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Be Careful Using a Tablet for Speaking Notes

I love technology and I applaud speakers, preachers, teachers and others who use an iPad or other tablet for your speaking notes. But as much I want people to know you’re savvy with technology, here’s a few cautions – some issues I’m seeing a lot out there on podiums, pulpits, and classrooms:

1) Speakers tend to hunch over when using a tablet.  I watched a teacher last week spend his entire talk hunched over the podium looking at his tablet like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. You can see paper notes from every angle and direction, but it’s not so easy with a tablet. Hunched over, you look like you’re in your own little world and not interested in the audience.

2) Speakers tend to lose eye contact with the audience when using a tablet.  It’s a smaller space than a piece of paper so you tend to turn pages more often and struggle to keep track of where you are on the screen. As a result, you lose eye contact with the audience, and when you do that, you lose them.

3) Speakers can look inept with the technology.  In your effort to look tech savvy, it often backfires. Let’s face it – a tablet can be tricky in front of an audience. Text moves, pages turn, documents close, notes disappear. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve suffered through a speaker saying, “Hang on, I’ve lost my place,” or “Where did it go? I had it right here” or “Whoops, I think I’ve lost my talk” or “Hey (insert assistant’s name here) can you come up and help me find my notes?”

Here’s some solutions to help you feel more confident and comfortable:

1) Practice, practice, practice.  Get as comfortable with a tablet as you are with note cards or paper.

2) Learn to stop the rotation, hold the page, increase or decrease the font size, set the screen saver, and much more.   Also find a .pdf reader or other notes app that you’re comfortable using.  Make sure the settings won’t betray you in front of a crowd.

3) Learn to hold it well.  Get a partial cover with gripping back so it says in your hand. Learn where the buttons and the on-screen navigation tools are so you don’t hit them by mistake.

4) Learn to keep eye-contact with the audience.  Don’t let a tablet pin you to the lectern or keep your eyes away from the audience.

Your goal should be to make the tablet invisible. If the audience becomes fixated on your poor handling of the device, that means they’re not paying attention to you or your message.

A tablet can be a powerful tool for speakers, so learn to use it well.

Do you have any other suggestions that have worked for you?

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7 Comments

  1. Issue #4: In a video environment, you could be casting an unusual, atypical, changing light up on your shirt, neck, chin, and face. Being on the bluer side of the spectrum, it could make you look washed-out, a little sick, and even weak and wimpy.

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