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Live Presentations:
There's an App for That
Eight apps to help you prep company reps for in-booth presentations and keynote speeches.
By Travis Stanton
In a perfect world, every exhibit manager would have his or her pick of eager booth staffers and polished presenters. But reality is a far cry from perfect, and turning sales reps and CEOs into professional presenters is a little more complicated than simply handing them the mic. As such, face-to-face marketers are often forced to cringe in the corner when a less-than-linguistically gifted salesperson or untrained executive takes to the stage. Brain farts, filler words, stage fright, and speed talking can all turn an otherwise brilliant script into a spectacular failure. Thankfully, there's an app for that. Whether you're prepping your reps for a keynote speech, an in-booth presentation, or an on-camera interview, these eight apps can help them overcome many of the most significant obstacles to a standing ovation.

We all know that practice makes perfect, but a pre-show run-through at the home office is an entirely different beast than standing on stage in front of hundreds or even thousands. Unfortunately, it's next to impossible to successfully recreate the nerve-wracking reality of presenting in front of a crowd, meaning even well-rehearsed presenters can still be shell-shocked the second they step on stage. The VirtualSpeech app uses virtual reality to create a variety of fully immersive environments to serve as relatively realistic training grounds that can help your reps rehearse in front of an audience – albeit virtually. Among other things, the app helps users practice their eye contact, deal with distractions, perfect their pace, and track their progress over time. The various scenarios and in-app training courses can also benefit anyone who suffers from stage fright, speech anxiety, or even social anxiety disorder. The unique app is free to download but requires users have access to a VR headset.
Public Speaking
It is often said that many individuals fear public speaking even more than death. While that may or may not be true, stage fright is a surefire foe that needs to be vanquished long before your presenter enters the spotlight. Anybody who has ever sat through a presentation given by a fear-stricken speaker knows that it's excruciatingly painful for both the presenter and his or her captive audience. Granted, some people suffer from intense forms of stage fright that simply cannot be cured with a smartphone app. But others can take the edge off their presentation anxiety by using the Public Speaking app (available for Android and iOS devices) by HiveBrain Software. This $2.99 app will pay for itself every time your nervous presenter starts to tremble at the thought of going up to the podium. Using a guided meditation and self-hypnosis program, the public-speaking app focuses on overcoming stage fright by minimizing users' anxiety and mentally preparing them to speak in front of a crowd.

Prompster Pro
Any presenter who has forgotten a line or lost his or her train of thought on stage has likely longed for a teleprompter – the kind that politicians and CEOs use to stay on script (and on message) during speeches. But unless you're blessed with a production crew that's willing and able to assist with your live presentation, you and your presenter probably have to settle for printed scripts, notes, or cue cards, all of which can prove clunky and cumbersome. But now you can create your own de facto teleprompter using nothing more than your iOS tablet or smartphone and the Prompster Pro app. The app allows you to import your script, make edits, highlight or underline key phrases for emphasis, scroll text at variable speeds, adjust font size, and even track elapsed time. At $9.99 per download, it's one of the more expensive apps on our list, but it will be well worth the investment when your CEO or spokesperson delivers back-to-back, word-perfect presentations throughout your next trade show or corporate event.

Toastmaster Timer
There's nothing worse than standing backstage and watching your presenter drone on and on, completely unaware that he or she has run 20 minutes over the allotted time. But short of smoke signals or shepherds' crooks, there's little you can do to step in and put the audience out of its collective misery. That's where the Toastmaster Timer comes in. Originally developed to assist individuals assigned as timers at Toastmaster meetings, the app enables users to either select a presentation format or speech length, or customize it with their own settings. Then, as the timer counts down the minutes and seconds, the screen will flash green, yellow, and then red to indicate when prespecified increments of time are remaining. Set an app-enabled phone on your presenter's podium, and the discreet timer will not only help your spokesperson avoid running over but also keep a record of past speech times, which can be extremely helpful for testing different scripts and making incremental cuts during the show.

Poll Everywhere
Audience participation can be an effective tool to keep viewers engaged with your content, and questioning your attendees can generate valuable data regarding their needs, interests, and awareness levels. But asking for a random show of hands is a pretty unscientific method – and nobody appreciates being called out by presenters and put on the spot. The Poll Everywhere app allows your spokesperson to seamlessly incorporate audience participation into your live presentations. Audience members are invited to respond to surveys, answer trivia questions, or participate in other activities using their smartphones or mobile devices. Then, the resulting data can populate your slides, creating a real-time report on participants' responses. Available for PowerPoint, Keynote, and Google Slides, Poll Everywhere can help you turn one-sided speeches into two-way conversations, adding a little interactivity to your in-booth presentations and providing you with actionable information from your audience.

Speech Master
Filler words such as "um" and "uh" aren't just an annoyance; they're a liability. Before you know it, attendees have lost sight of your key messages as they begin keeping a mental tally of how many times your speaker says the word "like." The problem is that most amateur presenters aren't even aware of the words they tend to overuse, let alone just how frequently they use them – or how easily they can detract from your content. To help make your reps mindful of the filler flotsam they turn to most often and condition them to avoid repeating those words during their presentations, try the Speech Master app, available for Android-based devices. According to the app's developers, understanding the use and frequency of filler words is the first step toward improving presenters' flow and polish. By tracking your presenter's filler-word usage (and providing visual reports that chart his or her performance over time), Speech Master should be able to wean them off these overused and off-putting terms.

A one-stop shop of an app, mPrompt fuses several of the individual features from other apps into one multifunctional interface. Used by both experienced and novice public speakers, mPrompt allows presenters to rough out and fine tune speeches while also practicing and perfecting their timing and delivery. Users can choose to cut and paste presentation content from any other iOS app or simply type text directly into mPrompt using their smartphones' keyboards. A timer function helps speakers keep tabs on their allotted times, and an included teleprompter-like view enables them to scroll through scripts in either portrait or landscape mode and adjust the font size and speed of their speech for readability and timing. Users can also highlight text as a personal reminder to emphasize those key words or phrases during the presentation. Despite its $9.99-per-download price tag, this app is like a Swiss army knife when it comes to presentation practice and performance tools.

If English is not your presenter's first language and he or she is nervous that a language barrier may impede communication, Orai is the app for you. Developed by a pair of engineering students from India and Pakistan, the app tracks users' vocal clarity and provides instantaneous feedback that can improve pronunciation. The app also tracks presenters' energy levels as a way of breathing life into monotone speakers and coaching them to become more active and engaging. In addition, Orai offers what it calls in-app "micro lessons" on public speaking to help novice – or nervous – presenters learn to be more at ease in front of large crowds. A built-in audio recording and playback function allows users to hear themselves speak (which can be a powerful tool in terms of illustrating problem areas), and an auto-transcription feature turns speakers' off-the-cuff remarks into textual drafts that can be edited, copied, and pasted into Orai's script mode.

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