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The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread When Preparing for a Webinar

July 8, 2020Mark Rhodes

I just discovered the PowerPoint Presenter Coach, and my life has changed.

OK, that may be a bit overdramatic, but I’m honestly fired up about this new Microsoft tool. I’ve likely coached hundreds of speakers over the years, and the primary issues speakers grapple with relate to a relatively short list of items:

 

  • Pace
  • Pitch
  • Volume
  • Filler words
  • Reading their slides

 

Few speakers can truly master those 5 elements, and the interesting thing I’ve found is, the speakers who have know there is always room for improvement.

 

So how do you improve? Typically your options are:

 

  1. Record yourself and review – I find this very painful, I don’t think I’ve ever been able to listen or watch more than a few minutes of myself talking. Even if I could, I find it very difficult to practice “for real”; I draw a certain energy when I present “live” and don’t replicate that well on my own.
  2. Practice in front of a mirror – This is a great technique overall, but it’s not a great solution to address the common issues as you’re trying to present and monitor yourself at the same time.
  3. Practice in front of a friendly audience – I’ve had speakers share with me (pre-Covid) that they would gather some of their teammates at lunch and present to them, then get their feedback. I love that idea – it really helps a speaker nail down their topic and points, but I wonder if they get the honest feedback they need. Occasionally I also hear a report of presenting to one’s spouse or family. I know if I were to do that, I’d certainly get the honest feedback I’m looking for (and then some), but to have my wife sit through an entire presentation would require a dinner out that I can’t afford.

 

If you’re like me, suddenly you’re presenting virtually a lot more as well. I’ve discovered quickly that presenting a webinar or conference session online is much more difficult than in-person. Some may be relieved to not have a roomful of people looking at them, but for me, in addition to all the other elements that are normally challenging, the need for extra inflection, energy, focus, etc. is demanding. Extra preparation and proficiency are needed, and quickly.

 

Ready for some help? In the great but slightly altered words of Underdog, there’s no need to fear, PowerPoint Presenter Coach is here! Microsoft released this tool late last fall, and it’s only available with PowerPoint Online (presumably due to its Azure AI integration). I’m not an expert on licensing but if you have Office 365 (now Microsoft 365) at your company then you should be able to access it. You’ll need to open a slide deck online to use the tool – my slide decks are on OneDrive, so when I first open PowerPoint Online my decks are already there. If yours aren’t you may want to check with your IT team (and bring them some doughnuts, they deserve it).

 

With your slide deck open, under the Slide Show menu you’ll see “Rehearse with Coach”, as in the screenshot below:

PowerPoint Presenter Coach Tool

 

Select the option, follow the prompts, and start presenting. You’ll only need a couple minutes for the coach to figure out how you’re doing, or feel free to practice your whole presentation. Instantly you’ll be scored on a number of the key elements listed previously and provided some recommendations on how to address.  Here are the results from my first attempt with the tool:

 

PowerPoint Presenter Coach Tool

 

You can see that my pace is right in the middle, and I have good variation with it. My pitch also has nice variability but could be raised a bit at times. Coach identified I used “umm” and “uhh” as filler words, which is true, and a constant struggle for me. I also did not read the slides (ooh that drives me nuts), and I did not use any sensitive phrases, which Microsoft defines as “…culturally sensitive phrases in these areas: disability, age, gender, race, sexual orientation, mental health, sensitive geopolitical topics, and profanity.” I want to reiterate that sometimes I think tools like these are a bunch of flash, but I was immediately impressed with its simplicity and value-added feedback. There is truly no reason not to use this tool on a regular basis.

 

Interested in learning more? I have some links for you:

 

Introductory announcement from Microsoft

How-to guide

Reading your results

 

I hope you enjoy using the PowerPoint Presenter Coach as much as I do, and soon.

 

To read my last blog: Overcoming the Resistance Hump: It’s Time to Embrace Business Transformation please click here.

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The experts at New View Strategies are experienced Dynamics NAV and Business Central trainers and business process consultants who have walked in your shoes as former Corporate Controllers, Directors of IT, and Solution Architects, and believe increased utilization of your business systems is critical to the continued success of your company.
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