In a world filled with distractions, engaging your audience during presentations and talks is becoming more and more difficult. You only have a few minutes to get your audience on your side before they start thinking about checking their Facebook feed..
If you’re lucky, your audience will already be enticed by your talk’s title and so want to be there. Even if this is true, you will still be combating Instagram notifications, emails or just a general sense that their work is building up. If you then fail to connect with your audience in a meaningful way, you’ll be subject to a lack lustre round of applause and a disengaged, crowd filing out of your talk, rather than the hubbub of an engaged audience exchanging ideas.
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1. DITCH THE INTRO
There are two types of people who will be at your talk: people who know who you are and people who don’t. The people who know who you are, do not need a minute of their life wasted hearing about you again. The ones who don’t know who you are, probably care very little that you’re the Senior Vice President of Customer Happiness – they just want to know how the talk is going to benefit them.
The underlying theory about introducing yourself before a presentation is that it gives you as the presenter a sense of authority and establishes you as the person they should listen to, but really all that comes across is me, me, me.
By ditching the intro, not only will you get an extra minute to present worthwhile and valuable information, but you will be more likely to establish a better bond and put the audience first, by getting to the juicy bits quicker!
2. BE AUTHENTIC
Nobody likes a fake people. In the age of the internet where posers, wannabes and imposters are routinely outed, it is no surprise that your audience doesn’t want to sit there and be lectured to by someone who feels fake or insincere.
Don’t try and be something you’re not. If you’re slightly kookie own that, if you’re a grumpy Jeremy Clarkson-esque character be that. Develop your own style and speak in your own voice.
It doesn’t matter if it’s your first presentation or hundreth, being honest and open with your audience will allow for them to be invested in your success.
3. COMMUNICATE CLEARLY
Communicating clearly is probably the single most important thing you can do to ensure your audience is engaged.
Using language your audience is familiar with is step one. Not using abbreviations or acronyms is step 2 – if the audience doesn’t know what they mean they will immediately turn off.
Speaking slowly and decisively is another one. When we get nervous we tend to rattle through the speech, which is the absolutely worst thing you can do when presenting. You want to make sure that your audience is able to understand and follow your presentation throughout.
Conversational fillers (ums and errs) is another massive no-no when it comes to presenting. Take a moment to think about what you want to say and then say it – silence and pauses are not a bad thing.
4. ADDRESS & OVERCOME PROBLEMS
It is very likely that your audience will be facing a problem which is why they have come to hear you speak in the first place. If it is an industry wide problem, you can be rest assured your audience will find overcoming it of real value.
Explicitly stating the problem and then presenting insightful ways of overcoming it will not only mean that your audience will remain engaged, but the value you provide will establish you as the authority on the subject.
The other benefit here is that a problem-solution presentation gives you a very strict plan for your outcomes and presentation structure. By the end of the presentation you want some sort of resolution and sense of achievement which is what this will do.
5. ENCOURAGE INTERACTION
There are various different ways to encourage interaction in your presentations and talks. Simple ‘hands-up-if’ polls work incredibly well and really engage your audience. Generally speaking the bigger the audience broader you should make your questions. There is nothing more awkward than having 50-100 people watch your presentation and only having 1-2 people put their hands up if it’s appropriate.
As technology becomes more mainstream, it is now possible to have an event app, where attendees can ask questions digitally, rather than having to raise a hand then shout out the question. When looking at potential platforms for including tech in your presentations, make sure it adds value and doesn’t distract.