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DEFINITION

A presentation is everything the audience feels, sees and hears. We, event organisers, wish to make the listeners understand the speaker and react to their emotions and feelings. When the speaker is relaxed and smiling, the audience reacts in the same manner. The speaker’s voice and energy are extremely important. For this reason, make sure to select the right speaker based on references and hearing them live. In this chapter, we uncover a few secrets of effective speaker management.

THE STARTING POINT

The success of an event depends mainly on the combination of four elements. The most important is the participants, as the choice of speakers and the methodology depends on the audience. The next element is the expertise of the speaker, their pros and cons and stage confidence. The next important element is the content. Does the speaker know their field of work well, are they an expert with an abundance of technical and specialist knowledge? Are they a good speaker in the official language of the event? If the speaker is crucial to the event’s success and their presentation might be better in their mother tongue, then it’s wise to engage the services of an interpreter. The final vital element is event preparation. The saying “preparation is the key to success” is not an exaggeration. In practice, the so-called 1:16 rule means that every hour of the conference programme takes at least 16 hours of preparation. More about this later.

THE CONCEPT

The first step is the most important. In our extensive experience, we have tried several tools and techniques for speaker management. In the past, the most common guidance used for the preparation of speakers was instructions made for scientific conferences. From today’s perspective, those instructions contributed a great deal to the excellent preparation of the speakers for the event.

With the evolution of experience marketing and an increased focus on participants, this part of the event organisation has become crucial; however, it is often overlooked. The key step is the preparation of understandable and crystal-clear instructions for the speakers. For several years, we have been using the TEDx concept, although several other options and instructions for different types of events do exist. TEDx has perfected the rules and guidelines, and the results speak for themselves. We adapted their six-step concept to the needs of our events, and today it is the backbone of our event preparation instructions.

Photo: Conventa Crossover

The event format A.K.A. “Get familiar with the form” by Tedx

In this section, we define every format in detail. Both participants and speakers will experience this format. The instructions for this define the length of the presentations, the discussion time, and language, and we create a short description of the goals we wish to accomplish at the event itself. The speakers are also provided with recommendations on the use of each format.

The idea development A.K.A. “Develop an idea” by TEDx

The concept of the presentation is the combination of the experience, characteristics and values of the speaker. A useful approach is to ask the speaker to write down their idea in two sentences. By doing so, you can test whether their idea is relevant to your participants. The process includes the moderator, who should develop a personal bond with the speaker.

The creative brief A.K.A. “Make an outline and script” by TEDx

Using a special form for this particular purpose enables a professional execution of the presentation. The form goes through the process of coordination, development and finally, reaching a consensus. The reduction is supposed to meet the expectations of the focus group. A case example is presented at the end of the chapter.

Slide creation A.K.A. “Create slides” by TEDx

This expert task is best put into the hands of professionals. Unfortunately, this is often not the case and the resulting presentations are terrible. Less is more and less information might be better than too much.

Drills A.K.A. “Rehearse” by TEDx

Thorough testing of your presentation in front of a test group is recommended. The speaker should repeat the presentation at least six times and in different situations so that they are confident, relaxed and focused on the presentation.

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Photo credit: Flickr - Ines Ozimek

TIPS AND TOOLS

The speaker is your best friend

Guidelines for a successful presentation are plentiful. We have gathered together some of the most important recommendations into separate sections. You can use some of these instructions and give them to your speaker at your next event. It is best not to leave anything to chance. The best approach is for the event organiser or moderator to connect (via video call) with the speakers during the preparation for the event. The connection between the key players can have an important impact on the final result of the event.

STEP BY STEP

Designing the presentation

1. A picture (photograph) says more than a thousand words. The easiest way to present a complex idea or process is by using a picture or graphic.
2. Less is more – one picture, one idea. It is best to avoid using too many elements in one presentation. The standard is six words a slide and bullet points should be avoided.
3. Use standard fonts of a high resolution (the minimum letter size should be 32). Keep away from non-standard fonts. Standard fonts such as Ariel, Helvetica and Verdana are recommended.
4. The suggested presentation size should be a 16:9 screen. A large portion of modern presentations is given in this format because it is the closest to the natural colour the human eye detects.
5. Colours and colour combinations are very important. The colour palette should be limited to two or three colours.

Extra recommendations: For design use a professional graphic designer.

Photo: Pexels (Canva Pro)

Presentation Content

1. The focal point of the presentation should be the main theme and the essence of the topic. This will ensure the audience is not distracted elsewhere (e.g. their mobile phones).
2. It is wise to include tiny surprises in the presentation; these could include remarkable information, interesting comparisons, quotes and references.
3. On-stage advertising or selling is strictly forbidden unless it is an internal conference of a specific company.
4. Politics, religion and fake news have no place on stage. The speaker should avoid fundamentalism, as the stage represents a place of tolerance and acceptance.
5. The conclusion and recap are imperative, as they represent the audience’s final impression. It should be carefully considered and made with special care.

Verbal presentation

1. The speaker should perfect correct breathing (inhaling through the nose and speaking when exhaling). Experienced speakers tend to use the technique of diaphragmatic breathing.
2. The speaker should vary the pace of speech, emphasise keywords and pause when necessary.
3. The text and presentation should be short and understandable, without using lengthy sentences.
4. Jargon, foreign words and hard-to-understand words should be avoided or explained.
5. It is vital not to lose the silver lining.

