How the biggest professional events can make your meetings and presentations better

The team at Poll Everywhere has supported some very large, very high production events over the years. From HPE global sales conferences to a Black Eyed Peas concert, we’ve been privileged to work with the world’s most professional event producers.

At the same time, we know that the vast majority of work gets done in much smaller formats: quarterly department meetings, your weekly team update, the executive leadership presentation, training workshops, and an all hands townhall. Poll Everywhere is used by real people being real with their audiences in order to accomplish real things. Increasingly, it is these uses of our product that motivate and inspire our work.

Poll Everywhere is used by real people being real with their audiences in order to accomplish real things.

These smaller formats have some unique requirements and offer some unique opportunities – like being able to prioritize issues in real time with an upvote-downvote poll and being able to walk through data-heavy presentation slides effectively.

However, there are five tips everyone can learn from these big, high production event to make their meeting presentations better and more effective.

1. Seamlessly incorporate a video or sound

The pros do this all the time. They launch into their spiel and then show a 30 second video underscoring their point with a real person testimonial. You can do this too!

You already know there’s a tremendous amount of content on YouTube and Vimeo. Make sure you view the entire video clip before you put it in your presentation. Some content can be creatively edited when you least expect it.

Here’s a tip for presenting… keep the videos under a minute and make sure you have the line down that you will use to introduce the video. Start that line so that you are still saying it while the video is loading to look really polished.

The newest Office 365 PowerPoint lets you add video through the native “Insert” menu, as does Google Slides. If you’re on an older version, adding video to PowerPoint on Windows and adding video to PowerPoint on Mac  is just as easy. As a bonus, the Poll Everywhere add-in will auto start your video, so you can avoid grabbing the mouse. (If you already use the Poll Everywhere app, you will need to upgrade to the newest version for this functionality.)

Insert video for Poll Everywhere

2. Tell a story that includes the audience

You’ve already heard the most common presentation advice ever given, appearing in countless presentation advice books: tell a story. Ensure your presentation has an arc. Use anecdotes, and metaphors. Humans are evolutionarily primed to love stories.

All that is true, but our most experienced presenters take that storytelling to the next level with live audience polling.

Former principal Jim Sporleder teaches large conferences of educators how to practice trauma-informed discipline. His work was the subject of the critically acclaimed documentary, Paper Tigers. He starts the conference talk by explaining the sources and indicators of trauma and then asks the audience how many they have experienced themselves.

Without fail, there is a high percentage of audience members who have themselves experienced an event capable of inducing trauma. Jim uses this shocking fact to set up the entire reason to care about the topic. He proved it was important – and personal. He incorporated his audience into the story of why to care about this issue.

Essentially, with live polling you have a chance to involve the audience in the story you are trying to tell. Getting your participants to have your story become their story is incredibly powerful. If you are presenting something that is surprising or that isn’t widely understood, take the opportunity to ask them before you tell them. It can be something as straightforward as, “what percentage of our budget last year was spent on marketing collateral?”

Getting your participants to have your story become their story is incredibly powerful.

3. Use evocative graphics

You know the look. The gorgeous photograph flashes onscreen while the Ted speaker launches into their emotional story of how they happened upon the profound insight they are about to share.

You don’t necessarily have to tug on the heart strings at your next quarterly department meetings, but a high quality, single image is a very effective way to break up a relentless parade of slides. There are also some terrific free sources now for high quality images including Pexel and Unsplash. (While you don’t have to pay the contributor, please be sure to still give them credit.)

Some tips…

  • Arrange and crop the photograph so that it is a “full bleed,” meaning it covers the entire space of the slide. A border really kills the moment and looks sloppy.
  • Keep the text minimal on the photography. If they’re reading the slide, they’re not listening to you.
  • Space out the big image slides. We can learn from the professional conference speakers, but you still have a monthly project update to give. An evocative image won’t tell that entire story.
  • Keep the look of the image slides generally the same as the rest of your deck. If you can’t find images in the same general color palette as the rest of your deck, you can make them match by turning them black and white or by adjusting the transparency of the image. If your deck has lighter colors, increase the transparency of the images. If it’s darker shades, decrease the transparency.

Example of the visual impact of a full bleed image4. Fake an AV switcher

Nearly all of our professional events utilize a team of AV experts in the back of the room who AV switch between the presentation, live polling, video, and sound.

It’s actually why we created the Poll Everywhere Presenter in the first place. We wanted everyone to be able to look polished when they used polling. With the Poll Everywhere Presenter, you just run your deck, seamlessly switching between live polling, content slides, and even video – no clunky ALT-TAB between applications or floating bars over slides.

Protip… here’s one workaround we do in smaller meetings to fake a separate sound engineer: embed the video with the music you want into the slide. You then resize the video to be as tiny as possible and make sure the setting is set to autoplay. When you get to the slide, it plays the sound without the video being seen.

5. Stand, walk around, take up space

So often in every day meetings and presentations, we don’t actually present. The presenter literally just sits it out, remaining at the table, not changing their position or their voice.

That may be fine for some meetings and may be helpful in some workshops, but make it a deliberate choice. You as a presenter have an opportunity to command a presence simply by standing rather than sitting, by moving around the room, rather than freezing behind a podium.