One of the most effective ways of promoting Remap at local level is by giving talks to various groups such as other charities and support groups (such as the Stroke Association, luncheon clubs) and social/educational groups (Women Institute, National Association of Women Clubs, National Women register, U3A, Model Engineering Societies). Audience sizes can vary from a dozen (lunch clubs for the elderly) to several hundred (U3A meetings). U3A incidentally can often also be a good source of recruits.
Speaking to such groups in a formal setting – where you are standing in front of the audience – can be quite unnerving for those who have had no training in doing so. These notes are designed to help you to become a competent presenter able to talk about Remap to local audiences.
What are you trying to achieve
Most Remap talks are designed to do two things. From the point of view of the audience and organisation – they want to be entertained. They are usually paying you or giving you a donation and expect the talk to be interesting and entertaining. If you are interesting to listen to you will find that word gets around quickly and you will start to get bookings from organisations you have never heard of. If you are boring, you won’t.
From our point of view our objective is somewhat different. We want to inform people about Remap, about the fact it exists, what it can do for them and what they can do for it. The exact aim will however vary between audiences and no one presentation will suit all. Before speaking it is important to have the precise aim of the talk clear in your mind and tailor it to the audience. For example a group of elderly ladies in a luncheon club most of who will be widowed and many frail will have different interests than those of a U3A audience.
It is important to always remember that in most talks to social groups such as clubs and societies you are not lecturing the audience nor are you giving a business presentation. Your talk must entertain as well as educate.
Should we charge for talks?
In general, no. Our aim in such talks is to promote Remap and the more people we can speak to about Remap the better. That said, the vast majority of groups, if simply asked for a donation, will make one equal to the fee they pay professional speakers. The first year the South Herts panel put a real effort into giving talks led to income of over £1,000 and a combined audience of over 2,000. Less than 0.5% gave nothing.
Should I talk only about my own Panel?
You do not need to talk only about your own panel’s projects. Remap is a national charity and if you chose to structure your talk around interesting projects you should feel free to talk about any Remap has done, not just local work. Quite often the best imagery you have may not be of local projects. For example the girl with the assistance dog in the illustration lower down this document is showing a device any panel could produce and there is nothing wrong with using that as an example of the type of work your panel could do. Something more complex, such as the page turner, which may be beyond your present panel capabilities, can also be included – if a similar problem comes up in your area other panels will assist you in coming up with a solution.
I don’t like giving speeches
Nor do about three quarters of people who have to as part of their jobs. The American actor George Jessel once said, “The human brain starts working the moment you’re born and never stops until you stand up to speak in public.”
There is nothing magic about speaking in public. It is simply a skill developed in the same way as every other skill with practice and some guidance. If there is one key aspect to confidence in speaking in public it is practice. The RAF Parachute Training School motto is “Knowledge dispels fear” (they lied – but that is another matter), knowledge of your subject and practice to carry out any activity reduces ‘fear of the unknown’ a most potent fear that petrifies the strongest of us. With practice comes confidence and with confidence the process of speaking in public ceases to be unsettling.
How to give a good talk
Compared with some subjects Remap is very simply to talk about. Our story is compelling and interesting. In most cases the audience quite positively want to hear about what we do, they will relate to it as everyone knows of someone in their life we could (or could have) helped. We don’t need to “spin” our message or sell the unpalatable – we have a simple, positive and optimistic story to tell. One of the saddest parts of such talks is having people come to you afterwards and saying “I wish I had known about you years ago, you could have done so much for my late husband”.
Turning that story into an interesting talk involves a number of steps, some to do with the presentation itself, others to do with the audience and setting where you will talk. I will cover the practical aspects surrounding the setting of the talk first.
Where and how – Preparation and the nuts and bolts
It is important that you know what the facilities are at the venue. When inexperienced it can increase your own confidence considerably if you visit the venue some days beforehand so you can see where you will be talking and how you will need to set things up. In most situations when talking to local groups at community halls and the like the facilities provided will be minimal, expect to have to bring everything yourself. Some venues however will have things such as public address systems and you need to know how they work. If you can’t get to the venue days beforehand at least get there in very good time on the day so you can walk around the speaking area and position equipment as you wish.
