The business presentation.
Perhaps one of the least fun things you’ll ever be faced with at work.
Boring to the point of coma-inducing.
You dread getting the electronic invites: You’ve been selected to attend this week’s performance of “Guess the point of this slide” a.k.a. “Find the white space”.
Now it’s even worse.
Now you’re not attending, you’re delivering.
It’s your presentation!
Your emotions are all over the place. