time, they naturally are curious to see how it works.

When voting starts and the answers begin recording on the screen, the audience excitement begins as they watch the evolving pattern of responses on the screen. Your audience is now engaged!

8. Share Your Experience

Discuss with your speaker ways in which you can share the outcome of your polling session. Remember your audience can become ambassadors for your conference and the content being shared. Sharing results or their experience of the session on social media for instance can earn your conference important earned media.

Ending the presentation and session with a slide reminding the audience to tweet or post their experiences, and provide relevant hashtags (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Example Slide At The End Of The Session Can Help Drive Earned Media For Your Content/Conference

You can also take photos/videos of your audience polling sessions and share this interactive element of your conference with others. At ParticiPoll we are always excited to hear about your experiences with audience polling, so keep us posted! #ParticiPoll

AUDIENCE POLLING AT MEETINGS AND CONFERENCES – A Guide For Speakers

Audience polling is a great way to drive effective audience engagement at conferences, and enhances the opportunity for information exchange between you, the speaker and your audience. Running a poll with an audience for the first time can be a daunting experience, especially if your audience size is large.

Preparation is essential to implementing a successful audience poll. If you are presenting on behalf of a client or at a conference, work in partnership with your client representative or conference organiser at each step of the process.

This guide will help you get the maximum engagement from your audience and avoid common pitfalls, making your presentation a memorable event that stands out from the crowd.

Figure 1: Steps To Successful Audience Polling

1. Define Presentation Objectives

Define the objectives for your presentation/session. What are you aiming to achieve? What do you want the audience to do following the presentation? Identify opportunities to use polling to achieve the set objectives within the content/slides.

2. Create Polling Questions

Your polling questions should be finalised prior to your conference or meeting. Consider these points when creating polling questions:

  • Consider the time allocated for the session and the content being covered.
  • Audience polling should be an enhancement to your presentation, hence do not overload the presentation with polls so it becomes a distraction.
  • Keep the questions simple and relevant.
  • Use images, videos and graphics where applicable.
  • If you are testing knowledge, follow each polling question slide with additional slide(s) highlighting the content that supports the answer for each question. Hence if the content needs to be revisited you can use these slides or skip over them accordingly.
  • Consider language proficiency if your audience is international.
  • Use simple language. It should be very clear to the audience what they need to do to vote.

3. Technical Considerations

Prior to the conference, check the hardware and software set up available at the venue, and ensure you have met the requirements in Figure 2. ParticiPoll polling operates from a low bandwith website, and is able to cope with up to 2000 concurrent connections. On the day, run a “test poll” at the venue to check everything is working.

Figure 2: Software And Hardware Requirements For Audience Polling With ParticiPoll

4. Brand Your Poll

With ParticiPoll, you can upload your organisation logo, and change your voting URL to reflect the event. Login to My Account > Customise at www.ParticiPoll.com to add your customisations.

5. Manage Your Audience

The more audience members that participate, the more likely the message/learning objectives will be met, the more likely the session with be a success and the more memorable the experience will be. To increase audience participation, tell them to bring their mobile devices (charged and ready) so that they can take part in the polling session (have this information in your communications prior to the event). Make it something they look forward to!

At the event, have a placeholder slide on the screen notifying the audience that an interactive session will be taking place (Figure 3). Provide them with your branded URL and QR Code. Emphasising the poll is anonymous can also help drive participation.

 

Figure 3: A Placeholder Slide To Help Drive Audience Participation

6. Run An Ice-Breaker Poll

To ensure you have the audience ready and online to participate, run an icebreaker poll, to familiarize your audience with the polling software. This can be based on anything of interest and appropriate to build up the anticipation for an effective session. From this poll, you can establish how many audience members are participating and nudge them further to drive up the numbers to the maximum.

7. Presentation With Live Polling

With everything in place you should now be ready to start the session and invite your audience to participate. Remind your audience they are working together with you, and they co-own the session with you. If your audience is participating in a live polling session for the first time, they naturally are curious to see how it works.

When voting starts and the answers begin recording on the screen, the audience excitement begins as they watch the evolving pattern of responses on the screen. Your audience is now engaged!

8. Share Your Experience

You may wish to share the outcome of your polling session. If you are presenting at a conference or on behalf of a client, consult with the conference organisers, or client representative to discuss this. Remember your audience can become ambassadors for the content you are sharing, and are a vehicle for sharing the message further.