Most presentations these days are given using a computer and projector. Modern projectors have high light output levels and don’t require rooms to be in semi-darkness as with a slide projector nonetheless you should try the light switches so you know how to turn off any immediately over the screen if possible. In the winter it also pays to check the sun direction if the presentation is in late afternoon. No projector can compete with full sun at a low angle shining straight through the windows onto the screen.-
The basic presentation kit comprises:-
- A laptop computer
- A projector
- A remote slide changer with built in laser pointer
- A drum extension lead
- A screen
Some venues will have screens which save having to carry one around but if you are told “we always use the wall” take a screen. It is surprising how many of the “walls used as screens” come with violet paint or paisley wallpaper.
It is worth investing in a floor standing screen of the sort illustrated above. These are easy to carry and erect and unlike the tripod mounted older style are stable.
Remote slide changer
The remote slide changer (presenters aid) is a device similar to the one shown below.
These usually come in two parts, the hand held device shown and a small unit which plugs into a USB port. Using this you can control the presentation picture sequence without having to press keys on the keyboard. They usually also include a built in laser pointer.
The use of a remote changer means you never have to touch the laptop keyboard once you start the presentation. They typically have a range of 10m/30ft or so which gives you plenty of room to move around the presentation area.
One advantage of using a laptop is that, if you position things correctly so you can see the laptop screen while facing the audience, you can therefore see what the audience are looking at without turning to look at the projection screen.
This avoids the “preaching to the screen” syndrome so common with slide shows where the presenter spent his time with his back to the audience speaking to the image on the screen. Ideally have a table holding both laptop (with screen facing the projector screen) and projector and position the laptop so that the speaking area (the area you can move around in without obscuring the screen) is to one side.
Many clubs and groups meet in church halls, village halls and scout huts in rooms without fixed seating (it is usually put out by the club members). Few rooms seem to have rostrums or podiums and these are, in any case, best avoided unless the venue is so large it becomes unavoidable. Another advantage of arriving early is that you can make sure the seating is set out to your liking.
The ideal room layout is shown below :-
Try to avoid the wide and shallow layout shown below as it makes it difficult for the audience to see the screen clearly, makes establishing eye contact with the audience problematical and you get in the way of the view of some. If you are faced with this make sure you move back so you don’t get in the way of the audience. This is one situation where the remote slide changer becomes particularly useful.
Your Voice and Public Address systems
For any talk you have to be loud, you can’t talk to a room with 40 people in with the same volume you would use to talk to one. If your audience is elderly (as many are) they are often half deaf anyway. Few small halls have any sort of public address system and for audiences of less than about 40 they are not essential unless they incorporate an induction loop and some of the audience need to use it. Some groups buy small portable PA systems with wired hand held microphones. Almost always the performance of such devices is dire and they are best not used. If you really can’t speak loudly with confidence ( a local theatre group can often help you do so by the way) then consider buying your own amplifier and a clip on radio microphone (not a hand held one) and becoming familiar with its characteristics and best placement.
If using a PA system then wherever possible use a clip on radio microphone rather than a hand held or podium mounted one. If you have to use a hand held (lollipop) microphone make sure you remember where it is, inexperienced speakers often let the microphone drift away from their head. Also do not speak into the microphone. It hides your face and causes distracting popping sounds. Hold the microphone close to your chest and no higher than the base of your neck. Similarly with podium microphones – do not speak into them but over them.
Setting out your equipment
Even if you are speaking half way through a meeting (fairly common with groups such as the WI who will go through their routine meeting business before inviting the speaker to make their presentation) it pays to set up your equipment before the meeting starts. This ensures you don’t have to rush to do it and also ensures it is in the right place. Setting up early usually means you are doing it while the audience are arriving so it pays to turn up early.
Once set up make sure your computer has any screen/power savers disabled and is set to run the presentation from the first slide (black). Leave everything switched on and ready. Most video projectors have a “blank” button you can use to avoid glare for speakers during club business. Make sure you mark the button with coloured tape so you press the right one when you get up to start your talk.
There is a tendency for audience members arriving early to wonder all over the place and in cramped locations be careful to ensure the table you have the laptop and projector on is stable and there are no cables or overhanging equipment for people to catch as they brush past. Velcro cable tidies can be easily made by sticking two pieces of hook and loop Velcro together back to back and can be useful to tie mains cables to table legs. If an extension cable is used take care to avoid creating a trip hazard. Carry a large reel of gaffer tape in your presentation kit to tape leads to the floor if necessary.
