Tips for presentations

For the script:

  • Circulate the master script a week in advance.  Confirm with speakers any name pronunciations they may have questions about, and provide phonetic spellings where needed. 
  • Print off three copies of the script (minimum) and have them available, in addition to distributing in advance.  These should go to the backstage (if a technician is present), front of house (especially useful for camera and lighting operators).
  • Note cues in your script.  These include house lights/stage lights, and any special changes, if there’s a slide show it should note when the image should be advanced, if there’s video it should include when to press play and note the duration of the video clip. 
  • Some speakers may value having the video text noted.  Ask them, and include accordingly

For the speaker:

  • Make sure the emcee always introduces themselves to the audience.  This should include a title that lends explanation to why they are serving in that role.  Make sure all other speakers are properly introduced.  Provide bios at least a week in advance so that speakers can internalize the person whom they’re introducing.
  • If you’re planning for your speaker to wear a lavaliere microphone (these are the kind that are clipped onto a lapel or tie) remind them to wear attire that allows for the clipping.
  • Plan in time to assist the individual with getting into the lavaliere system.  This includes a private space to run cables through clothing if necessary, and time for a sound check.  If this is done some time in advance of the presentation, check them again just before the speaker goes onstage to confirm that the placement is still correct.

For the planner:

  • Provide an itinerary at least a week in advance to your speaker.  Consider including short bios for anyone that will be transporting or escorting him/her from one location to another
  • If your speaker is staying at a hotel that you make the arrangements for, consider having a welcome basket placed in their room.
  • Get your own copy of the script, even if you only have one person speaking.  As the person running the show, it's important for you to know what they plan to say so that you can share cues with your technical team and initiate certain steps in the program.
  • Make sure to have reserved seating for your speakers, or a place for them to be when they are not actually at the podium.
  • Consider having cards with 10 minutes, 5 minutes, 1 minute and last question (if appropriate) if there is a limit for how long they should speak.  Let the speaker know in advance by showing them the cards and telling them where you will be stationed to give these cues. 
  • If you have VIPs present, make sure to allow time for them to get properly introduced to the speakers, if appropriate.
  • Make sure that there is water offered or available to all your speakers, this is usually provided at the podium, or at a small table.
  • If you’re recording or streaming the presentation, consider placing a spike mark or line that lets your speakers know the optimum place to stand.
  • Consider the background behind the presenter.  Messaging or a screen can be placed off to the side, but remember that the person standing will block what is directly behind them.  Consider keeping the background clean so that the speaker "pops".

Presentation Best Practices:

If your presentation will be viewed via video, consider these best practices.  These are good for general purpose Power Points, too.  It’s also recommended to avoid or limit your use of transitions between slides.  You can also click here to see an example Power Point presentation that shares the do's and dont's of using Power Point during a webcast.

  • The fewer words, the better:  Each slide should be about a single concept.  Remember that a slide should anchor your key points and anchor your presentation… not be a teleprompter.  Think short bullets that you expand on.  Use fragments, not sentences.
  • Use a dark background with light letters, and build to a 16:9 ratio.
  • Use one theme, and limit yourself to two fonts, maximum! 
  • Test your presentation on the system, preferably 24 hours in advance.  Not all fonts are on all systems, a change in font can make it so your text doesn’t fit!  Imbedded videos can be tricky.  If you’re using videos or sound, it’s absolutely necessary to test in advance.  Consider sending your presentation to the facility in advance for testing.  If you decide to change a phrase the night before, you can always reload.
  • If you’re the one loading the presentation onto the system, place the entire folder into the desktop and avoid running it from a thumb drive.  This folder should contain the presentation, videos, audio clips, fonts and any other documents that are a part of your presentation.

Public Address System Basics:

The A/V technician is there to control the environment, so let them do their job.  Sound checks are important, so ask for one if it’s not already on the itinerary.   Ask them about best practices in speaking angle for the particular style of microphone being used.

When you step up to the microphone… don’t move it!  The technician will adjust the sound levels to the way you speak.  If you move the microphone, they lose their window of control to make you sound your best.  Start speaking, and continue at your natural level.  Allow 15 seconds for them to adjust the system to meet you.  Don’t worry about what your own voice sounds like; it will be taken care of for you.  Don’t bother asking your audience if they can hear you, that’s what the technician is there for!

Your mouth should be 6 inches from the microphone, or about the length of your fist.

Top 10 ways to be a better public speaker:

  • Study your material – be the expert beyond what you plan to talk about
  • Rehearse – practice timing, with the equipment that you’ll be using.  Avoid “reading”, use humor, keep it short so that there’s time for questions.
  • Know your audience – talk individually before you address the whole group
  • Know the room, be comfortable walking around in the stage space, and make sure your presentation functions properly. 
  • Ease in slowly – greet your audience
  • Use visualization techniques – imagine yourself speaking clearly and with confidence, allow your voice to peak naturally.  The vocal variation will keep your audience listening.
  • Know that the audience wants you to succeed
  • Don’t apologize – if you don’t tell anyone you’re nervous, no one will probably even know.
  • Concentrate on the message
  • Gain experience – practice makes perfect!

When in doubt, tell them what you’re going to say, say it, then summarize your key points.