Inspiring Through Presentations
When you get home from a memorable diving trip, the first thing you want to do is share your experience with others. Whether you have filmed wild whale sharks, watched a male jawfish incubate eggs in his mouth, or found a rare leafy sea dragon, the urge to share your work is almost insatiable. We all want to inspire viewers with the beauty of the natural world, but there are a few simple guidelines for increasing engagement.
Whether you decide to present your work in a classroom, local dive shop or a Rotary Club gathering, you should carefully plan and time your presentation. If you are using video content in your talk, embed it into your presentation so there are no sloppy transitions that can take away from the pacing and flow of your seminar. If you plan to use a video that you are not talking over live from the podium, it should be extremely short. Your audience came to interact with you. If they want to see a video on its own, they can do that online. Your video content should be a fresh and unique part of your presentation, not recap talking points. Full-length films and long segments should be reserved for film festivals when the audience expects to sit and watch for a more extended period.
Many dive shows and conferences post a public call for speakers. If you are interested in applying, prepare a short two or three-line description of your talk and a short two-sentence biography. Provide a single photo that illustrates your story.
Once you have the gig, rehearse both the presentation and the technology you will use so that you can nimbly move between photos and videos within the allotted time slot. Close all unneeded apps to prevent inadvertently showing private content when you set up or manipulate your presentation. Be prepared to abridge your talk if the event organizers have allowed the schedule to get out of control. Never be the speaker that goes overtime. Running late is disrespectful to other presenters, the audience, and the event.
Before the show, send the AV team a document that describes the equipment you will bring and the equipment you will need. I always bring my laptop, HDMI connectors, and sometimes my projector, speakers, microphone, extension cord, and screen. Don’t assume the organizer has those items or that their computer system is compatible with your presentation or device. In some cases, diving shows require you to bring your own projector or rent one from the venue at considerable cost. As a backup, load a universally formatted USB stick with your presentation, embedded videos, and fonts.
If there is a chance to do a technicial check before the show, take the time to participate. A rehearsal gives you the peace of mind that everything is going to work. If you set up your laptop early, power it with a wall outlet and set the energy-saving mode to keep the computer awake. Sometimes when laptops enter sleep mode, they lose contact with the projection system and will need to be rebooted.
Ensure that you leave time after your talk to interact with the audience. They came to see you and want to have a chance for dialogue.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us shifted to online meetings and broadcasts. I’ve participated in ZOOM calls, Skype, Facetime, Google Meets, Microsoft Rooms, and Facebook Live sessions using broadcasting software including ON24, Ecamm Live, Prezi, Be Live, Cisco, OBS, and others. Given the numerous broadcasting platforms and presentation software, there is plenty of room for conflict. I always schedule a technical rehearsal to ensure the online meeting host and I have a clear plan for the event. We discuss and practice screen sharing options and plan how and when to accept questions. We discuss whether the live event will be recorded and archived or re-posted online. It would help if you were very clear about your expressed permissions. If your entire presentation is ‘too available’ online, you may not be invited to share it live at a future event.
Set up your broadcast as professionally as possible. Use good lighting and a professional microphone. Your laptop camera might be of reasonable quality, but a cheap headset mic won’t be a good choice for audio. Practice with a friend online and ask them to record the session so you can see and hear how you look. If you decide to use a green screen backdrop, make sure it is not distracting. Wear a bright, warm color to stand out. Avoid wearing green or aqua as they may mask poorly and make part of you invisible or patchy against a green screen backdrop.
Before you begin presenting, tell the audience about your expectations. Should they hold their questions? Do they type questions in a chat or QA box, or should they unmute their microphone when invited? Give a friend co-host privileges so they can mute and unmute mics, bring viewers in from the waiting room and reduce your stress. If there is a problem with your connection, they can inform you via chat or text.
Being respectful of your audience means staying within the schedule and leaving enough time for their questions. Some of the most exciting material happens during interactive QA sessions. If you decide to allow people to unmute their mics, be prepared for viewers who want to tell their own story rather than ask questions. You may need to politely cut them off so that the audience doesn’t lose interest in your talk.
Remember to thank your sponsors and remind viewers how to reach you after the talk. When you are accessible, you will build a loyal viewership for future presentations.
If live performances scare you, build a following online. Social media platforms can distribute your video productions when you drive the traffic through your social networks. Building a YouTube or TikTok following takes time, so engage your viewers by answering comments and creating a dialogue online. Keep videos concise and never drag on the content unnecessarily to increase viewing minutes. It is far better to make numerous short videos than expect your audience to dedicate their time to long-form content.
Diving videos can help us build a sense of community. More importantly, good underwater content has the potential to impassion viewers to take part in conservation efforts. Whenever I edit a short film, I ask myself about how my content serves my audience. Did they learn something new? Will they engage in protection efforts, or have I inspired them to go diving? Hopefully, your work will lead to sharing and engagement with others.
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