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The nuances that distinguish a good presentation at an event from a mediocre one

Author: Anton Rosenko
Reading time: 13 minutes
Nowadays, few people decide to organize an important event on their own. Mainly in the corporate sphere, the organization of events is given to professional event agencies. Since the stakes are high, everything should be perfect: both the entertainment part and the formal part.

The formal side of events often includes a speech by one of the company's leaders, the purpose of which is to motivate:
- an internal client, company employees,
- an external client, that is, invited partners and potential clients.

And few performances are held without presentations. The presentation scenario can include a leader's speeches about the history and plans of the company, a presentation about the main product or service of the company, or other formats.
We have gathered our experience in preparing presentations for such events and we hope that our recommendations will help improve the quality of your events.
What are the nuances that distinguish a good presentation at an event from a mediocre one? What should event organizers look for and what should they control?
At the stage of preparing speeches, we would advise organizers of the event to focus on three factors:

Location

Presentation equipment

Preparation of speakers
Every factors has its own nuances. Let's start with location.

Location for presentations

Tip 1. Place information on the slide based on how the people sitting in the back rows will see the slide.

The venue should ideally be designed specifically for performances.

For example, in Fedoriv Hub or Unit City, the premises already have stationary acoustics, they are darkened and equipped with projectors around the perimeter:
Examples of venues that were designed for presentations
But even in such a prepared venue, there may be nuances. Be prepared for the fact that the bottom of the slide will not be visible due to the front rows of spectators:
The screen is located low, the bottom of the slide is covered by the front rows of spectators.
In such cases, place key information as high as possible on the slide.
At the bottom of the slide, you can leave non-key information, for example, links to data sources.
When choosing a location, it is better to look at photos from past events in order to understand if part of the screen is covered and take this into account in the design of presentations.

If this is your first time putting a screen on this location, at the rehearsal try to look from different seats to see how well everything is visible.

Tip 2. If the presentation is shown on a projector, then use contrasting colors for the text and background.

Another negative aspect of the room may be that it is very light. If you choose a very bright room and presentations are going to take place during the daytime with a bright sun, there is very little chance of seeing anything on the projection screen.
So far, no projector can compete in brightness with the sun :)
What are the options in this situation?
- Look for a darker room. The ideal case is a cinema room, where people sit in a completely dark room.
- Use curtains/blinds to darken the room.
- Make text and illustrations in the presentation as contrasting and with the background as possible. The most common option white background and black text works best here.
The 2016 TEDxKPI conference was held at the Polytechnic Museum in the evening. And when we tested the slides in rehearsals the evening before the event, everything was visible and the projector was doing well.

But the next day, the stage light was added, and the slides became much worse.

As a result, we had to pull up the brightness on the dark slides to see them better.
It is useful to have people "at hand" or a whole team of professionals who can correct the slides right before the presentation.
Tip 3. Make sure that everyone in the room can hear the speaker well.

In a hangar-type room, the echo from the metal roof and structures can turn the speech of the best speaker into an unintelligible mess. The situation is even worse with the demonstration of video with sound, for example, interviews with reviews of people filmed on the street. There, the chances of hearing something are even less. The situation can be partially solved by sound frequency equalization and the correct placement of the acoustics so that the direct sound from the speakers is louder than the reflections from the walls and ceiling.

A good technical contractor can help with these nuances. But it is advisable to give a maximum of introductory notes to technical contractors in advance so that they can select the configuration of sound equipment for your location.

By the way, let's talk about the equipment further.

Presentation equipment

Customize the presenter screen for speakers

With the presenter screen, the speaker can see which slide will come next and what key points they planned to voice on the next slide. It helps a lot to navigate during the presentation and make smooth transitions from slide to slide:
Photo from TEDxKyiv 2018: Legacy of the Future shows the presenter screen with the current and next slide.
This screen is visible only to the speaker.
In situations where the speaker's screen is not used, speakers sometimes "trick" and simply insert text that they did not have time to learn on the slides. And then they read the text from the slides during the presentation. But we all felt how boring and depressing is a speech where the speaker just reads from the slide. Therefore, it is better to insert the speech text into the notes to the slides, display it using the presenter mode on a screen hidden for the audience in front of the speaker, and leave a minimum of text on the slides.
If you have to constantly look behind your back to see which next slide appears on the screen, speaking becomes less comfortable. And the performance becomes much more boring for the audience.
A case from life: at one two-day event, where we prepared presentations, there were about 20 speakers with short reports. All speakers have different speaking styles, many people needed a presenter screen, which would show the next slide and the speaker's notes.

