When it's right to barge in

London, 4th November 2013 - Remote presentations are a fact of life for many of us these days. Whilst there may not be the nerves associated with standing up in front of an audience, I think a remote presentation is even harder to do well.
It’s all down to the absence of visual cues, or barge-in as speech researchers call it. It’s the lack of interjections, of nods, of rolled eyes, of subtle grins, of raised hands. Without these indications of agreement, disagreement, enjoyment or even disinterest, it’s terribly hard to gauge whether the presentation we’re making is resonating with the audience. That can make presenting an extremely uncomfortable experience.
I think there are two ways of dealing with this. One involves prior preparation, the other comes into play during the presentation itself.
Conventional wisdom tells us to delay handing out a copy of our presentation until the end. I wouldn’t argue with that. If you’re scheduled to give a remote presentation, try issuing a copy of the presentation 24 hours before you give your talk. Encourage your audience to read through it, and think of any questions they may have for you.
Then the presentation itself becomes slightly less formal than might otherwise have been the case. It becomes more of a question and answer session, less a one way monologue. Your role when giving the remote presentation is to ask far more questions than would perhaps have been the case during a traditional face to face gathering. You facilitate the conversation. You conduct the orchestra.
One good convention is to ask participants to name themselves before they make a comment. It makes it easier for the remote group to connect with one another. As long as you know the names of everyone on the call, you can invite non contributing participants to make a comment, thus making sure people are connecting with what you have to say.
The key to making a good presentation is to connect with your audience. When you’re not in the same room as them, or even the same country, it’s obviously much harder. A little pre-planning, along with some thoughtful facilitation, can help you make those connections, even long-distance.