episode 46: Share the Stage with Your Slides (with Sally Koering Zimney)

Let’s start with a presentation scenario, a fictitious setting for our presenters:
Full stage, professional audio with a lavaliere mic, remote/clicker – computer is backstage, large 16×9 screen either directly behind you or off-stage Left/Right with rear projection 

  • Nolan: Well, you’ve already pointed out a significant factor which is the rear projection. If there’s no projector out front, you don’t ever have to worry about blocking the projection, although you still need to be conscious about blocking content on the screen. So, no worries about walking in front of the screen.
  • Sally: I prefer off to side of screen, which is more aligned with sharing stage with the screen/slides.
  • Sandy: As we discussed in the last episode, practice on the real stage with a rehearsal and tech check if at all possible.


What are considerations for front projection situations?

  •  Nolan: Depending on the setup, you can sometimes still be in front of the screen and not be in the projection. But more often than not, you need to be on the side of the screen which limits your amount of movement.
  • Troy: If it is a meeting with an AV team, there should be tape lines on the stage indicating where you are safe to be – obey the lines.


Let’s talk about lecterns, or often referred to as podiums

  • Nolan: I hate them, but sometimes you have no choice due to stage setup.
  • Sally: I am not in favor of them.
  • Sandy: No, they are not appropriate in virtually all presentation situations.
  • Troy: It depends on the presentation. For example, I really like a stylish lectern for awards shows. I also like them for panels, with the moderator at the lectern to create a hierarchy of who’s responsible for what. But for general meetings, I like to see the presenter so they can connect with the audience better and not have a barrier.


Sally, Tell us about your “beating the slide” strategy for presenters 

  • Sally: “Beating the slide” is where you, the presenter, cue the slide, not wait for the slide to come up then talk to it. It is all about the flow and mastering your content.
  • Sandy: I love this. I will often work with my presenters to prepare a transition before the click. If they’re using confidence monitors or a teleprompter, I’ll include this direction in their notes so they do exactly how you describe it.
  • Nolan: Beating the slide also keeps the presentation more about you than your slides–you control the flow of information, not the screen.
  • Troy: For me, with larger meetings that are teleprompted, my goal is to let the presenter introduce a concept, then visually support it, exactly the same idea, but I am in control of all the visuals so the presenter does not have to think about it, it just happens for them.


Before the presentation, what should be the presentation design mindset be so the presenter can interact with their slides vs. having content up on a screen?

  • Sally: You, the presenter, are the focus. The slides are your backup, and if they don’t work, things still work. It is a live experience, focusing on the connection (presenter and audience) is the key.
  • Nolan: I like to interact with the screen, meaning looking at it, pointing at it, gesturing. The other option is to ignore it and just let it be while you focus 100% on the audience.
  • Troy: Slides should not have an overwhelming amount of content – unless that is the point. And content should be bucketed; top/bottom, left to right, so the presenter can easily reference something on the slide without pointing to it, and the audience knows what is being referenced. As example, “like the right section shows…”


How do you interact with your slides without doing the presentation faux-pas of turning your back to the audience?

  • Troy: My concern for a large meeting – does the camera stay on the shot of the back of your head?
  • Nolan: From theatre, you learn the 3/4 stance that allows you to talk to someone to the side of you on the stage while keeping your body facing mostly out towards the audience. Of course, you quickly learn that all rules are meant to be broken and there are endless situations where it’s okay to turn your back on the audience.


What about the use of laser pointers?

  • Sandy: Not a fan.
  • Nolan: I’m not a fan because it feels so old-school and lecture-y.
  • Troy: I discourage using laser pointers, and on a Left/Right screen setup, which half of the audience gets the laser pointer? If there is an important callout, build it into the animation.


Are there some examples of when you, or presenters you have seen, truly interacted with their presentation slides?

  • Nolan: Hans Rosling is my favorite example, he seemed to be truly in love with his animated data and often turned his back on the audience.
  • Sandy: Sales presentations where the presenter interacts with a main menu to navigate their presentation.
  • Troy: The concept everyone has seen on America’s Got Talent and a dance troupes that use the preset video as another member of the act.
  • Nolan: There are a number of magicians these days doing acts where they interact with large video screens on stage.



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