Sharing results or their experience of the session on social media for instance can ensure your message can live long after your presentation is over and gain you important earned media. Ending the presentation and session with a slide reminding the audience to tweet or post their experiences, and provide relevant hashtags (Figure 4).

 

Figure 4: Example Slide At The End Of The Session Can Help Drive Earned Media For Your Content/Subject

Arrange for photos/videos to be taken of your audience polling sessions and share this interactive element with others. At ParticiPoll we are always excited to hear about your experiences with audience polling, so keep us posted! #ParticiPoll

Audience Polling Provider, ParticiPoll Announces Major Technology Updates To Target Events With Larger Audience Sizes

Leicester, UK – May 22nd – 2017 – ParticiPoll announce major technology updates to scale with their growing customer base and larger audience sizes.

ParticiPoll’s existing customer base are major pharmaceutical organisations, conference organisers across industries and major academic institutions. “The conference sector is an important target market for ParticiPoll and we are increasing customer confidence by providing a robust platform to serve big audiences, ensuring success at large events” said Ben Ravilious, co founder of ParticiPoll.

ParticiPoll Was Used At The Recent Advanced Technologies and Treatments for Diabetes (ATTD) Conference 2017, in Paris

“Audience polls present a particular technical challenge because of the ‘bursty’ nature of the traffic,” said ParticiPoll’s CTO Ian Scotland. “Having a conference audience of say 2000 delegates all voting simultaneously requires the volume capacity characteristics of a much larger website whilst being able to collect and return results to presenters faster than a typical web page load time. We’ve utilized a combination of Amazon AWS’s DynamoDB database server plus a load-balancing system to allow us to quickly provision new resources as demand increases. With our new setup, we can handle current demand and also easily scale our provision in the future.”

The Newly Launched ParticiPoll Website

Alongside this technology update, ParticiPoll, have launched a new website to help support their customers even better. “Our new website offers our customers useful resources to run successful polls,” said ParticiPoll founder Ben Ravilious. “Being responsible for running large audience polls can be a daunting experience, these new capabilities and resources will enable our customers to build better audience engagement and achieve their goals.”

About ParticiPoll:

ParticiPoll is an audience polling add-in for PowerPoint that uses audience members’ mobile devices for anonymous voting, displaying results live in presentations. The system helps speakers deliver impressive interactive presentations and discover what their audiences really think. ParticiPoll was founded in 2014 as a joint venture between Leicester-based startup studio Ultimateweb Ltd and actuarial science lecturer Dr Steve Hales.

For more information please contact:

Ben Ravilious                      ben@participoll.com         +44(0)1162988895

www.ParticiPoll.com

Using Audience Polling to Drive Engagement in Junior Doctor Training at University College London Hospitals

The Intensive Care Medicine Training course at University College London Hospitals (UCLH) are using ParticiPoll to drive participant engagement. The one-day introductory course in the fundamentals of Critical Care is attended by Junior Doctors about to start out in an ICU post. This course (part of a series of charity courses) supports patients, staff and medical research at UCL Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

The course is facilitated by experienced Registrars. It provides a safe learning environment using practical simulations. Students gain hands on experience preparing them for the “real life” experiences that face them in ICU.

Jennifer Robins, one of the course organisers describes how ParticiPoll is helping them achieve their course objectives.

How are you currently using ParticiPoll? 

As our course is mainly practical based, our participants form small groups. They gain hands on experience e.g. how to use a ventilator, airway management, management of acute kidney injury. This prepares them to be able to manage and undertake these procedures in ICU the first time they face them.

Practical sessions enable participants to gain hands on training experience of key procedures, such as airway management.

At the end of the course, our participants come together participate in a tutorial plenary session to test knowledge and understanding. It is here where we gauge and assess the learning objectives have been met. Originally, we structured this as a question and answer session to try and objectively measure whether people had improved their understanding of the content. The questions were challenging for our audience as they had only a basic level of experience and understanding. In order to help participation we introduced it in a presentation format and then last July we incorporated ParticiPoll.

The anonymity of polling enables learners to safely participate without risking embarrassment. This session has dramatically improved as a result, making it more engaging.

