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Public Speaking
Power Outages, Phones & Projectors
This Paper’s Contents:

PAPER EIGHT : Power Outages, Phones & Projectors

1. Introduction

In the course of considering ‘The Simple Talk’ we have mentioned the use of ‘PowerPoint’ which implies the use of Overhead or Digital Projectors, but that raises the question of how you handle such technology and what happens when the power goes. (Aware there are good alternatives to PowerPoint around today, when I use that term you can think of other software if you wish).

So let’s, on this page, simply cover the use of technology in giving your speech or talk and we’ll take it in the order of our title:
-  Power Outages
-  Phones
-  Projectors

2. Power Outages

Let’s take what many consider a crisis scenario – the power fails. We’ll assume that it’s daytime, or if it is in the evening, the cry “Call for Candles” gets an immediate response. Do you stand there and look helpless tapping a dead microphone, or do you rise to the occasion and say, “No problem at all; let’s carry on if that’s all right with you.”

Now there are two things that arise here. First, you have no overhead projector so you may need to emphasise the headings a little more and the general structure of what you are saying.

The second thing is the matter of your voice. It tends to be only teachers or preachers or politicians or actors (the professional speakers) who know how to project their voice. Find yourself a hall or large room and imagine you are talking to someone at the far side of it away from you. Much of the time our words come from high in our chest. To throw your voice, breath in, hold your stomach in and then breath out and at the same time speak so that your words come from your diaphragm. You may need to practice it a few times but it is worth having the ability to project your voice so you are not a slave to the microphone and can carry on when it is not available.

While mentioning microphones, it might be wise at this point to remind you that if you have a hand-held microphone it works best several inches from your mouth and slightly lower. Too close and it will be bouncy or breathy.

3. Phones

Now it may surprise you to know that I’m not about to talk about making sure mobile phones are off – of course it is a wise precaution these days to request everyone to turn off the sound on their mobile phones while  you are speaking!

No, I recently encountered a public speaker who used mobile phones in a way I hadn’t seen before. What he did was, before he got into his talk he put his mobile phone number up on the screen and said if anyone either during the talk or afterwards wanted to text him a question he would give them an answer. (This was a regular public speaker who had a phone dedicated to such use.)

Now this is using technology to increase the breadth and effectiveness of public speaking. Now his mobile phone (on silent) was in fact plugged into his laptop which he had on next to the lectern where he was speaking, so he had sight of all questions coming from his audience. Thus he either answered the questions as they came and fitted in with his talk, or he waited until the end and then answered them, or he answered them in the evening, depending on the number of questions, so each person had an answer. The useful thing about having questions as they go is that people raise them as you go, whereas if they are left to the end, the audience often forget what they were going to ask.

You may think that is a bridge too far for you, but it is certainly a neat way of interacting with your audience. Scary to start with but exhilarating after a while!

4. Projectors

Offences in using OHPs

Nowhere, I guess, is there more abuse in public speaking than in the use of overhead projectors. (When I refer to OHPs that can be the now old fashioned OHP with slides, or digital projectors connected to a laptop.

The worst offence, I believe, when using an OHP is to put up a page of small writing. I have been in meetings where professional speakers have simply scanned a page of a text book and projected it.  WHY????  YOU CAN’T READ IT!!!!!!!

Being a person who wears glasses, I have always been sensitive to the size of print on screens. Don’t assume everyone has perfect vision – they haven’t. If you are projecting for a reasonable size room, find an elderly colleague and ask them to stand at the back of the room and read different size fonts on the screen – yes, just like an optician does! You’ll soon know what size font and what colour text and background works best.

The Point of Using an OHP

What is the objective in using PowerPoint or something similar? It must be, surely, to reinforce and clarify the order of the points you are making so that, as you go on, your audience can see the structure of your talk and be reminded where you’ve been, when they are either focusing on the present point or when their mind drifts (whose doesn’t at some time!).

Controlling the Audience

The danger of the use of overheads is that your audience can focus more on the words on the screen and stop listening to what you are saying, especially if they feel they need to copy down what you’ve put up. There are two ways of overcoming this:
-  first, promise at the beginning, handouts of what has appeared on the screen at the end of the talk, and
-  second, if you have a list of points, only project them one at a time. Thus you put up one point and speak about it and people listen to you. Then you release the next point so two are now showing and you speak about the second one. And so you carry on.

If it’s a big talk with a number of main points, each with lots of bullet points so that they won’t all go on the screen, it is better to handle one point at a time with its bullet points, and then do recap pages of the main points so the audience can see how the talk is developing.   

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