Non-verbal presentation

1. The body language should be relaxed, the speaker natural and smiling, and their presentation confident.
2. The face is the most expressive part of the face and shows many things. If our face is grim, our audience will be uncomfortable and possibly even scared.
3. Eye contact with the audience is necessary for a successful presentation, as it builds trust. The rule here is to make eye- contact with happy faces first.
4. The winner pose is also relevant to the speaker. When the speaker holds their head up high, the audience senses that this is someone who is aware of their qualities.
5. Owning the stage is crucial. The speaker needs to own the stage and feel confident when speaking or moving around the space.

One of the very best teachers on the techniques of stage performance is David Beckett, who also gave a presentation at the Conventa Crossover conference.

Technical instructions

1. 16:9 is the most natural frame ratio (screen ratio of 1280 x 720 pixels). If possible, avoid the old 4:3 format (screen ratio 800 x 600 pixels).
2. Photos and videos should also be kept safe on a USB, in case there are problems with the presentation and the original photos need to be reuploaded.
3. The acceptable video formats are AVI, WMV, MPG or MOV.
4. Mac (Apple) users must convert their presentation into a PDF format.
5. Presentations should at all times be presented logically and in a uniform way.

Legal Instructions (details worth including in the instructions)

1. The organiser owns the rights to the audio, video and photo documentation of the event.
2. The materials are the property of the organizer. The participants and speaker consent to the time-unlimited publication of the materials for promotional purposes. Should any participants or the speaker not consent to this, they must inform the organiser prior to the conference.
3. All moral rights of the presentation belong to the author. The material author rights of reproduction and distribution are transferred from the speaker to the organiser.

RECOMMENDATIONS

A good speaker must be able to speak fluently and smoothly (in the official language of the event). The time recommendations listed below can be helpful when preparing for a presentation.

Timetable for a shorter presentation containing four segments

Introduction1 paragraph1-2 minutes
Body (2 topics)4 paragraphs4-8 minutes
Highlight (1 topic)2 paragraphs2-4 minutes
Conclusion 1 paragraph1-2 minutes
Q&A3 paragraphs3-6 minutes
FINAL11-22 minutes

A few rules for speakers:

– The average paragraph should contain 125–150 words
– Reading 150 words equals 1 minute of a presentation
– 9000 written words equal 1 hour of a presentation
– The shortest recommended presentation length is 15 minutes
– The legendary TEDx format is 18 minutes long

TECHNICAL ILLUSTRATIONS

1. Size of the fonts in relation to a projected screen of 1280 x 720 resolution
verdana 16

verdana 24

verdana 48

verdana 60

verdana 96

2. The recommended font size in relation to the distance of participants

– Up to 10 m distance: 3 cm high
– Up to 20 m distance: 6 cm high
– Up to 40 m distance: 12 cm high
– Up to 80 m distance: 24 cm high

3. Once you go black, you never go back

– Dark is a beautiful slide background
– White is a beautiful paper background

4. The rule of thirds
– Composition

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Photo: Marko Delbello Ocepek

INSPIRATION

Verbal and non-verbal communication takes place at the same time, but the message differs. Some scientists stress that the quality of the message depends more on non-verbal communication. Back in 1967, Dr Albert Mehrabian carried out research into which parts of the presentation have the biggest influence on the audience.

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Photo: Pixabay (Canva Pro)

They came to the following conclusions:

– 7% of the message is carried by words said out loud
– 38% of the message depends on how the words are said
– 55% of the message is transported by facial expressions and body language

This theory was later heavily criticised, yet non-verbal communication remains extremely important. Mehrabian divided the elements of non-verbal communication into the following categories:

– Visual Look: how we are dressed, how we look, and how physically attractive we are
– Personal Space: The physical space immediately surrounding someone into which encroachment can feel threatening or uncomfortable.
– Facial expressions: Channelling emotions and feelings through facial expressions
– Body language: The conscious and unconscious movements and postures by which attitudes and feelings are communicated.
– Physical Contact: The interactive touch between the participants and the speaker.
– Eye Contact: Controls and directs the relationship between the speaker and the listener
– Speech: This element contains all non-verbal signals connected with speaking. This includes intonation, speech, volume, etc.

*Mehrabian, Albert: Silent Messages: Implicit Communication of Emotions and Attitudes. Belmont, Canada

GLOSSARY:

briefinga short, informative presentation given in an organisational setting
conciseexpressing much in few wordswww.lexico.com
consensusa group decision that is acceptable to all members of the groupwww.google.com
critical thinkingfocused, organised thinking about such things as the logical relationships among ideas, the soundness of evidence, and the differences between fact and opinion.www.skillsyouneed.com
debatethe clash of opposing ideas, evaluations and policy proposals on a subject of concernwww.merriam-webster.com
metaphoran implicit comparison, not introduced with the word ‘like’ or ‘as,’ between two things that are essentially different yet have something in commonwww.merriam-webster.com
narrativeA story used to illustrate an important truth about a speaker’s topicwww.literaryterms.net
non-verbal communicationcommunication based on a person’s use of voice and body, rather than on the use of wordswww.skillsyouneed.com
recapitulationa summary that repeats the substance of a longer discussionwww.merriam-webster.com
rhetorical questionsquestions that have a self-evident answer or that provoke curiosity that the speech then proceeds to satisfywww.merriam-webster.com
simplicitya desirable quality of speech structure. Suggests that a speech has a limited number of main points and that they be short and directwww.lexico.com