How does ParticiPoll help your course attendees as it relates to engagement and learning?

Using ParticiPoll has helped us highlight both well-understood topics and those that are problematic for learners. The practical part of our course consists of small group teaching where learners get the opportunity to learn and practice skills. ParticiPoll lends itself to a larger group such as the plenary session in that it allows the learners to have an individual voice. Our participants get quite competitive!

The practical sessions are run in small groups for participants to ask questions and learn from experienced registrars.

The plenary learning format can lead to a lack of concentration if the content isn’t sufficiently stimulating or too difficult. Polling allows us to skim over well-understood topics and go into more detail on the questions that 25% of people get wrong – normally these people get left behind. So essentially it democratizes learning and allows full engagement. It allows the lecture to evolve into in a learning activity. Because of the engagement, it fights the end of day slump.

The plenary sessions bring participants together and using interactive powerpoint with ParticiPoll they are able to test their knowledge in a safe environment.

How do the audience respond to using ParticiPoll?

Initially I think people were dubious about whether it was going to work but then people saw that it was recording the answers submitted. It keeps learners eyes focused on the presentation and the evolving pattern of how they are performing as a group.

Use of interactive powerpoint in plenary sessions helps keep learners engaged.

Have you had any challenges using ParticiPoll?

From a usability standpoint it’s straightforward and simple. This is important for people like me who are not very tech-savvy. We score consistently high in the feedback we receive for our courses. We continually aim to innovate and improve the course. ParticiPoll allows us to detect when there has been a drop off in response to content. This helps us refocus and make our future courses even sharper.

How do you structure your questions?

We keep it simple, one stem with 4 possible answers.

What happens when you ask a question and it is clear from the answers that the audience has not grasped some information?

We have structured our presentation to include 3 slides after each polling question highlighting the knowledge supporting the correct answers. For instance, if we notice a massive spread of answers from the results, it is clear that specific content has not been understood. We then transition to the following 3 slides and ensure the content is revisited. Where the answers are clearly correct, we can then skip the 3 content slides, as we know the audience has understood.

What advice would you give to someone who is keen to try audience polling?

It really helps you to understand how involved your audience is. Your audience gain a stake in the performance and this allows them to perform (in a safe environment). This can also help you as the presenter, to feel less alone.

ParticiPoll is very easy to set up regardless of your tech-ability. Their tech support are very helpful and want you to get the most out of the software. It requires no hardware except the participants’ own phones so you don’t need to store anything or count back in expensive handsets. Once you have the software you can use it for any presentation (as long as they don’t occur in tandem).

We are now exploring further opportunities to use polling on our courses.

ParticiPoll partner with Kenes Group for audience polling at ATTD 2017

Kenes Group, one of the world’s leading conference organisers, with 50+ years experience organising global events, has chosen ParticiPoll for their audience polling. ParticiPoll’s anonymous audience polling is particularly popular with medical and life science practitioners, so we were delighted when Kenes the only global professional congress organizer dedicated to medical and scientific events chose to partner with us.

Ziv Izarov, Technology Project Manager of Kenes shared his experience of using ParticiPoll at the 10th International Conference on Advanced Technologies & Treatments for Diabetes (ATTD) in Paris.

ATTD-2017-Paris-Day-1-Simon-Callaghan-Photography-178

ATTD 2017 Scientific Congress in Paris

How do you go about engaging an audience of 3000+ physicians at a medical congress such as ATTD?
Over the 50+ years experience we have in conference management, there is a transition taking place, and most likely due to new technology and the rise in use of social media: from having attendees at a conference to having active participants. Instead of passively sitting at an event, our audiences now expect active engagement.
Using the latest technology we aim to deliver highly personalised and interactive experiences at our congresses. For instance, our ATTD conference App provides each participant with his or her own personalised experience of the congress. This also allows us to manage the conference in real time taking into consideration and acting on audience feedback and preferences. This year we have added Polling as an additional communication tool into the App to give participants an immediate say, and give them a means to communicate with the speakers and interact with the content.

