When you give a speech at a conference that’s reasonably large, they’ll set up what’s called a “confidence monitor” for you. This monitor has your slides on it, and it’s positioned at the edge of the stage, facing you.
So I want you to imagine this for a moment. You’re in the audience, and the speaker you’ve come to see is on stage. She’s got a clicker in her hand to advance the slides, and she’s holding forth about the topic she’s an expert on.
Every twenty seconds or so, her eyes flit downward, to the front of the stage. She’s checking her slides to see where she is in her presentation. Each time she does this, she breaks her connection with you, and she does it so often that it begins to seem like she may not really know what she’s talking about. It makes her look…less confident.
You do not want this to be you. Your job, after all, is to engage the audience and connect with them, not to check your slides. So if you have a confidence monitor, keep these things in mind:
- Use the monitor sparingly. Remember that your intention is to connect with your audience, and only look at the monitor three or four times in your whole speech.
- Use your peripheral vision. Stand far enough back so that you can look out at the audience and still see just enough of the monitor to keep yourself oriented.
- The monitor is there to keep you from having to turn around to look at your slides. It’s not the end of the world if you do turn to refer to something on the screen. Obviously you don’t want to spend a long time with your back to your audience, but you can stand to one side and refer to what’s on the slide, including the audience.
- Ultimately, the confidence monitor is a security blanket. Having your slides available to glance at means that you will want to glance at them. Practice enough so that you can say to the AV guy, “No thanks, I’d rather not use it.”