Garr Reynolds, author of the book Presentation Zen, gave the only remote presentation at the 2008 PowerPoint Live User Conference. He was part of the keynote and discussed giving professional presentations. Garr couldn’t take the time out of his teaching schedule to travel to San Diego so he suggested a virtual presentation. The conference organizers agreed, but they were apprehensive: “I was pretty nervous about it. [The organizers] were very nervous about it.”
Garr was the only virtual presenter that year and the organizers did a special setup for him. They set up an auditorium with two large screens and seating for 100 people. The screen on the left showed Garr’s face with audio from Skype. The screen on the right was for his slides. Garr sent his slides to the person running the projector ahead of time to avoid technical difficulties. He wasn’t driving the presentation.
The organizers also set up a camera in the room. They turned it so Garr could see some of the audience and a portion of the screen with his slides. It let him connect with the room and make sure he was on the correct slide.
To make his presentation work Garr shifted away from his normal fast-paced style with many slide changes. Garr’s typical slides often contain just one word and having to say “next slide” every 15 seconds would have been unmanageable.
His first step for this remote presentation was to cut out or combine many of his slides. He made most of them a little more engaging than usual, but he still kept a fast pace. “One slide wasn’t up there for more than 30 seconds or a minute at the most.”
Garr also changed his speaking style. “It wasn’t my normal performance.” He made his presentation “very, very conversational. More of a show-and-tell kind of thing.” He engaged even more with his audience than usual and talked more about specific images and slides. “More like Uncle Louie comes over and shows you photos of the Grand Canyon… In a fun way.”
Garr was worried about giving a remote presentation, but he reports, “it actually was OK. It is sort of Zen in a way. It’s not fancy, it’s not slick, but it worked.” Garr’s presentation got rave reviews. He attracted more people than there were seats and his audience rated his presentation as one of the best in the conference.
“Why was it successful? It was not so much the content, it was because of the emotions of it. [The audience] enjoyed it. It was fun, and it kept their attention for 45 minutes.”
Garr Reynolds made presenting remotely work for him. He changed his style and used the medium to his advantage. He had good slides and a good delivery. Most of all he connected with his audience, even though he was on the other side of the world. The experience left presentation expect Garr Reynolds convinced that “presenting remotely works.”
“I didn’t feel like I missed anything. In fact, I probably had more of an impact because it was different. It was the only remote presentation.”
Garr’s presentation at PowerPoint live succeeded because:
- He could see the audience.
- The audience could see him.
- His face was large enough to see emotions.
- His slides had more information and stayed up longer.
- He changed his speaking style to be more engaging.