How do you collaborate with the speakers for such an event, especially as it relates to Audience Polling?
To ensure effective participation during audience polling sessions, we work with our speakers individually, and take an active role in understanding the goals and objectives of each session. This is key. From this we collaborate to establish the best way to weave in interactive polling where it is likely to drive key learning’s or key takeaways. We specialize in scientific congresses, and this is a field that it is continuously evolving, with new treatments/guidelines/technology every year, hence to distill the essential information and for the content to be memorable and impactful, interactive audience polling is an excellent tool. Audience engagement ensures we keep these important discussions’ going on long after the meeting has ended.

Can you give us some examples of the types of questions the speakers used at ATTD for the sessions?
In one of the congress sessions, the speaker introduced a technology to treat diabetes, she wanted to see if she could convince the crowd that this technology could improve treatment. She conducted a poll at the start of her presentation and repeated the same question with a second poll at the end of the presentation. This example illustrates how the audience reacted to the content.
In addition, at ATTD we used the ParticiPoll comments system in more than 8 sessions, which enabled the audience to send questions to the speaker using the conference APP. At the end of the presentation, the speaker was able to select questions from this list, which contributed to an interactive and relevant discussion.

 

What made you chose ParticiPoll and how was your experience using it at ATTD?
One of our goals at Kenes is to be at the forefront of technology to improve our congress experiences, and we are familiar and have experience with audience polling software on the market. ParticiPoll stood out for us, as it is incredibly simple to use. ParticiPoll allows us to drop polls straight into Powerpoint presentations. It also uses audience members’ web connected devices and hence there is no need for extra hardware. ParticiPoll also customize the voting address (URL) according to the client brand or event. The anonymity of the polling results is another definite advantage, particularly as the industry we serve, life sciences, involves an exchange of sensitive information, discussion and makes reference to patient care.

Talk us through how the audience accessed the poll at the congress?
We worked with ParticiPoll to integrate the polling software into our conference App that made the process seamless. ParticiPoll were excellent partners in testing the polling prior to the sessions to ensure we had the capability to run smooth polling sessions.

ATTD-2017-Paris-Day-2-Simon-Callaghan-Photography-111

ATTD 2017, audience used their own smartphones to participate in the polling sessions

For speakers and other conference organisers who may be interested in using ParticiPoll for their audiences, what are some of the important factors to consider when managing a poll at such an event?
A few important considerations should be made. Firstly, working in partnership with your speakers to establish the objectives of a session/presentation. Understand how and where to use polling questions. Ensure you are aligned with the speaker on how and when the poll is introduced, and how to refer them to their mobile device to participate. At Kenes we have a dedicated team of technicians present on site to ensure we have the necessary wireless infrastructure and sufficient Internet bandwidth to support several thousand participants accessing their device at the same time.

 

Professor Stephanie Ariel (King's College London) facilitating an audience poll using ParticiPoll

ATTD 2017: Facilitating an audience poll using ParticiPoll

What was the audience feedback of using ParticiPoll?
We find that engaging our audiences maximizes learning and sharing with others, because they have directly participated in the learning process. As many of the audience members are physicians and specialists in their subjects, they are more likely to then share the content with their faculty/peers when they return to their respective country. This way we find our audiences become strong ambassadors – which is powerful in having them share the information further. I would hope they would consider using the polling facility as they do this, to give their audiences the same experience, and hopefully further drive home the key takeaways from the congress. In addition, the speaker’s reaction to the voting and comment system was great, they all loved how easy and simple it is to use, and how smooth it worked on site.

As you are always thinking ahead, in what other conference/event settings can you envisage ParticiPoll being used?
One of the additional features of ParticiPoll is the audience can share comments with the presenters in real-time. The presenter can then isolate an individual comment for display on the screen to continue a lively and engaging dialogue with the audience.

‘Photographs by Simon Callaghan Photography

Premium & Free PowerPoint Templates

We’ve compiled a list of some of the best sources of free and premium PowerPoint templates to save you having to search. If you know of any others that we should list then do contact us.

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How To Create A PowerPoint Template

Creating your own PowerPoint template isn’t hard to do and can give your presentations more impact and consistency. Here’s our guide (based on Office 2016)…

The Basics

Saving a PowerPoint file as a template is really easy.

  1. Open the file you want to save as a template
  2. Click on the File menu
  3. Click on ‘Save As’
  4. Select the destination folder you’d like to save the template in
  5. When the Save As dialogue box opens, give your template a suitable name then set the “Save as type” select box to “PowerPoint Template” and click the ‘Save’ button

save-powerpoint-template

 

Designing Your PowerPoint Template

Saving is the easy bit, but designing the layout and appearance requires a little more thought.

