Enhancing presentation skills by acknowledging your various audiences – using the iPad as a presentation tool to enhance connection with your audiences (even when others criticise this approach)

There’s a reason why I give away my information and experience on this blog for free, without expectation of reciprocal exchange.

It helps me bring my ideas to paper, to sort them into practical “chunks” so that when I give paid workshops, there’s a place for people to go to investigate more of my ideas and practices. The blog brings me no income, as you can see, containing as it does no Google Adwords or other sources of money, not even a tip-jar.

There’s also an area after each blog entry for readers to both make comments, and to pass on to others the entry link to share around.

So, when I read a blog entry from another presenter which is critical of my endeavours and yet offers no opportunity to respond directly, I have to use my own blog to open up the discussion and see where it takes me and my readership.

Such an event occurred today when my twitter feed showed the following:

Hmm… Something I’ve shown hampers public speaking inadvertently? Well, colour my curiosity piqued!

Heading to the linked website, reveals a blog link on José Silva’s Scrapbook which examines my recent APEX presentation in Seattle which I uploaded to YouTube and blogged about in much detail, describing my choices along the way.

Here’s how José begins his blog entry – and I’m grateful he gets to the point and doesn’t make me wait around too long!

Presentationist Les Posen inadvertently shows why one of the products he recommends is likely to make presenters worse public speakers.

I like Les’s Presentation Magic site (on the internet we’re all on a first name basis, right?). I think it focusses a bit much on presentation sizzle, but then most sites on presentations do. Tufte and Norman, when they discuss presentations, are the exception.

Les gave a presentation about fear of flying where he used a product he recommended before, the iKlip. From the video of that presentation he appears to stay mostly in the same place, standing at parade attention near his stationary iPad.

If he sat down on a comfy chair it would be less distracting; it would at least feel natural.

The iKlip in question is merely a holder for my iPad attached to a microphone stand. It facilitates using the iPad as a vanity monitor so I can best know what’s happening on the main screen behind me without turning my back to the audience.

Previously, I’d either use my Mac in presenter mode – something which means you’ve got to stand within easy sight – or bring with me my own vanity monitor and a switch box so the feed to it and the data projector match. Most conference venues will nowadays supply with you a monitor but it’s expected you’ll use it in mirror mode, something I believe is unhelpful to professional presenters when compared to being in presenter mode, previewing the next build or slide.

The iKlip merely allows me to position the iPad in such a way as to facilitate presenter mode, although because I also use the Doceri software package, I can annotate the slides at will. I’m sure many in education will find that facility very useful, and if one’s running an all day workshop, you could add a white slide to the end of your Keynote or Powerpoint stack, and use Doceri as a whiteboard.

Returning to José‘s critique, he observes something I had not perceived or received feedback from others: that I appear to be standing at “parade attention” due to needing to be in close proximity to the iPad, and this is not good public speaking practice.

Personally, I don’t experience my presentation that way, believing myself to be quite animated using hands, body and voice appropriately. Jose would prefer me to have my iPad in my hands and move around the auditorium, freeing up myself and not appearing so stiff and “unnatural”.

In preparing my response, I was reminded of my training in Family Therapy more than twenty years ago. This therapy developed in response to an increasing medicalisation of behavioural issues, especially in children,  as well as institutionalisation of those with serious mental illness issues.

Rather than seeing a child or adult as being ill, Family Therapy asked therapists to look at the presenting problem in more systemic, global ways, so that the individual was referred to as the “Identified patient” but treatment involved the entire family. The idea was to remove stigmatising and paralysing “blaming of the patient” and look to see how the whole family interacted and to give the family work to do between sessions to ameliorate the “identified” problem behaviour.

This was a radical approach at the time, and required radical interventions. One of these was the Greek Chorus and the one-way screen. Essentially the therapist interacted with the family while a team behind a one-way window observed the family-therapist interaction, using a two-way intercom to call attention to behaviours not necessarily witnessed by the therapist as well as offer questions and observations, hence the Greek Chorus, as it was termed.

Such devices are great for therapists in training, even if it’s a rather nerve wracking experience. Those behind the screen also had much learning to do, sharpening observational skills, formulating hypotheses about what they were witnessing, and providing feedback and guidance to the therapist in the room with the family.

There was one thing though one learnt via this experience: ultimately, the therapist in the room was best placed to “feel” the ambience and mood in that room, something not experienced behind the screen. Whatever advice they received via the intercom, it was their choice as to what they acted upon, sometimes discarding it completely.

Later, in the group debrief, they needed to justify their actions, and the “you had to be in the room” explanation was used sparingly, since it’s hard to put into words the “being with the family” experience.

This is my rebuttal to Jose. What he’s seeing is a video of what happened in the auditorium where the presentation took place. I was there, and responded to the experience as I felt best at the time.

Let me get more to the point, so we may all learn something here.

How I chose to move or not move around the auditorium was determined far less by the iKlip and Doceri than Jose would have it. It was more determined by the practicalities of my audiences. Yes, audiences.

You see, going into this presentation I had in my mind several audiences whose compositions and needs I could only guess at. The first audience was the live one in the room, composed of aviation personnel. As it turned out, they were not a homogeneous group, but came from many areas of aviation. They were seated in a very large room, which held 250 people. The room setup was to place the presenters on a podium, the guest speaker behind a lectern, stage right, and the slideshow way over on stage left.

