Book Review, “The Exceptional Presenter Goes Virtual”

As a recent convert over to full-time telecommuting one of the more unexpected changes to my work habits was that I started attending many more meetings than when I worked on-site. In a strange change the way I viewed my work meetings became much less of an intrusion and interruption and much more of an easy opportunity to be a part of a communicating team. A book that promised to improve my virtual meeting skills was preaching to the choir.

I work for a company that holds multiple meetings daily with teams from Texas, New York, California, 2 sites in Japan, and Chennai.  The bulk of the meetings involve a conference call, WebEx, and emailed documents. Some are run over company-owned video links. They are so routine that people treat them as just things to attend with their laptops to keep working, and perhaps that is why I was so resistant when I was on-site. Much time is wasted due to poorly held meetings with general discussions and no agenda.

“The Exceptional Presenter Goes Virtual” combines two major themes: how to be a much better presenter, and how to make that work when you are holding the meeting remotely. It does a very good job of reminding you that no matter how much technology you can bring to bear it’s still all about how interesting your content is. In the author’s words, “Keep it Relevant .. Keep it Engaging .. Keep it Moving”. As a software engineer these are not concepts I have focused on in the past since they involve actually improving social skills. They are crucial to giving a presentation that is well-received, well-understood, and leaves the audience wanting to be part of it.

There are parts of this book that show just how far the concept of a virtual presentation can be taken. At first blush some of the concepts (e.g. presentation teams, smooth transitions, sequence charts like the nightly news) seem way too professional for what I need or too directed at a sales person, but with a little thought there is a takeaway for any presenter in any position. How could I work on getting rid of the dreaded ‘Ummm’ and ‘Ahhhh’? How could I put in 5 minutes of preparation by reading through my slides to create even a basic sense of timing and flow? How could I reposition my face in front of my webcam, or use hand gestures that subliminally strengthen my message while still fitting into the video image?

“The Exceptional Presenter..” is a quick read and time well spent. Having read it I find myself immediately more aware of the virtual image I am presenting through voice, video, timing, and media. I find myself wanting to up my presentation game in order to make stronger and more effective points, even if they are just in small team meetings or short, partial presentations to a larger group.

The Exceptional Presenter Goes Virtual: Take Command of Your Message, Create an ”In-Person” Experience, and Captivate Any Remote Audience – Timothy J. Koegel
Hardcover: 208 pages
Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group Press (September 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1608320464
ISBN-13: 978-1608320462
http://www.amazon.com/Exceptional-Presenter-Goes-Virtual-Person/dp/1608320464

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