Student connects presenters to global audience

December 14, 2011

Presenting to a crowd has never been easier.

Armed with a recording device and a presentation, public speakers of all skill levels are invited to interact online thanks to Ben Lee, a student in the Bachelor of Commerce Entrepreneurial Management program at Royal Roads University. His idea, Crowd Speaking, brings the world to the podium, so to speak, to offer feedback on people's presentation styles.

"It's been a passion for the last year, but I want it to be more than that," he says, noting he plans to spend the holiday promoting the new site. Targeted at students and recent graduates, the site aims to fill a gap in public speaking opportunities many professionals encounter. It's important for people to realize that while they may celebrate their final college or university presentation it is not their last.  

"You are presenting every day," says Lee, noting that can be in formal presentations or in a casual idea pitch to a co-worker.

Crowd Speaking allows people to upload a video of themselves presenting in order to get feedback on their delivery and style. Doing it online first provides can be a real bonus for people who are shy about presenting, Lee says. To ensure people are engaging with one another on the free site, users have to offer feedback on a video before theirs will go live. Submissions should be focused on one speaker and be around five minutes in length.

While the online format might not exactly feel natural to people, the real-world feedback it generates will hopefully assist people in looking like a natural, says Geoff Archer, a professor in the School of Business.

"Ben's start-up is compelling for the same reason that the Elevator Pitch assignment is a staple of entrepreneurial education: Business people should always be ready to succinctly describe the initiatives they are driving," he says. "Regardless of industry, function, business growth stage or context, communications skills are increasingly vital." 

Lee has some simple advice for people on the topic of public speaking. It's all in the preparation, he says. From researching your topic to practicing the delivery, every minute you put into your presentation before you actually make it will be obvious.  

"Also, don't start with PowerPoint," he says. Focus on the key message you want to share and use the slides to support you visually. It will force you to really know your stuff, he adds.

The videos uploaded to Crowd Speaking don't need to be professionally done, and those offering feedback don't need to be experts. We all know what makes a presentation interesting to watch and that is the feedback people need to hear, Lee says.

"It's simple," Lee says. "If you could present your ideas in an effective way (you will advance your career)."