And imagine our surprise when in the morning during the general run, 2 hours before the start of the event, we see that there is a screen on the stage, but it simply duplicates the same thing as on a huge screen for the audience.

The guys from the technical support had to urgently go through morning traffic jams to their warehouse for video servers, which could display exactly what should be on the presenter screen: the next slide and the speaker's notes.

They connected everything already at the opening speech of the event moderator, which was stressful, to put it mildly, for the entire team of organizers. In addition, I had to warn the speaker, just in case, that we might not have time to make the speaker's screen and that he would have to speak with cards on which the most important theses will be a slideshow.

It's good that everything ended well: we managed to connect and the first speaker still had a speaker's screen and did not have to speak with impromptu cards.
The presenter screen should always be checked ahead of time.
Another case: again a large conference with several speakers and a large hall for several hundred people.

Everything went according to plan, the speakers rehearsed around the stage, the presenter screen was in place and working, we were moving according to timing and everything was ready for the start of the event.

And here, when the first speaker speaks, we understand that the clicker works every other time and the slides do not always switch. Since we know the speaker's speech and made slides for him, we understand that the speaker's speech does not coincide with the slides.
This is what the speakers look like when they cannot switch to the next slide.
For the technicians whose clicker was on stage, it looked okay because they could not know at what point which slide should be on the screen.

In case of emergency situations, we were in the control room next to the technicians and backed up the speaker by switching slides instead of him.

The most interesting thing is that we checked the clicker in advance and it got out well from the stage, the slides switched clearly. But when the audience came, many of whom had Bluetooth enabled on their phones, the signal just stopped steadily making its way from the clicker to the receiver in the computer.
The clicker must be very powerful and protected from interference.
But it wasn't possible to relax and listen to the next speech calmly: the next speaker, instead of the "forward" button, was pressing "back" to the previous slide.

It happened because the clicker was not quite familiar:





The button for switching to the next slide was not where it should be logically. Usually, the next slide is either the button on the right or below, as the slides are located in PowerPoint.

And here the "forward" button is located in the middle.
In the heat of the conference, the speaker was simply handed a clicker in the twilight backstage and did not have time to see what was painted on the buttons.

Seeing that something strange is happening, we try several times to switch slides instead of the speaker, but he clicks back from the stage, and we forward. Chaos ensues and we decide to pull the clicker receiver out of the computer. Now when the speaker clicks on the clicker, we manually switch to the next slide.
In addition to power, the clicker should also have an intuitive interface.
There are many stories like that, especially when there is not enough communication between everyone who participates in the organization and when the tasks are new and there is not enough past experience to solve them.

But no communication between all members of the tech team, the classroom, or the coolest equipment can do the magic without well-trained speakers.

Preparation of speakers

Well-trained speakers are the most important component of a presentation!

Often in the hectic preparation of a large event, you can let the speaker training get out of hand. It would seem that they themselves are interested in performing well. Let them prepare themselves, right? But presenters are almost always busy people. In addition to performing, they have a number of work tasks, and it is not always possible to pay enough attention to rehearsals. And even during rehearsals, it is difficult to assess yourself from the outside and see the moments that need improvement.

But if you organize at least 3-5 rehearsals before the performance, the speech will turn out to be much more interesting for the audience, and the speaker will be more confident.

For example, when we partner with TEDxKyiv conference, the speaker preparation team starts rehearsing with the speakers a few months before the event. Much attention is paid to ensuring that in 18 minutes on stage, the speaker can convey his unique idea to the audience.

You also need to organize the process of preparing speakers. Well, this is if you want a really cool event :)
To sum up, before the event, you need to focus on choosing a room suitable for the presentation, choose the right equipment for it and set it up, and, of course, do not forget about the preparation of speakers. Because in the end, they are the ones who create all the magic of a cool live performance :)
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