Most groups book speaker’s many months in advance, some such as the WI have a formal booking form but many do not. It can be useful to have your own checklist so you know what to expect.
|Name of Group|
|Date of Talk|
|Venue Address and postcode|
|What time are you speaking?|
|What time does the meeting start?|
|What time do you need to arrive to set up? (usually at least 15 minutes before the meeting starts, 30 mins if you are inexperienced)|
|Contact phone number|
|How long are you speaking for? (usually 40-45 mins excluding time for questions.)|
|Is there a screen available?|
|What are parking arrangements?|
Remember the more confident you are that things are well organised and will go well, the more confident you are that there will be no snags the more confident you will be when giving your talk.
Giving Your Talk
Talking to a group is all about confidence and confidence comes from rehearsal and practise. When first giving talks it pays to spend time rehearsing in your own home using the aids you will have on the day until you are confident you know the content and timings and are familiar with the aids you are using. The more time you spend in preparation and practise the more confident you will be. Be aware that when you rehearse you will usually go faster than when you speak to an audience so if you are aiming for a 45 min talk the rehearsal should take no more than 35-40 mins.
Do not underestimate the time it takes to prepare a talk from scratch, including rehearsal time a fairly optimistic figure would be 1 hour of preparation per minute of your presentation. Obviously if using a core presentation you are familiar with this time reduces considerably, but don’t think you can assemble a new presentation in minutes.
These can be the death of a talk or its saviour. Many inexperienced speakers are afraid of missing anything out and therefore write out their complete talk to read to the audience. The result is invariably a deathly dull speech and a comatose audience (Or in the case of the WI they simply chat amongst each other while you try to talk). It is very difficult to read a 45 minute talk in a way which is interesting. The speakers eyes remain glued to the notes less they lose their place and there is neither eye contact with the audience nor variation in tone. Do not read from notes.
Good speakers will rehearse their talk as an actor would rehearse for a performance. Notes are simply headings of important things to say and if used should fit in large easily read print onto one side of A4 so you don’t have to turn over or shuffle papers. Don’t be afraid of missing things out – no one will notice and with these talks the aim is to leave the audience aware of our existence and thinking kindly of us – not to give them knowledge for an exam.
Using presentation software such as Powerpoint the presentation can almost become the script as you can see what page is coming next. However, do not dismiss the value of producing a detailed script to learn in rehearsals as would an actor rather than to read on the day. Inexperienced presenters may find this can give them great confidence.
Visual and Other Aids
While there is no requirement to use visual aids at all, unless you are a very articulate and skilled speaker keeping an audience interested for 40 minutes without any will be a challenge. Moreover only about 10% of spoken information is retained by the audience compared with 65% for both visual and aural.
The key word however is “aid”, whatever you are using must aid rather than harm your presentation so keep things simple and reliable. The simplest approach for most is to use a video projector and computer together with presentation software such as Microsoft’s PowerPoint or the free Open Office/Libre Office Impress software (which is also has Mac and Linux versions) and use this to show pictures of real projects. Don’t show pages of text and don’t use text to explain pictures on screen, that is your job. The more complex the visual aids the more difficult it is for the presenter to control them and the greater the pressure on the presenter. For any speaker simple is beautiful.
The aim is for the audience to concentrate on you and your message so avoid distractions. In particular it is generally better to avoid video sequences, complex animations or complicated fades from one slide to another. Also avoid demonstrations of real items. They can rarely be seen by all the audience. Real items can certainly be left on a table behind the audience for them to view after the presentation but they should not be in front of you acting as a distraction.
Preparation of Slides
Your visual images are there to reinforce what you say – not to have words repeating it. If you are going to explain slides do not repeat the explanation on the screen.
Use white or a plain pastel background but check your equipment – white with many projectors and especially in combination with high brightness screens produces too bright a background. Do not use “busy” patterned backgrounds which distract.
The Remap Logo should appear on the first and last active slide. It can be used on other slides but not at such a size and position it distracts from any image on them.
The first and last slide of any presentation should be solid black. This allows you to set up the presentation and have it active before you start presenting so you don’t have to worry about switching things on. Similarly at the end of the presentation you can go to a solid black slide while answering questions without the last active slide being a distraction.
Large and clear. Use images not text.
When preparing pictures for talks make sure you have images of good technical quality and also, and most importantly, of appropriate size. There is no point in using multi-megapixel images, they slow down the slide changing and are of no better quality on screen than optimised ones. Projectors and monitors use a 96 dots per inch (DPI) resolution so don’t go higher than this. They also typically have a maximum resolution of 1024 by 769 pixels so larger images are wasted. Preferably, set your images to the correct size using a photo editor such as the (free) Irfanview. If using Powerpoint you also have an option within the program to optimise image sizes.