For the last few years the Web has been hailed as the ultimate medium for presenters
because you can deliver a presentation from the comfort of your own office.
But even the biggest Web advocates will admit that Web presenting can't replace
the value of a live presentation in terms of gauging the audience's reaction,
interacting with attendees, or building rapport with the client. So whether
or not you've jumped on the Web-bandwagon, take a few moments to review some
of the reasons why you may or may not want to deliver your next presentation
The major advantage of Web presenting is obvious – eliminating the need to leave
your office means you're going to save a huge amount of time and money on business
travel. But there are other advantages too. Presenting in cyberspace gives you
access to a huge potential audience. And you don't need to worry about conflicting
appointments, since anyone who misses your presentation can view it at his or
her own convenience. Alternatively, if any attendees need to clarify a certain
point, they can revisit the presentation later.
you've eliminated the opportunity for live audience interaction, the Web can
provide an opportunity for your audience to interact with your presentation.
Many Web-based presentation packages offer whiteboards, chat boxes and instant
polling. So your audience can type in a question or comment, vote on outstanding
issues, or contribute to a brainstorming session, all from their own desktops.
This leads us to another major benefit of presenting over the
Web – audience participation. Most presenters find that getting a live audience
to ask questions is like pulling teeth. The Web offers some form of (visual)
autonomy so participants tend to ask more questions via e-mail or chat boxes.
|Or Not To Be
The easiest way to present over the Web is to convert your existing
presentation (e.g., PowerPoint) to HTML. But be warned – the presentation
you spent hours crafting may come out a little worse for wear when it's
viewed on the Web. Some of the glitches you might experience are:
|| Transitions and animations won't work on some browsers
|| With only 256 colors (or 216 if you want your presentation
to work for both Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator) your photos may
come out blurred and pixilated
|| Sound effects won't translate unless viewers download an
audio plug-in (such as RealPlayer)
|| Your file size is likely to be HUGE (some presentations will
double in size when converted to HTML)
|| Your presentation may be frustratingly slow
So converting an existing presentation might be all right if you're
pressed for time, but it won't be nearly as professional as creating a new,
Web-based presentation from scratch.
The most effective way to deliver a Web presentation is to integrate
an audio track so you can guide the audience through your presentation vocally.
Converting an existing presentation may eliminate this option, as low-bandwidth
attendees won't receive the audio. If you're delivering the presentation live,
you could guide the audience over a conference call, but absent attendees will
miss out on the vocal explanations.
Another inherent problem of presenting over the Web is that your
audience's attention span will be a lot shorter. In the privacy of their own
offices, attendees will be more likely to write e-mails, gaze out the window
or water the plants. So make sure you employ some extra creativity in your presentation
(e.g., games, quizzes, stories or anecdotes) or you'll have people snoozing
in their chairs.
And the Verdict Is
That leads us back to our original question – Web presenter, to be or not to
be? It really depends on the situation. If you're delivering a presentation
that could make or break your career, then you probably wouldn't want to trust
it to the Web. There are too many technical glitches that could ruin things,
and too much potential for your audience to misinterpret your message if you're
not able to gauge their reaction. On the other hand, there's no denying that
Web presenting is infinitely easier to schedule and finance. Plus, you're able
to reach a vast audience (although they're more susceptible to tune out without
a live presenter). Try to reach a happy medium – enjoy the ease of presenting
over the Web, but don't sacrifice your message in order to do so. Perhaps the
question is not to be or not to be a Web presenter, but rather, when to be or
not to be?