The importance of getting presentations right with technology

Presentations are a fundamental part of business. Regardless of whether it’s a huge product announcement, keynote event or a small business pitch in a private room, the way that a presentation is delivered can make or break opportunities and has a lasting impact on those in attendance.

Research conducted by Barco seems to reinforce this idea, with a huge 95% of employees saying that they believe there is a wider impact of presenting well. 55% of these people believed that a good presentation had the power to help build an organisation’s reputation, while 48% thought it could help to win new business.

There are many factors that make a successful presentation. Firstly, the presenter needs to find the right balance between what’s on-screen and what they’re saying, while also being able to incorporate their own unique personality and skills. They need to be confident in both presenting and answering the questions of others, while also being able to explain potentially complex ideas in a simple, coherent way.

In order to enhance the effectiveness of presentations, an increasing number of us have been turning to specially-designed presentation software and gadgets, and we now rely heavily upon such technology. In fact, one-third of our research respondents thought that the technology used during a presentation was just as important as the presenter themselves.

When used in the right way and in the right environment, technology can indeed be a hugely effective way of making our presentations more interesting and engaging. For example, there are numerous dedicated presentation software programmes that can introduce an extra level of animation and interactivity to maintain the audience’s attention, while wireless screen-sharing devices make it easy to share multiple screens simultaneously and to annotate the slides that appear on-screen.

The problem is, the use of technology during a presentation does not guarantee improvement or success, and even the most experienced of presenters can find themselves faced with unexpected technology-related pitfalls. We can probably all recall at least one time when we scrambled around on the meeting room floor looking for the right HDMI cable to plug into the display, while everyone else sat around waiting impatiently to begin.

This signals an inherent problem with the technology we choose to use in presentations and meeting rooms. These are critical moments where good impressions can count for everything, and yet the majority of the technology we rely on is, in fact, unreliable. This does no favours for our stress levels, either: recent research conducted by Barco found that stress levels among presenters was 63% higher when technology problems occurred in meetings, compared to when they ran smoothly. What’s more, presenters’ heart rates reached up to a staggering 179bpm when dealing with technological issues during meetings — an indicator of serious stress.

This is why we need to re-evaluate presentation technology as a whole. We need to think about what works well and what doesn’t, and if it doesn’t work well, we need to consider why.

Firstly, and most importantly, presentation technology needs to be as physically and mentally simple to use as possible. Whether it’s a screen-sharing gadget or the presentation software itself, anyone should be able to use the technology comfortably and without the need for training. This makes it easy for any presenter to get up and start presenting with the minimal amount of stress or anxiety.

Secondly, all presentation technology should enable and encourage creativity instead of inhibiting it. All too often we see presentations that use the same software to deliver identical-looking presentations, which causes the audience to lose interest completely. Instead, we should see technology as an enabler that helps add flair to our unique presentations and captures the attention of the audience.

Thankfully, businesses are starting to realise this, and they’re investing in technology that lives up to these expectations. Huge advances have been made with big screens and the technology in meeting rooms, and connecting is becoming so much easier thanks to innovative wireless presentation systems.

As presenters get the opportunity to enjoy this kind of connectivity more regularly, they’ll discover a number of benefits that will impact their presentation style, the main one being a lack of cables. This allows for freedom of physical positioning and movement, while also minimising the time it takes to set-up and get going. Presenters rarely have the luxury of spending time acquainting themselves with the presentation technology beforehand, so systems that are intuitive and require no tutorials can only help presentation skills.

By taking all of this into account, we can start to truly benefit from technology. By getting this right, people will be able to feel so much more confident in their presentations.

By Lieven Bertier, head of product management, Barco