Question: If I'm giving a presentation using slides, should I face the audience or the screen onto which my slides are being projected?
Answer: If your goal is to communicate effectively to the audience, resist the urge to face the screen and instead, turn your body to face the people in the room and speak directly to them.
(I get asked this question a lot and I often see presenters make the mistake of facing the screen rather than the audience.)
Here are answers to 5 other frequently asked questions about how to present with slides:
Eye contact helps you determine if the audience is attentive and if they understand your message. It also expresses your respect for them and demonstrates your confidence, since you know the information without having to read it.
2. What if I can't remember my content without reading my slides?
Practice is the best way to ensure that you remember your content. Practice by standing up and saying the words out loud as you go through your slides, paying particular attention to how you transition from one slide to the next. The goal is not to memorize every word, but to become comfortable enough with the material that you can say it several different ways without getting flustered.
In addition to practicing, you can also position your computer screen as a "confidence monitor" so you can face the audience and still glance at the slides on your laptop screen, which can help you remember what you want to say next.
3. How much information should go on each slide?
Not as much as you think. Your slides should have only a few phrases or high-quality images for you to build on and to reinforce what you are saying. You are more important than the slides and you should be viewed as the source of the information – so you should also seriously consider whether you need slides at all.
Don't write out your entire presentation on your slides and then read it word for word to the audience; then there would no need for a presentation or a meeting – you could just send out the slides and everyone could read them at their desks.
And be sure that the font size, colors, contrast, etc. make the slides easy to read from all parts of the room. I've seen too many presentations where the slides were difficult to read and the presenter had to start off by saying, "I know you can't read this…"
4. What if when I look at the audience, they're all looking at my slides on the screen?
That's ok; they need time to read your slides (another reason why your slides shouldn't be too busy or hard to read) and eventually, when they look at you, it will be helpful if you are looking back at them.
5. Where should I stand?
Stand to the side of the screen so you don't block the audience's view. Also be careful not to stand in the way of the projector light so your silhouette doesn't appear on the screen. Using a remote control will allow you to advance your slides without having to hover over the laptop. Many remotes now include laser pointers so you can highlight items on the slide.
Presenting with slides is not necessarily easy, but with preparation and practice, you can deliver an effective presentation even when you use slides.
Gilda Bonanno is a speaker, trainer and coach who helps people improve their presentation and communication skills so they can be more successful. Sign up to receive more public speaking and networking strategies from Gilda's e-newsletter: http://www.gildabonanno.com/Pages/newsletter.aspx
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