I was probably the only speaker on the day to get down with the audience, and use Keynote, not Powerpoint. (Many conferences I attend either expect you to bring your own laptop and do all the tech support; or they go completely into control freak mode, and expect you to hand in your Powerpoint which they place on a central server to be played on their supplied PCs.)

So that’s my primary audience which will give one instant feedback as to one’s presentation, and either charge you up or deflate you as you go along.

But I also prepared, when constructing the presentation and its delivery, that I would have at least two other audiences, with quite different learning expectations and priorities…. and these would not be in the live audience to give me instant feedback.

It was my plan to video the presentation and give it to the APEX education committee to place on their private site, for members to watch and download at their leisure. What I was told was that my slides were required for this exercise. And of course I know that if I just sent them just the plain slides without builds and transitions or the accompanying stories, so much would be lost in translation. Of course, being steeped in the cognitive style of Powerpoint (having seen previous APEX slides), their expectation was that my slides would contain all that was needed to convey my story, without my narrative or voice-over. I knew otherwise, so had planned to video my presentation with me on the floor, and cutting in live-action video with my Keynote slides to make it a far more engaging video.

If you go back and view the video on YouTube, you’ll see why I had to limit my movements, so as to stay in camera shot. My iPhone was stationary and set by me to record, with no one to track me as I moved about. Hence, the need not to move out of camera range. That would be fine for the live audience, but the audience watching on YouTube would find it frustrating just to see me move in and out of camera. Here’s Jose himself in action from a camera’s static position, with an hour’s lecture sped up to take just a few minutes (much like we see how Boeing or Airbus assemble a plane in a two minutes.)

Firstly, here’s a screenshot from the video of Jose out of screen range:

This is what I tried NOT to do, and if one of the resultant effects was to come across stiffly, I was prepared to pay the price.

Here’s his YouTube video, and I’m not sure when I watch what is the message behind speeding it up. Note also the hulking and distracting video monitor stand in the centre of the video. Give me my less intrusive iKlip anyday ;-)

I mentioned earlier three audiences I was addressing: (1) the live audience, (2) the aviation audience who would watch it on the APEX members-only website, and (3) now a third audience: my own presentation training audience who would watch the video on YouTube where its subject, fear of flying, was merely a vehicle to illustrate my presentation ideas.

For them, how I constructed my slides has always been of interest, but this would be the first time many who had not attended a Presentation Magic workshop would witness me interact with my slides and a live audience, and then read about what and how I did what I did moment by moment. If you can find another presenter who has done this naked work (so to speak) please send me a link so I can put it here and share it.

(This is likely why Jose’s blog entry confused me, focussing as it did on such a small element of my presentation, and making a big deal of something, warning other presenters their’s might be negatively affected.)

I want to focus on a couple more comments Jose made on his blog entry. He asserts I would have come across as more “natural” had I sat in a comfy chair and opined.

Sitting in chairs has the purpose of making a presentation more intimate with strangers. We’ve seen this when the Apple executive team demoed the iPad in keynotes, and more recently, it’s the setup Walt Mossberg took at his and Kara Swisher’s All Things Digital conferences, such as their recent one in Hong Kong.

Here’s Walt and Al Gore in conversation in front of hundreds of high powered Asia-based tech executives:

So sitting down has its place in public speaking in order to create an intimate dialogue when in front of a rather formidable audience or in a friendly small setting, because you want to create a special feeling in the room.

In my presentation at APEX, I was not interested in an intimate dialogue. I was challenged with 30 minutes to convince three audiences of the worthiness of my ideas, and my authority and authenticity in at least two fields: aviation and public speaking. It was not a time for intimacy.

Let me finish this critique of Jorge’s critique with his final words:

For me, Doceri won’t help. I use either a real teleprompter, the eyes-only presenter screen on large monitors at the ten-and-two positions on the floor, or — overwhelmingly — good memory supplemented by notes.

This is all well and good if you are repeating lectures in a familiar environment. But if you’re a public speaker as I am, most often – actually invariably – you are not given these tools Jose relies upon. So, I have to be inventive and the iPad, Doceri and the iKlip take me a long way to being self-sufficient as a presenter while hopefully delivering high quality presentations to diverse audiences on diverse subjects in diverse and sometimes hostile locations.

I appreciate the value of a great memory (which is why I rehearse so much as its an aide memoire), as are notes as long as they don’t interfere with you connecting to the audience.

But I fear that there is only so much of a rapprochement possible here. Focussing on such a small component of what I think is a rather complex, multilevel presentation with numerous audiences in mind doesn’t give me a sense of optimism.

Your comments are welcomed.

2 responses to “Enhancing presentation skills by acknowledging your various audiences – using the iPad as a presentation tool to enhance connection with your audiences (even when others criticise this approach)

  1. Hi,

    I like your blog and I like your action to adapt a technology to solve a problem for public speakers. As Keynote consultant, I usually go to several places for delivering Keynote presentation. The number of my slides are 100~300 for 1 or 2 hours. So I actually adapt Doceri to my presentation. Previsouly I used to use Logmein app on iPad. But, in my test Doceri is better for it. However, Doceri still has a problem to show the presenter’s screen to me. Sometimes it is slow to show video clips and animations. So I feel that it’s not enough to use. But, I will try to use it with iKlip for my delivery. Thanks,

    • be persistent with it, and remember to some extent it’s dependent on the speed of the wifi connection, and the power of your iPad. I believe the software will continue to be improved upon. Certainly. it’s light years ahead of logmein for the purposes of a vanity monitor. There is also Air Video to consider too, but it has no presenter display option, nor ability to annotate.

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