Despite the amount of preparation put into a meeting or presentation, old Mr. Murphy may still pay a visit. Oftentimes it’s a result of overlooking a step. That’s why it’s a good idea to develop a checklist for each meeting.
Miscues I witnessed during various meetings serve as helpful reminders of the need for thorough planning. Some issues were encountered by the leader of the group, others by the presenter. Because you could be asked to handle either role, you should keep all these suggestions in mind.
Fill dead time: Two presenters scheduled early in the meeting arrived late to the conference. Luckily, the conference chairman brought along some material he could discuss while we waited for the presenters to arrive. Usually presenters arrive hours before a conference and sometimes even the night before. Even so, it’s always helpful to have some back-up material on hand. This can include a short presentation, some facts and figures on the group, a Q & A session, or discussion with members on important topics.
Dead time occurs, naturally, without warning. In addition to having some material to fall back on, you also need to quickly improvise around the situation. Avoid appearing flustered or confused. Instead, try to act as naturally as possible, and gently flow into your back-up material.
Your audience understands that the fault lies with the missing individuals. Don’t compound the problem by being disorganized. Plan for such incidents.
Maintain control of the meeting: Discussions can get out of hand as attendees try to offer their comments all at one time. As leader of the group, you must maintain control. Have the courage to quiet those who talk out of sequence or for too long. Take charge and call on another member of the group. Everyone will appreciate your leadership, and the meeting will stay on track and on time.
Test your equipment: Make sure your projector works and that your PowerPoint file will launch. Don’t assume that just because everything works fine while in your office, the same will be true during the meeting. Test everything before leaving for your conference and again just before the meeting starts.
Another detail to consider is the volume control on your projector. If you are going to play a DVD, make sure everyone will be able to hear the audio. If you’re borrowing a projector, ask about the projector’s sound capability, and adjust accordingly. A video whose audio is difficult to hear is annoying for the audience and embarrassing for the presenter.
And speaking of audio, get acclimated to the microphone you’ll be using. Some pick up the voice from several inches away. Others require that your mouth be really close. If you tend to move a lot during your presentation, adjust the volume of your voice so the microphone always picks up your comments well. Remember: It’s fine to be too loud but devastating if you’re too quiet.
Bring as extra power source(s): Laptops are about as common in today’s meetings as agendas and notepads. Although battery packs today are quite reliable, they can fail at the worst times. Make sure to take an extra battery pack or an extension cord to the meeting. During one meeting a presenter’s laptop went dead—and the screen went blank—when her battery pack died part way through her presentation. Luckily, a member of the audience had a spare extension cord, and she was back in business within a few minutes.
Problems, especially those of a technical nature, can occur during any meeting or presentation. Plan accordingly, and you ensure that any glitch that arises is handled smoothly.
For related reading, see “Overcome fear of public speaking with proper strategy” and “Create a successful webinar.”
If you enjoyed this column, I’d appreciate it if you passed it along. Have you experienced or witnessed Mr. Murphy in action during a presentation? Feel free to share your examples below.