Differing first and subsequent pages

You could just save a single “one size fits all” slide as a template but most templates (including the default blank one in PowerPoint) have an opening title slide layout that is different from the rest. This is something you can incorporate in your own custom templates.

Most presentations start with a title slide that carries your name, logo, presentation title, contact details etc. Subsequent template slides are usually more empty to leave plenty of space for your main presentation content. You might also want to have a final slide that is different again perhaps including your contact information, for example.

You can set-up these different layouts within a template so that you can re-use them every time you want to create a new presentation using that template.

Editing the Slide Master

The overall style of your template and the different slide layouts within it are all controlled within the Slide Master. To edit the Slide Master, click on the View menu in PowerPoint and select Slide Master. In left hand side of the main PowerPoint window you will see the Slide Master itself with the other layouts listed below:-

slide-master

The Slide Master itself isn’t a displayable page template, its more of a ‘style sheet’ that controls the appearance of all the available layouts within the file. Try editing the font of part of the Slide Master and you will see this change ripple through all of the layouts. If however you edit the characteristics of one of the layouts, your changes will only affect that layout and any slides you create from it.

The example above is the Slide Master view for the default blank PowerPoint template. You will probably recognise the first layout as being the standard title slide you get when you create a new default blank presentation in PowerPoint.

Creating good layouts

There’s no perfect set of layouts that you should create – it very much depends on your needs, your organisation’s branding and your creativity.

Whilst you might want to have a fairly full opening slide (logo, title, name, etc), its generally best to keep the layout for rest of the main content slides fairly empty so that you can concentrate on succint content rather than bells and whistles.

Think carefully before repeating your name or logo on every layout – is it really necessary?

Remember when you’re saving a template, you’re creating something relatively generic that can be re-used for many future presentations. Its best therefore to stick to generic content features when editing layouts. For example, you shouldn’t type out your presentation title at the top of a layout otherwise that text will appear in all subsequent presentations that use that template.

The default blank template is often a good place to start as it comes with eleven useful layouts that you can customise straight out of the box. However, you might need something new that’s highly specific to your industry like a periodic table or a chart of term dates, for example. You have complete freedom to create appropriate new layouts for yourself so go for it!

Using your template and layouts

When you ‘open’ a PowerPoint template file, it creates a normal new PowerPoint presentation file based on that template (rather than opening the template file itself.)

choose-layouts

When you’re editing your presentation, you apply one of your template layouts to a slide by right clicking on the slide, selecting Layout and then clicking on one of the available templates. You should see all of the layouts you made when you edited the Slide Master layouts.

One more step away from Death By PowerPoint – enjoy!

 

Death By PowerPoint – Are You Guilty?

We don’t mean to be blunt but some of you just aren’t presenting well and it’s annoying! Death By PowerPoint is real so here’s a quick list of presentation crimes that you need to stop committing immediately:-

You’re the presenter, not PowerPoint

People don’t come to watch a slideshow – they want to hear and see you tell them something. Quit using PowerPoint as a crutch!

Stop reading from your slides

If you’re going to read from your slides then why turn up at all? Just email or hand out your presentation to the audience and be done with it.

Stop filling your slides with crap

Don’t post up stuff that just repeats what you’ll be saying anyway

Ditch the clip-art

If you’ve got a photo or a chart you need to show then fine but don’t fill your slides with lightbulbs, people shaking hands, archery targets, etc.

Guns don’t kill people, bullet points do

If you’ve got a list of stuff that’s long enough to need bullet points then it’s too long for your slide.

Give a damn

A whole bunch of people have gone out of their way to see you – make it worth it for them! Tell them something they really need to know.

Engage with your audience

You’re not an automata and neither are they. Make it a conversation, not a lecture. Talk to the front row, ask them a question, do a ParticiPoll poll.

 

For a more comprehensive set of ideas, check out our list of 28 Great PowerPoint Presentation Tips & Tricks.

28 Great PowerPoint Presentation Tips

presenter polling audience

A comprehensive list of PowerPoint presentation tips and tricks.

Microsoft PowerPoint has been around since 1987 and is by far the most popular presentation tool on the market but many people still struggle to give effective presentations. PowerPoint is often blamed but often this is really a case of a poor workman blaming his tools.

