There is a cottage industry that exists in consulting and coaching Corporate America in speech and presentation skills. There is some information out there on the preparation of presentation materials, but virtually no information on preparing for the best live and recorded presentation. There is a certain give and take with considerations to the live audience versus the DVD or web viewers, and it is helpful to know how to maximize the quality for both.

PowerPoint (and other presentation materials)

If designing your own PowerPoint presentation, try to use dark backgrounds like blue with white letters. White or light backgrounds create a great deal of contrast between the relatively low light level on the presenter and the brightness of the screen. Blue makes a nice background that also compliments skin tone and makes it look warmer.

It is best to be able to secure either a rear screen or be able to position the laptop and projector close enough to the screen that the presenter is never standing in the projection. It is best to stand between the projector and the audience and definitely to be closer to the audience, if possible, than the screen. You can refer to the slide without having to physically touch it. A laser pointer can be effective when there is a lot of information up there, but most of the time, the audience can follow the information on the simpler slides. It is more pleasing to have the presenter looking forward at the audience instead of looking back at the screen. It is much easier to get a good video with the presenter downstage with the slide behind and slightly above him. It makes it easier to light also.

Movement

Many presentation consultants coach that a lot of movement gives the presenter and the audience a sense of energy and helps the presenter “stay in the flow.” This technique may need to be modified for a video/DVD presentation. Constant pacing back and forth makes it difficult for the camera to follow; resulting in either a wide shot or a constant panning that will make the viewer sick. Come to think of, constant pacing can sometimes make the live audience sick also. Try to use your arms and body to express yourself without moving out of a five by five area, for the most part. There are times when moving through the audience or making a dramatic move from one end to the other is effective, but not if it is done throughout the presentation. Use this energy instead in your vocal and gesture expression.

Lighting

This is one of the classic trade-off issues between the live audience and video cameras. Low lighting is often aesthetically pleasing for presentation materials and the comfort of the audience and presenter. However, even good cameras need some light and the more light, the less grainy. Positioning the presenter as described above makes it possible to put one diffused spot-type light on the presenter without spilling on the screen. This light will likely be positioned somewhat to the side and as far back out of the way as possible. Some room lighting on the audience would be desirable. Fluorescent lighting should be avoided if possible.

Clothing

Best to wear a colored shirt, such as blue. Avoid solid white, thin stripes or a big contrast between a dark suit and light shirt, if possible. Most men’s suits make it very easy to apply a lapel mic and make it as inconspicuous as a tie tack. Women’s suits are also easy, but a dress or jacketless shirt that has no collar or neckline is a little more difficult to deal with. Since there is usually not a lot of time to mic a presenter, it is recommended to wear a suit jacket if possible.

Audio

Finally, it is necessary to mic any presenter. Often the presenter will already have a microphone in order to be heard over a house AV sound system. The video camera person then has the option of taking an audio cable out of the house sound system, providing he can position himself close enough to the system or has enough cable and set-up time to be further away. Speaking of set-up time, the camera operator will need a few extra minutes to test the house sound coming into his camera, which is best done prior to the audience entering the room. The sound may come through distorted or be incompatible with the camera. This is why I usually opt for putting my own wireless mic on the presenter, even if he/she is already wearing one. The best option would be to use both sources, just in case, but this is not always feasible. If and only if the entire presentation will take place from a podium, a second mic (wireless or hard-wired can be secured to the podium. The general audio of the audience will be picked up by the presenter’s mic and possible a secondary ambient mic. Additional considerations exist for Q&A.

Q&A

There is often structured and unstructured Q&A and it is difficult to anticipate everything that may happen and record all this audio. A handheld mic could be run around the room or a boom mic operator could go crazy trying to cover it all, but usually it is very cumbersome for the presenter to manage this. We suggest the presenter always try to repeat the questions for the benefit of the viewers and the live audience.

Set-Up Time

Setting-up and testing just one camera, one wireless mic and one light, takes at least a half hour, preferably one hour to be safe, if possible. The cameraperson needs to add time on top of this to make sure he/she can park and get into the facility in a timely fashion. For more than two presenters, most cameras have two inputs, a separate audio/mixer package would be needed and set-up time would be doubled. It is best for the presenter or meeting planner and the camera operator to either be familiar with the location or get a good description of the facility by asking all of these questions.

Ask all these questions!