Chuck Dietrich is the CEO of SlideRocket, provider of the leading online presentation platform.
Every day, thousands of people are forced to sit through dull, flat PowerPoint presentations. Whether you’re presenting slides during a sales call, speaking at a conference, presenting your company to investors, or sending a presentation via e-mail to a potential client, boring your audience is hardly the goal. You want your presentation to engage people in a conversation that leads to a closed deal, a new partnership, or a round of funding.
Thankfully, there are several web-based applications available today that allow you to incorporate rich media into your presentations like social features, real-time feeds, and interactive elements. Also called “social media presentations,” these methods allow you to connect with your audience before, during, and after you deliver your message. Here are five ways to do so.
1. Create Anticipation
Even before your presentation day arrives, reach out to your audience using social media channels to get them excited about your talk. Online community tools like MeetUp and Ning, as well Twitter hashtags or a dedicated Facebook Page allow attendees to start discussions even before the event takes place.
As the presenter, be sure to participate in these communities by soliciting feedback on your proposed topic and networking with key contacts ahead of your presentation. Pre-presentation engagement with your audience will help you hone the subject of your talk.
As an added benefit, if you build a relationship early on with your audience, they will be less likely to disrupt the conversation on the social media “backchannel” during your presentation.
2. Create a Social-Friendly Presentation
Not only do you want to create a dynamic, video and image-rich presentation that blows the traditional PowerPoint slides out of the water, but you also want to make sure the content of your presentation is “social friendly.” This means adding short, tweetable sound bites to your slides that audience members can quickly absorb and send out on their social networks. Think of what Steve Jobs does in his presentations by offering catchy phrases like “world’s thinnest notebook” that get re-tweeted during and after his presentations. And don’t forget to create and display a Twitter hashtag for your topic and/or session.
Also, in order to show how real people are using your products, include Facebook, Twitter, and blog entries that customers or partners have written about your brand. Another way to incorporate real-world and even live data is to add widgets from Yahoo or Google that display stock tickers, RSS feeds, and other streaming information. Nothing drives home a point like showing your audience what’s happening right now.
Lastly, always tell the audience where they can find you. List personal and/or company social media links prominently at the beginning and end of your presentation.
3. Use Interactive Polling
During your presentation, be sure to elicit responses from your audience using live, real-time polling. You can invite audience members to respond to questions via text message or tweets, then incorporate their up-to-the-minute responses directly into your presentation.
By using services like PollEverywhere, presentations evolve from one-way lectures into conversations with the audience. This keeps people engaged and focused on your message.
4. Use the Backchannel, but Wisely
Inviting your audience to comment on your presentation in real-time through a live Twitter stream, or “backchannel” can be a powerful way to turn your presentation into a two-way conversation. Of course, it can also invite disaster if the audience begins posting negative or inappropriate comments while you are speaking.
Make sure you can see comments on the backchannel as they come in. While that can make for some complicated multi-tasking –- delivering a presentation, inviting interactive polls, and monitoring real-time backchannel comments at once –- it’s crucial for presenters to see what’s being said about them.
Today, there are tools available that import backchannel comments directly into your presentation, so both you and the audience see them in real-time. Remember, make sure to reference the backchannel audience that is sitting outside the room from time to time, inviting them to participate in the real-time conversation via online comments.
5. Keep the Conversation Going After You’ve Left the Podium
The conversation doesn’t end when your presentation does; it’s only just getting started. Social media means people will be talking about, sharing links to, and commenting on your presentation for days or even weeks. Make it easy for anyone interested in the topic to find the web version of your presentation by tweeting about it with hashtags, posting on your Facebook Page, e-mailing your contact list, or any other way you can think of to keep the conversation going.
By embracing social features in your presentations, you’re well on your way to leaving the world of static slides behind and delivering real-time, dynamic presentations that will generate engagement, discussion, and interest –- not boredom.
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