Audience polling tools like our ParticiPoll system can add an extra dimension to presentations but what about all the other things that make for a great presentation?

Here is our list of tips and techniques to help you deliver a fantastic presentation. Let us know if you can think of any others we should add!

 

Creating Your Presentation

Follow The 10-20-30 Rule

Guy Kawasaki wrote that a presentation “should have ten slides, last no more than twenty minutes, and contain no font smaller than thirty points”. He was talking about pitching to investors but this is fairly solid advice for any presentation. You might need to over-run the 20 minute rule in some circumstances (e.g. a university lecture) but could the additional time be better used for questions and answers?

Start With A Summary

Summarising your presentation in a single slide at the beginning gives your audience a clear idea of what they’re going to learn and stimulates anticipation of the whole story. It’s also a good discipline for you as a presenter to help keep you keep the topic succinct. If you can’t summarise your presentation topic in 10-15 words, then it’s probably too long or too vague. Think of is an ‘elevator pitch’, a synopsis of a book or an abstract for a scientific paper.

Tell A Story

Human beings have used stories to impart information since the dawn of time and it’s still a great way to communicate. Even if you have to deliver a long series of facts, remember that it’s the underlying meaning or outcome of those facts that will strike home.  This doesn’t mean you should start your presentation with “Once upon a time”, just that you should build it in such a way that the chronology of the topic is clear.  Can you think of plot twists or hooks that can be shared along the way to keep them interested? You might find writing an initial ‘script’ away from PowerPoint helpful before you go diving into slides.

See It From The Audience’s Perspective

Getting the tone and content of your presentation right starts with being honest about what they really want to hear and what they can realistically absorb. If you really care about your audience, you have to be an advocate for their learning needs not your own agenda. If that means simplifying your content or recapping previous presentations then so be it. It’s better than losing them completley or being “that presenter” who was too difficult to understand or didn’t recognise who he/she was speaking to.

Present What You Know And Care About

Most lower-quality presentations are a symptom of the presenter not really wanting to be there. A rookie presenter who knows their subject or is really passionate can be better than a pro who isn’t bothered. Just look at Elon Musk – his presentation style is notoriously haphazard but he is incredibly exciting and comes across as completely authentic. The very best presenters know their subject so well that they don’t even need notes or slides. If you don’t know or don’t care then don’t present – find someone else!

Avoid Too Much Text

Using too much text is one of the most common presenting mistakes. Presenters often feel they need to include everything in their slides. This often manifests itself in over-use of bullet point lists, paragraphs of text and tiny font sizes. A couple of sentences per slide and no more is the ideal and remember that the audience came to hear you speak not read. A good test on the day is to see whether they audience are mostly looking at you or the slides – if its the latter then you’ve put too much content in!

Use Images

A picture tells a thousand words and good images are far better than tons of text. Don’t use cheesy stock imagery though – that’s a real turn off. Choose pictures that directly illustrate or support what you’re saying or set the tone of the slide. In the right setting, a bit of humour can cheer the audience up and keep them engaged too (there are loads of great Internet meme graphics you can use or adapt.) Videos can work well too but its best to keep to shorter snippet videos rather than diverting half your presentation slot to something pre-recorded.

Customise Your Template

Far too many presenters stick to the standard blank PowerPoint template. PowerPoint comes with lots of other template and font choices to improve appearance.  It’s also really easy to create your own custom PowerPoint templace with your own logo, font, etc.

Don’t Over-Use Animations

Subtle slide-ins or fade-ins of the next slide can add a bit of style to a presentation but sliding-in every last bulletpoint becomes irritating on a longer presentation. Keep it simple!

Present Data Clearly

It can be tempting to chuck in a spreadsheet of raw data and try to explain it figure-by-figure but a chart or graph will highlight the significance of your data far better. Be sure to pick the right sort of chart for your data. Typically you would use a histogram to compare quantities, a pie chart for percentages and a line chart to show change over time.

Use the Slide Sorter

Inspirational ideas for slide content don’t always come out in a sensible order for the presentation itself. Once you’ve written your main slides use the slide sorter (View Menu > Slide Sorter) to put the slides in an order that fits the overall story of your presentation. Audience retention is improved by having sub-topic chunks within your presentation so try to bring slides together in mini-segments.

