Let’s face it.
No one wants to be stuck in a meeting room on a Friday afternoon listening to Crappy McCrap bumbling about their latest project. There’s paint drying somewhere that’s way more interesting.
You know the feeling, right?
The I’d rather french kiss the loser in a trout farm beauty pageant than see another bullet point or listen to second more of monotone boringness feeling.
What happens when it comes time for you to do a presentation?
That day you’ve been dreading.
That day when you have to put yourself out there.
That day when you become the ugliest trout.
Here are 11 tricks to keep your audience interested.
11 Tricks to grab your audience by the eye balls and suck them into your presentation:
1. Open with the action in progress
Starting a presentation with the standard intro of greeting, your name, your department, and the agenda is like opening a book that starts with “Once upon a time.”
If an author wants to create a bestseller the first page better have some action. In fact, the reader needs to feel they are in the middle of the action as soon as they start reading.
To maximize engagement you should open your presentation this way too.
That doesn’t mean that you need open your presentation with a gun battle, but it does mean that you need to get into the meat and potatoes of the presentation as soon as possible.
“I’m going to show you how to reduce the amount of admin work you do each day”, is much better than, “Thank you for being here. My name is David. Today I’d like to talk about how to reduce admin work. There are three things I’d like to touch on….”
Start with the action and you’ll have a much more interested audience from the get-go.
2. Speak to be listened to
Here’s something interesting…
You know that really boring guy at the office Christmas party that you can’t wait to get away from? He talks in such a dull voice and puts a negative spin on everything? The same guy that introduces himself to you at your friend’s dinner party and has you scanning the room for exits?
That guy is you doing a presentation!
The flat voice. The quivering tone. The look of surprise whenever a new utterance slips from that gaping hole in the middle of your head.
Just as you don’t want to listen to that when you’re at a party, the audience doesn’t want to listen to it during a presentation.
You need to do whatever it takes to be speak naturally and conversationally, to the audience.
Ditch the formality and choppy speech by speaking from memory. The best way to speak naturally, from memory, is to understand your subject matter. When you really understand a concept, you speak naturally.
3. Ask a least one question every 10 minutes
In Brain Rules, John Medina writes that you have 10 minutes grace before you lose your audience.
The only way to keep your audience interested is to give them a reason to be interested within that 10 minutes and the clock resets. You bought yourself a new 10 minutes.
A great way to pique your audience’s interest is by asking them a question.
It can be a rhetorical question or it can be straight question that you expect the audience to answer.
Whatever you choose it pays to try and get a question in every 10 minutes to keep your audience’s attention.
4. Keep it efficient
Don’t focus on arbitrary time limits.
Don’t try to pad your speech to fill the full 10 minutes or 20 minutes.
Say what you need to say then sit down.
Remember that everyone in the audience has as many minutes in the day as you and their time should be respected.
The flip side of this is, if you don’t waste the audience’s time they will be more receptive to your presentation.
5. Use your slides for impact
There is only one way to correctly use PowerPoint in your presentation: as support.
PowerPoint should not be the main event.
Think of your slide deck the same way you would a brochure at a sales appointment.
At a sales appointment a salesrep who reads their brochure to the client is unlikely to sell many products. On the other hand, a salesrep who speaks to their client, emphasizes the strong points of their product, and uses the brochure as support tool is likely to do much better.
Treat the slides as support instead of a prompting device and your presentation will be more engaging because of it.
6. Maximize your confidence
If you feel nervous as you step on stage you’re not alone. You’re feeling exactly the same as everyone else.
Anyone who tells you they are not at all nervous before a presentation is pulling some alpha male crap.
Everyone feels nervous prior to a delivery. It’s natural. With time and practice the nerves can be better managed.
How do you maximize confidence when you feel nervous?
The key is to remember that if you come across as nervous on stage you won’t be taken as seriously and the audience is more likely to stop paying attention. If that puts more pressure on than you already had, consider the following:
You are going to feel nervous, no matter what. Maximize your confidence by re-framing the presentation. Instead of seeing the presentation as a performance, look at it as a chance to discuss an idea. A chance to put forward your idea and everyone else will have a chance to ask you questions and discuss it.
7. Show your enthusiasm
If you are not passionate about your presentation no one else will be.
It doesn’t matter what the topic or forum, the presenter must show enthusiasm for their subject matter or the audience won’t be able to show enthusiasm either.
8. Plan ahead for questions
There are two things you need to do here.
First, consider the objections your audience is likely to raise. This allows you to adjust your presentation to diffuse objections. It also allows you to prepare some stock answers in advance.
Second, plan when to take questions. Typically, presenters ask audiences to save questions until the end. This works well, except when you have a controversial topic.
If you have a controversial topic where there will likely be aggressive push-back questions, taking all the questions at the end may leave a bad impression of the subject matter with the audience.
Consider if it would be better to spread out the potentially aggressive questions through your presentation, as they arise. Handling questions as they arise dilutes the negative weight they carry when lumped together at the end.
9. Treat mistakes as an opportunity to present yourself as human
Mistakes are what make us human.
Striving to make no mistakes leads to making more mistakes.
Striving to make no mistakes leads to acting unnaturally.
If you make a mistake in your presentation apologize (if necessary) and move on.
It’s likely that your audience didn’t notice the mistake and therefore there’s no point in making a fuss about it.
Just correct course and move on.
10. End on action
Unless there’s something for the audience to do following a presentation, the presentation itself can feel hollow.
End your presentation with a clear call to action.
If you need the audience to do something, close by reminding them what you want them to do.
If your presentation was just information sharing, close by asking the audience to remember the main point.
11. If all else fails, do unto others…
If you’re ever at a loss for what to do (or what not to do) in your presentation, just remember:
Do unto others as you would like done to you.
In other words, think of all those crappy presentations you have attended. Think about the things that made those presentations crap and don’t do those things.
What do you think? Let’s chat in the comments below.