Can I walk around when I talk?
What’s wrong with standing on the right side of the screen?
Why can’t I use the arrow keys to move my slides forward, or get someone else to do it for me?
What happens when you get in your own way as you present? You dilute the message, distracting both the audience and yourself. You lose the intent and focus of the talk. Here are some ideas on how not to get in your own way.
Walk, Don’t shuffle
Walking from one specific spot to another is fine, but beware of shuffling from foot to foot – it’s distracting to your audience. If you’re not sure you’re a shuffler, then stand on a piece of paper. People who shuffle usually rock from side to side moving their feet ever so slightly or rock back and forth. You will hear the paper noise as you move from one foot to the other. Do, however, plan to walk to and stand in several places. Just be sure you don’t block your audience’s view of the screen.
Stand to the Left of the Screen
In English as well as many other languages, people read from left to right. By standing on the left side of the screen (as your audience looks at it), the audience sees you and then the slide. When you stand to the right of the screen, your audience looks at you, then has to move their eyes to the left to read the words from left to right, then sees you again. That is distracting and more work for the eyes.
Your tasks as a presenter are, first, to talk to your audience and engage their interest. Once you have their interest, you must show your slides and explain them. That’s enough for one presenter to handle. When you add the task of looking down, finding the arrow key, and then pushing it to go to the next slide, that’s too much. You lose eye contact with the audience and a focus on the content of your slides. A remote mouse is much easier to use. Just hold it by your side. You don’t have to point it at the screen – it’s unnecessary and distracting.
Loss of focus is also why you don’t want someone else to advance your slides for you, unless that person is reading your script as you talk. Then he or she will know when to switch the slides. But if you do not have a script, you have to keep looking at the person to signal when to advance the slides.
To sum it all up, make sure you don’t get in your own way as you present. You may wish to ask some colleagues these questions:
- Does my walking distract from my talking? Am I actually walking, or just shuffling my feet?
- Do I stand where it’s easy for the audience to see me as well as the screen as they read the slide?
- Do I use the remote mouse correctly, with no extraneous movement?
Claudyne Wilder runs a boutique presentation business. Wilder Presentations offers Get to the Message presentation workshops and consulting services to organizations ranging from Fortune 500 pharmaceutical firms to community-based non-profits.
Claudyne is the creator of TorchMetrics, an innovative online tool that operates on your device as a customized speaking coach.