LiveMeeting Best Practices

As part of my role here at Microsoft, I spend a significant amount of time in LiveMeeting doing presentations to Gold Partners. Sometimes it is a small meeting with only a few attendees, and sometimes the meetings involve hundreds of Partners at a time. LiveMeeting scales very well for both scenarios, and the experience on both sides (presenter and attendee) is usually quite nice. The audio portion of the session can be conducted via an audio conferencing bridge, or via "Internet Audio Broadcasting" where LiveMeeting dials into the Phone Bridge and then broadcasts the audio to attendees so that they can listen with their computer speakers. This is really the preferred method once you have a large number of attendees, as you will INVARIABLY have several folks that don't remember to keep their phone on mute (or that puts the entire conference on hold), which really ruins the experience for all involved. With that in mind, the following are some Best Practices that I use when preparing for and giving my presentations:

  1. Use PowerPoint 2007. I enjoy speaking to Partners on the phone, but have NO graphical/artistry/design skills at all. PowerPoint 2007 can make some INCREDIBLY sharp presentations that look absolutely unbelievable.

  2. Install LiveMeeting 2005 Service Pack 7. SP7 adds compatibility for Windows Vista and Office 2007, and as I mentioned before: Once you have used PowerPoint 2007, there is no going back!

  3. Ask your attendees to visit the LiveMeeting Configuration Test Page
    before your session begins. If not, then be prepared to start 5 or 10 minutes late as everyone fumbles through loading the client on their machine.

  4. Log into LiveMeeting at least 30 minutes ahead of the session, and have a co-worker login as well and verify that the audio is working correctly. There is nothing more embarrassing than to have 200 people log onto your session and the audio is not working because you mistyped a phone number somewhere. I cannot tell you how many times I have worked with new presenters that are pulling their hair out while the Question Manager fills up with "Has the session started yet? I can't hear you!"

  5. Unless you are super comfortable with the topic, have a knowledgeable SME to answer questions asked during your presentation via the question manager. No matter how much of an expert you are, you will receive questions that will throw you off track. If you have someone to give answers (or a "we'll get back to you"), you will be able to focus on the presentation itself.

  6. That having been said, keep an eye on the Question Manager, and if a pertinent question comes in that aligns with where you are in the presentation, address it at that point. That adds an aspect of interactivity that the participants enjoy.

  7. Be excited about the topic and share that excitement on the phone. Just as the camera adds 10 pounds, a conference call with 200 people can make you sound tired and uninterested, so add a little more excitement to your voice than you might otherwise.

  8. Practice. Practice. Practice. Practice. Practice.

  9. If you have multiple presenters, lock control over the presentation. It is tempting to click through slides when you are on deck to present, and there is nothing more disorienting for the current presenter than to have the slide deck gain a life of its own in the middle of a presentation.

  10. Hit the mute button on your phone while you are not presenting. Personal noises or gossipy co-workers do not make for a good presentation (although it may be a memorable one!)

  11. TURN OFF YOUR IM CLIENT AND OUTLOOK WHILE PRESENTING. Especially if you are sharing your display… There is nothing more embarrassing than to have an email reminder pop up in the middle of your presentation that says "We have received your resume and look forward to interviewing you." That can lead to what I like to refer to as a "Resume Updating Event." Outlook 2007 and Windows Vista actually realize when you are presenting and automatically suppress these alerts.

  12. Record yourself in a session and listen to the LiveMeeting Replay. Something that sounded good in your head may not sound so good when you are listening to yourself. You will also find areas of the presentation that should be sped up, and areas of the presentation where you can spend more time.

  13. Add personal notes of experience throughout the presentation. Reading the slides does not provide any value to the attendee (as they are very capable of reading themselves, thank you very much!). If you are short on personal experience, spend time on blogs and newsgroups pertinent to the topic, so that you can share some best practice knowledge that will be of use to the attendee.

  14. Practice some more.

  15. Print out your speaker notes. You cannot see them while presenting in LiveMeeting, and you want to make sure you cover the important bullet points/background. Do NOT write out your notes verbatim, but have bullet points for the general points you want to make.

  16. Have some co-workers sit through a dry-run, and choose people that are willing to give honest feedback. Have some co-workers that know nothing about the topic at all, as well as some Subject Matter Experts that can let you know if you are misstating information.

  17. OWN YOUR CONTENT!!! Even if you are presenting someone else's deck, take the time to personalize it to your presentation style. Make sure that you are telling a cohesive story, and that the deck follows your speech. Don't make your speech fit a deck that you are uncomfortable/unfamiliar with.

  18. Keep several glasses of water handy, but keep in mind that water intake will eventually equal water output, and plan accordingly.

  19. Don't use the speakerphone to present to 200 people via LiveMeeting. Seriously. (I wouldn't bring it up if I hadn't seen it).

  20. Use Guy Kawasaki's 10/20/30 rule of PowerPoint. A PPT Deck should:

    1. Have 10 slides
    2. Last no more than 20 minutes
    3. Contain no font smaller than 30 points.

    You will of course have to modify the above rule to fit your specific scenario, but do not enter the trap of giving a presentation with 100 slides and 16 point font. It will put your audience to sleep and force you to read from your slides, which is the cardinal sin of presenting!

  21. Leave time for questions

  22. SMILE, be enthusiastic and relax – the audience can hear it when you do J