Today, I presented our Delivery Workshop for the course I’m teaching this month: Professional Communication and Presentation. Based upon Garr Reynolds’ The Naked Presenter text and philosophy, I realized that two key must-nots are being repeated again and again in presentations and classrooms.
First, we must never turn the lights out during our presentations. With the lights off, the star of the presentation then becomes your slideshow. Nancy Duarte explains that your slides are the digital scenery behind you; they should never be the focus of the entire presentation.
In The Naked Presenter, Garr Reynolds explains, “The audience is interpreting meaning based upon the verbal (your actual words), the vocal (your voice), and the visual (your nonverbal language)” (88).
Remember that the point of your presentation is to make a connection with and to engage your audience. If your audience cannot see you because the lights are turned off, they will not be able to connect with you, and you will not be able to engage them. In fact, turning the lights down often inspires feelings of sleepiness, boredom, and disintrest.
Exception: When you are showing a multimedia, turning the lights off works just fine. During a video clip, the focus is the video. You aren’t trying to talk over the multimedia, so your role as a presenter is to stand back and let the film play. In this case, lights-off is acceptable.
Second, we must not have music playing throughout our presentations. This is troubling most often for my online presentation course, but it does apply to live presentations, too.
Your audience cannot process the music, the lyrics in the song, and your words simultaneously. Remember to introduce the tune and/or speak after the music concludes. Even if your music contains no lyrics, remember that there is competition between you and the audio. This approach is discordant because it causes confusion and dissonance.
Think about the signal versus noise ratio. The signal is your message, and the noise is the background music (or muzak). Since you want high signal (priority given to the message) and low noise (few distractions from your message), the focus should be on your voice.
Exception: If you are playing an audio clip that is relevant to your visual presentation, music is fine! However, again, do not try to speak over the audio clip.
Source: Reynolds, Garr. The Naked Presenter: Delivering Powerful Presentations With or Without Slides. Berkeley, CA: New Riders, 2010. Purchase Reynolds’ book here.