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Presentations That Pop

Technology helps bring your sales presentations to life, but don’t rely on it to make you a great presenter.

In early 2006, Todd Dunn looked out at a crowd of exquisitely dressed people eagerly anticipating the next segment of the program. A multimedia presentation specialist with DenMar Services at Lackland AF in San Antonio, Dunn was hired by a production company to assist with the video presentation of an awards ceremony. He decided to try a new product to visually present the names of the winners. The result was just what he was looking for.

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As the projector flashed names on the screen, they floated serenely over clouds towards a beautiful purple and gold sunset. The theme of the program was traveling the globe, and Dunn realized he had picked the perfect “power-look” to enhance his slide presentation.

“You have to think of what everyone has already seen out there,” says Dunn. “With rich media on network television, and everything else, you need to have something that will stand out and grab peoples’ attention.” Using software called Ovation, by Serious Magic, Dunn was able to use knowledge from years of office and sales presentations to create the perfect presentation using the latest technology.

After using the software, Dunn realized how ordinary presentations could become extraordinary. “It looked like a customized creation and really made a powerful impact during the presentation,” he adds.

An advance in presentation technology is making the chasm between regular office presentations and full-scale multimedia events smaller, changing the way presentations are created, delivered and absorbed in the process. Software such as Ovation can help make the ordinary extraordinary. Wireless remotes make the transition between slides seamless. Even portable audio systems add a media element to your presentations without having to rely on the limited audio capabilities of hotels and laptops.

The many new tools and technologies available not only add bells and whistles to a presentation, they enhance a viewers understanding of a topic, which is the ultimate goal, according to Rick Altman, host of the annual PowerPoint Live User Conference, scheduled for September 2006 in San Diego. He recently attended the InfoComm 2006 conference, an audio/visual conference on the latest presentation technology, in Orlando, and says there are many new tools to the market that can make presenting easier and more effective:

  • Wireless Remotes–Wireless presentation remotes have the ability to advance slides at the pace of the presenter, and are relatively inexpensive. “Using a wireless remote is such a liberating tool to the presenter; it should be considered an essential to anyone doing anything in front of a group,” says Altman. Two vendors such as Santa Clara, Calif.-based Crystal Graphics and Albuquerque, N.M.-based Penta Performance offer a range of wireless remotes giving the presenter flexibility of motion during a presentation.
  • Audio Equipment–Many times when using sound in presentations, presenters must rely on the audio equipment provided by hotels or their laptops. Several new audio products were introduced at the InfoComm convention that set out to make using audio easier. Boombag is a portable speaker system by Pittsburg, Calif.-based Boom Bags , and the Fender Passport P-80 is a portable audio system from Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Fender. Both systems boast a powerful sound, which allow presenters to personalize audio elements of their presentations.
  • Audience Response Systems — RSVP by Plymouth Meeting, Pa.-based Merida Audience Response and Vistacom by Exton, Pa.-based Vistacom Information Systems are two types of audience response systems that promise increased attendee interaction. Both contain a set of wireless cards that allow audience members to answer questions during a presentation. A computer collects the answers for the group and displays the results onscreen for the ultimate audience interaction.
  • Presentation Software – Ovation by Folsom, Calif.-based SeriousMagic gives presenters the ability to import pictures, audio, and video into a PowerPoint presentation. Mac users are not left out in the cold; Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple is the maker of Keynote software, which allows users to create “cinema-quality presentations.” “This type of software is for people who are really looking to present something really creative and PowerPoint just isn’t enough,” says Altman.

Despite all of the new technology available, however, presenters still must be mindful of their audiences. According to Altman, presenters should keep the technology at a level where the audience is able to focus on the core message.

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“The amount of technology on the market is dizzying,” he says. Presenters should be careful of overusing technology because they just learned it or found out about it. “Many times presenters use a feature just because they discovered how to use it, regardless of how appropriate it is,” says Altman. Unnecessary use of audio, flashy visuals, or other distracting features take away from the core message of the presentation. “It just annoys the heck out of the audience,” he adds.

Even before any new technology is employed, presenters need to know their subject matter and have the confidence to deliver it. “When you are presenting in front of an audience, you must have a certain skill set,” says Anthony Romano III, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Sacremento, Calif.-based CoreLogic, a mortgage solutions company, whose sales force gives frequent presentations throughout the year. “Using power gestures and walking towards your audience when you are making a point shows great mastery of oral presentation skills,” he adds.

After training many other presenters on sales and presentation skills, Dunn is aware of common mistakes made during important presentations by overusing technology. “It is very easy to get caught in the ‘Hollywood’ effect,” Dunn says. “With so much technology available, you have to make sure the technology you use visually supports the message you want to give.”

SIDEBAR: Being a Great Presenter

According to the Advanced Public Speaking Institute, a Virginia Beach, Va.-based public speaking organization, other key tactics presenters can use include:

  • Movement – When making an important point during a speaking engagement, move toward the audience. Three steps forward from center stage would be a very powerful position that would command attention
  • Slow Down – Do specific practice sessions concentrating on varying the speed of your delivery so that you get a better control over this aspect of your presentations. Also, varying the speed makes you more interesting automatically.
  • Energy – The greatest asset any public speaking expert can have is ENERGY. Energy comes in many colors and hues, from a whisper to a shout. Some will define energy as passion, enthusiasm or ‘fire in the belly.’ With this fire, even a trivial message becomes compelling; without it, the most powerful message will fall unheard.
  • Intensity – Public speaking audiences expect intensity. They like it. They arrive wanting an ‘experience.’ To develop the speaking flow and energy that delivers that to them, use variation in pace while using technology to supplement, not overwhelm the point.
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