Avoid Death By PowerPoint

Death by PowerPoint is a phrase used to describe a multitude of sins. In almost every case it’s the presenter who is at fault not PowerPoint. The most common cause is making the slide deck the focus rather than the presenter. If you don’t want to be there and could just as easily email your slides to your audience, then do that and spare everyone.

Preparation For The Event

Dry Run

You’ve probably put hours or even days into getting your presentation content right so don’t spoil it by not preparing on the day. Ideally you should run through your slides in the same room and on the same device that you will be using on the day. This will avoid local technical issues (e.g. lack of Internet connection, poor slide projection, lack of sound, wrong presentation software, etc.) Be sure to turn off your screen saver too!

Practice

Practicing in front of a mirror isn’t the same as doing it in front of an audience and it might make you more self-conscious. Start your presentation training with small, friendly audiences and speak about something your’re totally familiar with. Then you can work your way up to larger audiences and more tricky topics.

On The Day

Coping With Nerves

Imagine the audience naked! If you’re new to public speaking or are speaking to a new crowd, it can be pretty nerve-wracking. Turn this on its head be imagining the front row are all naked and desperately self-conscious!

Speak Slowly

It’s tempting to think that you need to divulge as much information as possible but talking too fast is really hard for audiences to digest. Watch a TV newscaster and see how the speak slowly with lots of pauses. It’s definitely a case of “less is more” and you’ll be amazed how much better the audience absorb stuff. The breathing space will also give you more brain ‘CPU time’ to gauge audience reactions and respond accordingly. Speaking too fast is a common trait of nervous speakers but ironically, slowing down will give you more time to relax and give your presentation more gravitas.

Keep To A Schedule

Presentations that over-run are hard work for the audience and a nightmare for event organisers. Keep an eye on the clock, try to avoid labouring points and don’t be afraid to skim less critical slides if you are running out of time. There’s nothing wrong with ending a little earlier than expected and it can give you an opportunity for an impromptu Q&A session.

If You Get Stuck

If you get stuck half way through a presentation or someone asks you a difficult question, don’t be afraid of taking a pause. It’s OK to buy time with “let me think about that” or “that’s a great question!”. At times like this it can help to go back to your presenation synopsis and use that to get you back on track.

Make Eye Contact

It’s very easy to end up staring at the one person on the front row who seem to be smiling at you but focussing on just one person or just staring into space makes the main audience feel like you’re not interested in them. With a small audience, be sure to move eye contact from person to person without fixating on any particular individual. If you have a larger audience, try scanning your attention from left-to-centre-to-right and back again focussing on random individuals each time. Don’t forget the people right at the back too!

Don’t Read From Your Slides

People don’t come to conferences or lectures to read stuff – they want to hear a human being (that’s you!) engage with them. It’s OK to use slide content as a cue occasionally but reading from the screen with your back to the audience is both lazy and boring to watch. If you need additional cues and are using a projector screen then use the Notes feature in PowerPoint – you can get the notes displayed only to you on your computer (Slides > User Presenter View) whilst the audience see only the main slide content on the screen.

Project Your Voice

It might sound obvious but you need to be heard! That doesn’t mean you need to shout, just that you should speak slowly using your lungs. Even if you have the benefit of amplification, you still need to make sure you’re speaking at a consistent volume near to the mic. With an informal audience, you can do your own little sound-check by asking if the people at the back can hear you.

Correct Microphone Use

Most handheld or podium mics need to be held a few centimetres away from your mouth. Speak across the top of the mic rather than directly into it otherwise you’ll hear loud thumps whenever you speak percussive syllables. Clip-on Lavalier mics that you attach to your lapel or collar can help you speak more naturally but try not to turn your head too much as you may end up speaking too far away from the mic. In all cases, speak with your normal voice (unless you’re a singer or performer!) and don’t drop the mic unless you’ve really had the last word!

Use Your Hands And Body

Body language is big part of communication but you don’t have to be a trained orator to get it right (and many politicians and TV personalities use wildly unnatural and contrived gestures anyway). It’s a classic case of “be yourself” – do use your hands, gestures and facial expressions to accentuate what you’re saying but don’t do anything that feels unnatural. If you’re a relatively reserved, non-animated person that’s OK – maybe you’re better at verbal wit or pithy comments? If you’re not into waving your hands then try gripping the outer edges of the lectern or walking around the stage as an alternative. If you’re worried about it then get a friend or colleague to sit in the audience and give you feedback after a presentation.

