Does the thought of using technology in your presentation fill you with fear? How do you really plug a laptop into a projector? We asked Radio Presenter and Lecturer Gareth Mitchell about the role of technology in public speaking.
Tell us a bit about yourself...
I present a technology programme on BBC World Service called Digital Planet. I also lecture in Science Communication at Imperial College, London. I suppose you could say, two very different forms of public speaking.
How do they differ?
Communication is the heart of everything. One is a face-to-face form, when I'm lecturing, and then the other is presenting on the radio. I suppose one of the virtues of doing radio is that you can't see your audience, and perhaps you get a bit less nervous.
In terms of speaking to live audiences, it is definitely different. But then I suppose it's nice to have people to talk to in a face-to-face context as well.
What kind of role does technology play whilst delivering a talk?
Technology should always be the secondary factor in communicating and giving presentations. What's most important is having a message, and then finding an engaging, entertaining and informative way of putting it across.
If you rely on technology too much and something goes wrong, you're in trouble. Technology is brilliant but it should be something that follows you, rather than you following it.
Do you have any PowerPoint tips?
I think it's really important to know your slides inside out. But don't use too many slides. Try to use images as they can work much better than fifteen tedious bullet points. Don't stick loads of text on it.
Stick to clear and simple messages using a minimum of words. Also try and make it multimedia – have bits of audio as well as video.
Are there any technological pitfalls to consider during a presentation?
Your computer could crash so have a backup plan. Be prepared to do the whole presentation without any slides. Make sure you plug your computer into the mains, because I have seen batteries run out when doing presentations.
Don't forget to turn the screensaver off on your computer. Make sure the computer doesn't go into sleep mode. Turn MSN Messenger off and if you've set up your email on Outlook, beware of a little banner that pops up at the bottom of the screen alerting you to a new e-mail – the last thing you want during a presentation is an email from your Mum popping up!
Who do you admire as a current speaker?
It has to be Barack Obama's acceptance speech during the election. He didn't use a PowerPoint; he just stood at the podium and talked. Other people I admire: Peter Cochrane who ran the BT research labs, Vint Cerf – 'the father of the Internet', Steve Jobs of Apple, Steve Ballmer of Microsoft, and Steve Jones – the famous geneticist.
Don't be led by technology.
Get the basics right – remember to plug in!
There are no upcoming episodes.
The Speaker series has now concluded. This site will no longer be updated.
This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.