Video killed the presenter star

(If the embed video doesn’t work which often happens go here: https://youtu.be/Iwuy4hHO3YQ)

Hey presenters – stop using video to open for you!

A lot of presenters now use videos as a kind of mental cocaine to stimulate their audience and fire up their emotions. The room darkens, a presenter pops out on stage and mumbles a kind of apologetic introduction then scurries to the side to let the video do the heavy lifting. The intention – I presume – is to focus the audience on to the topic at hand, using the emotive force of moving images and stock music tracks to engage them.  As the photographer observing that same crowd, I think exactly the opposite actually happens.

While well-constructed videos can trigger emotions on queue (I’ve teared up at more than most), the message conveyed to the audience is that the presenter isn’t quite willing to put him or herself out there and dare to engage the audience all on their own.

Unsurprisingly, the audience receives that message and decides, “Hey, me neither.” They are tired anyway, and it’s been a long morning, and when are they wheeling out that coffee bar again anyway?

I have nothing against video. I work with many talented videographers and happily deliver video event highlight reels to my clients on demand. I think it’s a great way to capture an experience and tell a story and they are useful props in a presentation when used sparingly.

My point here is that the first few minutes on stage for a presenter are critical. Imagine a stand up comedian who walked out into a roomful of people who’ve paid for some laughs and the first thing he or she does is say, “Check out this funny video on YouTube!” and walks to the side of the stage.

I don’t think a syndicated comedy show is coming their way any time soon.

Well, even if your topic is “How artificial intelligence will change radiology”, or  “Here are the five biggest trends affecting mobility in cities in the next ten years”, using a video to be your opening act has the same effect. It may help you – as a nervous or first time presenter – overcome your stage fright, but rather than warm your audience up and make them love you more (which is the point of all presentations), it simply feeds a well-worn circuitry in their already dopamine addicted brains and makes them forget about you.

Instead, talk directly to your audience. Be authentic. Care about your subject. Care about why they are in the room and design your talk to appeal to their specific interests. And be interesting. Be dynamic. Smile often and don’t cling to the podium like you’re afraid you’ll fall into a manhole if you let go.

You’re the presenter.

Be present.