Optimal Presentations in a Digital World

During a recent NPR Morning Edition, Steve Inskeep (@nprinskeep) inserted comments regarding  a   professor who encourages texting in class — specifically texting questions to the professor.  As one who presents to groups of varying sizes in today’s world,  I wanted to say “hello” and welcome to the digital world.   Whether you attend SXSW Interactive , the ultimate destination for digital interactions, or simply attend a meeting, texting to connect with audience members and presenters during sessions is at the heart of the digital world.  This world also actively demonstrates the  Experience Economy as described by Pine and Gilmore.

There are two key facets for successful presentations in the digital world:

a) preparations by the hosting organization to create optimal conditions for presenter and audience interactions; and

b) preparations by the presenter to engage digitally before, during, after the session.

First let’s take a high-level look at preparation by the host or sponsoring association.  If you are hosting a conference, workshop, or seminar, remember these tips to maximize participant experiences and presenter effectiveness:

1.  Plan your event with digital lenses.  Even if the event is f2f, digital surrounds the experience.  The Social Collective, brainchild of Chris Bucchere (@bucchere), captures the digital surround and provides practical tools for organizations to create the digital continuum — before, during, after — f2f experiences.

2.  Ensure that the venue is digital friendly.  Is there wireless capacity?  Be sure to verify capacity.  Can the venue IT team  support you, your on-site event needs, and troubleshoot — the latter, obviously, critically important.

3.  Set the “stage” for your presenters/speakers.  From break-out speakers to your keynotes, each individual you have invited to speak wants to deliver successfully and needs these basics:

a.  Green Room — to collect thoughts, one-more slide run-through, meet with panel members (maybe they’ve come from around the world and this is their first f2f chat0, etc.  Provide basic amenities, water/coffee, tables/chairs but be sure there are active digital connections and ideally an LCD set-up.  ASAE provides a great green room.

b.  Room Set — yes, these are pre-set but when the meeting planner chooses the set, be sure the speaker can be seen and s/he can see the audience members.  I have spoken to a room of 100 or so, flat — no stage, it was a problem.  I could not see the audience and many of them could not see me especially because lights were either up or down.  There were no in-house cameras projecting image.  Even with digital interactions, eye contact is important.

c.  Light  Set-up — ensure that lights above the slide screen can be dimmed separately  to see the slides AND the audience can still see their materials, devices (laptops, smartphones, etc), each other and the speaker(s).

d.  AV Services — Speaker also needs immediate access to his computer or smart phone for following event hashtags and responding to audience comments during the event.  In addition to access, be sure that the tech in the room is knowledgeable across platforms.  During a recent presentation,  the AV set-up was quite awkward and I had to stop my presentation in the middle to troubleshoot a technical glitch even with a tech in the room (grrr).

e.  Introductions — Nix these or make them quite brief — Post the speaker’s bio on your event website, invite (require) the speaker to tweet or participate in online-chat prior to the event, ask speakers to blog specifically about your upcoming event, etc.  In other words, use digital venues to introduce speakers before the f2f event.   Set up hashtag format:  event hashtag with extensions for each session/event.

In summary, plan your f2f events with your digital lenses.  Future post:  pressenter success in the digital world