If you’re responsible for a meeting's content, a blank screen is the devil’s workshop. If you’ve ensured all the presentations are present and accounted for on the show computer, are you ready to go? Not quite.
Unless you’re doing the entire program yourself, the next most important thing you need to do is review the slides before the start of the meeting, and wherever possible to get your presenters together for a comprehensive Slide Review and Dress Rehearsal. These elements are your chance to ensure uniformity in both the visual style and intellectual integrity of your presentation.
Presumably, you provided all the presenters with a common template for slide presentations that lays out your expectations for their discussions. Specify conservative and easy to read background colors, fonts, bullet points and any other anticipated conventions so the presentations look uniform (or nearly so) when combined with those of other speakers. Whenever possible, suggest a due date, at least a week before the meeting, so you (and your colleagues) can review the materials for content and accuracy while there is still time to make edits.
Resist the temptation to assume everyone else did their slides as professionally as you might have. You can pretty much be assured that they are need in review, so don’t wait until the day before the event to open up the presentations. More often than not, you’ll find misspellings, grammatical errors, incomplete sentences and syntax errors which need correction.
Take this opportunity to standardize font sizes, colors, and general layout. Your template should have taken care of the biggest problems, but remember a slide that looks fine on the laptop screen may project very differently in the meeting room. Be sure you’ve gone through each presentation to make sure all slides can be read as projected.
You should also have trusted colleagues review your slides – it’s easy to overlook errors that would normally jump out at you when working in the unfamiliar format such as PowerPoint. There’s a good chance they’ll catch the same kind of errors your colleagues did in your own presentation.
No one likes their work to be questioned, so you can make small changes (fonts and obvious typos) without consulting the author. There’s no sense in irritating co-presenters by pointing out nit-picky items that clearly need to be corrected. But for items of substance, you should always discuss with the creator of the content. Changing a fundamental portion of a presentation without clearing it with the speaker is a recipe for disaster.
Prior to holding a Dress Rehearsal, we recommend getting all the speakers together in a room to discuss the flow of the program, as well as the content of individual presentations. While this is a slow and tedious process, it’s invaluable to ensuring that all parties are on board with the Message of the Meeting.
The Dress Rehearsal
Going hand in hand with slide review is the Dress Rehearsal, one final opportunity for all parties to review the content before the show.
If you can schedule a Dress Rehearsal for the day before the meeting, you’ll help the presenters relax since they will have a chance to see the room, understand the equipment set up, screen placement and perhaps even have a chance to advance through their slides using the remote advance device.
If necessary, you can have a dress rehearsal on the day of the show, but be forewarned time constraints will limit the value of getting together immediately before the show.
There can be nothing more damaging to the Message of your Meeting than a full-fledged fight between presenters over a key element in the program. The Slide Review is the best time to go over these differences, where the can be ironed out in a less rushed environment. It’s better to air differences in a Dress Rehearsal rather than at the main event.
These steps are not as easy as they sound. They are time consuming and require multiple parties to coordinate their schedules – which is sometimes difficult or almost impossible to accomplish. But the time investment in these steps is as important to the meeting as getting the presenters to do the slides in the first place.