Have you ever attended a presentation where you wished it was over from the moment it just started? Well, I have; and as painful as it felt to sit through those long hours, I have learned from the mistakes of others, in giving presentations that keep your audience engaged and glued on you for the entire duration.
Delivering impactful presentations is an art, rather than a skill, because you do not have to be an expert in it to keep your audience engaged. It is something everyone can truly achieve, even if you are not good at talking to large groups of people. If you have a problem with stage fright or people phobia, that is an article for another post. But here, I will be focusing on actually delivering top notch presentations, and getting the attention of your audience, for the entire duration.
- Study hard for your topic: This involves adequate preparation, which requires time and some effort. I have attended presentations, whereby the person presenting portrayed themselves like they had no idea about what they were talking about. You need to spend the time to do your research on the topic itself, as well as spending the time to prepare for possible questions, you might be asked.
- Practice, practice and practice: Prior to delivering your highly researched topic, you may want to spend the time to go over your material. Practice your talk before a friend, family member, or in front of the mirror, if you do not have access to the examples listed. Watch for your gesticulations and body language, because you do not want to be saying anything different from what your body is communicating across.
- Plan your attire appropriately: Appearance before an audience matters, because most times, before they hear you, they have already seen you and registered their first impressions, based on how you are clothed. You must dress to suit the situation. You do not want to be too casual for a semi-formal occasion, or too professional in an otherwise relaxed environment. Understand your audience and dress to match the occasion.
- Use more graphics and less words for the actual slide presentation. Graphical displays have a way to capture attention and focus, than the verbosity of words. Keep your audience engaged by employing the use of insightful graphics (obviously with relevance to the topic), with different hues and shades. The use of this tactic cannot be overemphasized.
- If you must use words, be conservative about them by limiting your points to single sentence bullets. Be brief and concise in passing your points across. It’s not too helpful writing paragraphs for a presentation, because people can always go and read about the topic themselves. The purpose of the presentation is for you to come tell people what they don’t know, what they know but from a different perspective, or adding new knowledge to what they already know. You want to spend the time putting your unique spin on the topic, to keep your audience engaged.
- Engage more with your audience, rather than keeping your eyes glued to the screen. I have sat through presentations, where the presenter was glued to their screens, as if they were presenting to the computer, or projector. In order to carry your audience along and keep them engaged, you must talk more, and let it feel like you are having a conversation with a friend. That’s the importance of preparing well for the topic, and using one sentence bullets. After stating the bullet point, buttress more on that point with evidence and insight. Use your hands, and let your body language be relaxed as you communicate across your point. If you are the shy type (which I used to be), then rather than looking directly into the eyes of your audience, look above their heads, and continue to maintain your cool.
- Once in a while during your presentation, break the ice in the room by sharing stories or jokes (that are of course appropriate for the occasion), or ask open ended questions. But do not put anyone on the spot by requiring that specific people answer your questions. You should definitely know the answer to the question you are putting out, in case no one is able to answer it. You can also use that as an ice breaker, by putting your unique spin on it again, and answering the question in a fun and entertaining manner.
- Finally, try as much as possible to keep your presentations as short as possible. Information can be accessed everywhere. So, do not attempt to cram all the information about a particular topic into one or a few hours of presentation. Just focus on driving home the salient points, and if you have intrigued their interest enough, your audience would go back to find out more information about what you have shared with them. Otherwise, like me, they may only be sitting through your talk, painfully waiting for the end of the hour, in order to bolt out.
Presentation is an art, rather than a skill. You do not have to be an expert to give effective presentations, which will keep your audience engaged the whole time. You can learn and master what it takes, and become really good at expressing yourself in a convincing and engaging manner, to others. Go for it because you can do it!
To your continued success. Cheers!!!