Presentation Etiquette

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Last week we delved into camera etiquette and why it’s important to embrace it. If you missed that one, you can catch it here.

Now, we’ll go beyond the camera to talk about presentations in general. More and more authors are giving virtual and on-the-ground presentations, including webinars, live online interviews, and presenting through other online platforms, so let’s take a look at some tips that will have you demonstrating what a savvy professional you are no matter what happens along the way. And we all know, uncontrollable things can happen.

Starting time

When it comes to events, there are generally three kinds of people: Those who are early, those who like to arrive on time (just as the action begins), and those who are late. That’s not to say that we can’t fall into other categories from time to time, but by and large people tend to be creatures of habit and favor one or another of these categories.. This can lead to many a heated conversation between spouses who have different preferred methods, but that’s a story for another time, and probably someone else’s blog.

When do you want people to arrive?

When you are the host of the event, you’ll be there early to make sure everything is all set and that you’re ready to go, but what about the attendees? The real question is: When do you want your people, tribe, or community to arrive? For me, early is best and the way I get that across isn’t to directly say it, but instead to reward those who do arrive early. (More on this in a bit.) After all, they did what it takes to get it on their calendar, responded to prompts, had the link handy when they needed it, and they got there early. It takes some planning.

Reward the early birds

As a reward for the early birds to my live online events, such as webinars, I like to do a couple of things. One is called “Reality Webinars,” which means the early birds get to hear all the behind-the-scenes chit chat before we start. and I’m not referring to silly, inane banter. I like to make it worth their while by giving them extra content that no one else is going to get during the actual webinar itself.

Another thing I like to do to reward those who arrive early is to do a drawing for a book or some other gift. I hold the drawing right at the top of the hour, but only those who got there early are eligible for the gift, and I say so. I like to do this so as many people as possible are there when I begin, so it’s in all the pre-marketing material. If you do frequent webinars or presentations, people will get to know your style and word will get around that you give goodies away to participants who arrive early. It works!

Wait until the event starts to turn off the notification dings

During the time before the presentation begins (I like to start about 20 minute prior to the hard start time), I keep the notification ding on. It’s fun to hear when all the other people join the group in real time because it adds a sense of anticipation and excitement.

However, that ding quickly turns to distraction once the event actually begins. When people are late, it’s very noticeable and can be disruptive, so turn off that sound when you start your presentation.   It’s distracting for participants who are already there, and it’s distracting for you. Plus, there is that temptation to say “hello” when individuals show up. Resist that, and turning off the notifications will make that easy. In addition, that ding gives attention to the late person, which may be embarrassing to him or her.

Start on time

One of my favorite sayings from when I was in broadcasting is this: “The five o’clock news does not start at 5:02.” Do you want to be known as the person who always starts 10 minutes late? If so, good luck getting anyone to show up on time (or early, for that matter!). It doesn’t matter if you’re not quite ready (you should be), start time is the start time and you have to begin. Why make those people who respect your time wait? Start on time.

Get into the content … now

Don’t take five minutes to get into the content. Stop explaining yourself. If you have a guest, introduce them, but don’t spend the next 15 minutes patting each other on the back. (I have heard this several times before, so it happens.) Get into why we’re all there. Please.

Online is not always visual

If you’re doing your presentation on Zoom or another video platform, remember that some people are calling in, so not everyone can see your slides. You don’t really have to change anything to compensate for this, but consider describing the points you’re making so those listening can visualize what you’re talking about.

Don’t apologize

If you have a few hiccups as you get started, there’s no need to apologize. Don’t explain that you’re new at this, although if you want to make a brief mention, that’s fine. No need to go into how technology is challenging. We know. We’re there for you. Just get into your material and don’t worry about the little things. This is another great reason to have a support person with you to handle any little problems that come up. You just stay with your brilliance.

Plan for the worst

Sometimes, despite all our best efforts at planning an event, things can go wrong. Prepare ahead of time, because emergencies do happen. You want to be sure that you have planned for every contingency so that when these unexpected events happen, and they will, you are cool as a cucumber. What should you do?

What if your guest doesn’t show?

You’ve been preparing for this for a couple of months. You’ve conversed with your guest numerous times about the interview and their part in the presentation. You’re  all set to go, but your guest…

  • gets sick unexpectedly
  • has a family emergency
  • gets a call to do some event that pays $10K, and while they’d love to be a part of your free event, they really have to take the money. The mortgage, you know.

These things happen. And this is where your back-up plan comes in.

Have a back-up plan

Can you still do your presentation without having your scheduled guest? Do you have another guest in your back pocket who you can call to step in at the last minute? If not, you might want to find some people who would be there for you. One way to encourage their willingness to say yes, is to help them out when they are in a tough spot. That law of reciprocity is a good thing.  In radio, I always had someone I could call when I was in a jam, and I have the same thing for the podcast that I book, too.

What if you’re not feeling like it today?

It doesn’t matter. Show time is show time, so you have to put doubts, fears, distractions, moods, feelings, and anything else tempting you to delay your presentation aside, and just do it. It helps to put a smile on your face and know that no matter what happens, you will be learning something today. Who knows? It might be one of your best presentations, even when you initially didn’t feel like doing it!

Speeches on the ground

No matter how digitized our culture becomes, and no matter how many people attend virtual webinars and presentations, nothing can replace actual human contact. There is a special bond between authors who speak and their audience members.

In addition, speaking sells books. There are “Back of the Room” sales in which you bring copies of your book to the speaking engagement, or have them shipped in advance. Prior to your talk, ask that a table be set up, and then sell and autograph them on-site at the conclusion of your talk.

You want to be sure to continue to make meaningful connections with your audience after your talk, so having ways to do that is important. This can be done using old-school techniques (and old school is sometimes better), such as:

  • Have a stack of business cards with your contact information.
  • Have a stack of flyers  with four or five highlights from your presentation along with the title of your book and contact info.
  • Provide a notebook and pen to record new leads and a sign-up sheet for your newsletter.
  • Bring imprinted pens or another special gift to give to audience members.
  • Have a fish bowl where people can drop in their business cards and you do a drawing for a copy of your book to give to the winner. (Plus, you then have their contact information. Use this wisely, however. You can’t just add them to your newsletter without their permission, so ask!)

And even live, in-person events can live on digitally by creating a hashtag for it and encouraging members to post their thoughts and quotes during your talk. This is not for everyone, however. For example, if your talk is about reducing our addiction to technology, this may not be the best approach.

Bottom line

The number of ways to connect with your audience following an event are endless, not to mention the many tips for presentation etiquette. Every author I know is interested in selling more copies of his or her book at events, both on the ground and through online presentations, and presentations are a fabulous way to do it.

I’ll no doubt have future Savvy Sunday News Releases about this very thing. If reading this has brought up any questions or other topic ideas, let me know by hitting reply or filling out the contact form here. I’m always interested in your input!

To your success!


P.S. About a year ago I was invited to be a guest on a podcast about dreams with host Joshua Black. I didn’t promote it much at the time because it’s so personal and I felt shy about revealing so much about myself. (Yeah, I know. Me shy?) I guess after so much time, it’s OK. If you’re at all interested, you’ll find it here.

#Presentationetiquette | #bookpublicity | #bookmarketing | #speakertips

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