I’ve been speaking to audiences for years and the one thing that is a must is to stay engaged with your audience. You can’t turn your back, or read from a screen and maintain their attention.
Yet most presenters use Powerpoint and read from the screen. Depending on the room, their eyes may not make contact with the audience for minutes at a time. As I have moved into the digital age and started using Presentation software, I’ve really struggled with this problem.
I’ve wondered many times how can you see what is going on behind you on the screen and still maintain eye contact with your audience?
It’s not easy!
Many rooms are not setup to allow you to look past your laptop screen and see your audience. Many times computers are hidden away in lecterns or remote cabinets. With bulleted text on the screen, even if I could see it on the laptop, I couldn’t read it from the front of the room. ARRRGH..
What can you do?
Here are three simple tips that may solve the problem…
- Design simple graphics oriented slides with no more than a sentence of text.
- Print out a sheet of paper with screen printouts of the slides on it.
- Use a wireless remote control device to change the slides
If you keep your slides simple, you will be the focus of your presentation. With a slide printout (6 or 9 slides per page) you’ll be able to tell what slide you are on without looking at the screen. You can use a small tray or lectern to keep this paper in front of you and a wireless presenter lets you advance the slides one at a time while maintaining eye contact with your audience.
This scenario is very effective but does require more practice and a reliable remote control unit. The newer RF units work well in most rooms even at a long distance. Be sure to do a complete run through before your actual presentation.
Garr Reynolds has published an awesome book entitled Presentation Zen, that covers this technique and offers great ideas for compelling slide design using limited text.
I had the pleasure of attending a presentation by Michael Hyatt, the CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, at a conference a few weeks ago. He used this technique flawlessly. He has published a five step guide on his blog that can help you take your presentations to the next level.
Question: Have you found a good way to maintain eye contact with an audience?