For many people, presenting in front of others is not an easy thing to do. Unless you are a confident natural, it can be just that bit too easy to overelaborate, go off topic, bury important points in superfluous fluff and generally lose your audience.
The aim with a presentation is to engage the interest of those seated in front of you and have them pay attention to what is being said. You don’t want them slumped in their chairs and thinking to themselves: ‘Will this ever finish?’
To help avoid such audience ennui, I’ve put together 10 tried and tested tips that can help you successfully reach out to your audience. These pointers will ensure that your presentation goes with a bang.
1. Practice: practice until you are totally comfortable with what you are going to be talking about. You will then only have to glance at the slide or the screen to remind yourself of the key points. You can then expand upon these facing your audience.
2. Open strongly: How you start your presentation will influence its overall impact. You should aim to capture your audience’s attention straight away. If you can captivate them early on, you stand a good chance of holding their attention throughout.
3. Use the ‘B’ key: Consider the ‘B’ key when you go off topic or want to fully bring your audience’s attention back to you. Pressing the ‘B’ key when using PowerPoint will make the screen go blank. Pressing it again will restore the slide. Using it can have a powerful effect.
4. Keep it short: The temptation when speaking on a topic is to show you have done your research by creating a long-winded presentation. This will likely turn people off, as attention spans are short. Instead, cut down on the amount of discursive talking you do by framing the key points or messages.
5. Maintain good eye contact: In conjunction with the first point, knowing your topic well should mean that you are able to maintain good eye contact with your audience. You will lose your audience if you are constantly looking down or away from them. Good eye contact should involve you looking around at different audience members as you elaborate on the key points.
6. Use fewer slides: Using a large number of slides and copious amounts of text is another off-putter. Keep things concise and simple – you should be able to expand on a few bullet points. The presentation should not be just about what you have on the screen.
7. Tell a story: It can help if you plan your presentation as a story. Giving it a structure such as a beginning, middle and end, will assist with the narrative flow. It will take the audience on a journey and can make what you say a whole lot more interesting.
8. Add images: Using eye-catching images can greatly help you express what you are trying to explain. Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words.
9. Inject a bit of humour: A little bit of well-placed humour while you’re presenting will help you and the audience to relax. It will create an atmosphere of informality and help to break down barriers. Presentations should be fun.
10. Encourage questions: Allowing your audience to ask questions throughout your presentation increases the level of interactivity and is more likely to keep them engaged. Encourage them at the beginning to stop you if they feel the need to ask something. When they do, don’t forget that ‘B’ key!