Ask Great Questions

Asking Socratic questions is a great way of engaging audience members brains and get them thinking ahead. They can often make great slide headings too. If your presentation schedule and environment allows, putting these questions directly to the audience can really liven up the talk. Try asking interesting questions that the whole audience can answer together using a show of hands or shout-outs. If it’s a sensitive subject then try using an anonymous feedback tool like ParticiPoll.

Avoid Classroom Chicken

Don’t ask the audience questions they don’t want to answer. “Is everyone having fun?”, “Who has done their homework?” or “would anyone like to put their hand up and tell me X?” will most likely be replied with whispered “Nos” or deathly silence. Disingaged audiences can often play a game of chicken with you, holding out on responses until the very last moment (or not at all!).

Hold A Q&A

If time permits, giving your audience an opportunity to ask questions either at the end or during the presentation is always a good idea. You often end up finding out what they really wanted to hear from you and this can be fed back into any future repeat of the presentation.

Share Your Slides

Sharing your slides with your audience after the presentation is a great way to help them recall the content of your presentation. It’s also a great way to encourage engagement after the event so don’t forget to include the date, time and title of the presentation as well as your contact details. At the beginning of the presentation, be sure to tell them that you’ll be making the slides available so they don’t feel the need to spend too much time taking notes instead of watching you. Don’t share your slides or hand-out printed copies of your slides before the presentation otherwise you’ll spoil the show and give people an excuse to leave without watching.

Interact With The Audience

To “lecture” has become a dirty word implying presenting in a reprimanding or condescending manner. It also implies a one-way street whereas audiences love to give feedback, ask questions and steer the presention to suit their needs.

A traditional ‘show of hands’ can work but it tends to favour the know-it-alls and attention-seekers and allows audience members’ groupthink to sway the responses. Its also innappropriate for sensitive subjects where the audience may not feel confortable expressing themselves.

Polling and feedback systems like ParticiPoll (try it now for free!) are a great way of adding interaction into your existing presentations without too much setup hassle. They’re a great way to grab the audience’s attention (especially if they’re fiddling with their phones) and help you find out what they think.

Alternatives to TurningPoint for Audience Polling

Hardware-based audience polling solutions such as TurningPoint and iClicker have been around for years and remain in use primarily because of the inertia in larger organisations.

Systems that use hardware voting pads or clickers have lots of disadvantages:-

Disadvantages of Hardware Voting Systems

  1. Expensive to purchase
  2. Have to be organised in advance of the presentation
  3. Have to be handed out to the audience or class then collected back in.
  4. Have to be recharged or have batteries replaced from time to time.
  5. Cannot respond to changes in voting software easily
  6. Often use their own WIFI system to connect
  7. Don’t always integrate seemlessly into popular presentation software

 

Now that smartphones, tablets and WIFI or cellular data networks are ubiquitous, there’s a far simpler “bring your own device” (BYOD) approach to getting feedback from your presentation audience.

Systems like ParticiPoll collect votes using audience members smart phones, tablets and notebooks and integrate directly with popular presentation software like PowerPoint.

 

Advantages of Software-Based Polling Systems

  1. Everyone has a smart phone or tablet now
  2. Presenter or venue don’t need to worry about providing hardware
  3. Uses existing WIFI or cellular data networks
  4. Turns phones into a useful tool rather than a distraction
  5. Can be updated to respond to changes in voting software
  6. Can collect free-text comments, questions and other feedback
  7. Can be rented on a ‘software-as-a-service’ (SaaS) basis.
  8. Retain historical poll results in the cloud
  9. Personalisation options for the voting buttons

 

ParticiPoll is one of the simplest of the lot as you don’t need to load pre-prepared questions and answers into a third-party system and your audience don’t need to install an app. Presenters just pose a question plus possible answers inside a normal PowerPoint slide and drop a poll histogram into it. You can add polls to your existing PowerPoint presentations and some presenters even drop ad hoc polls into live presentations as they’re going along!

Start your free 14-day trial of ParticiPoll now!

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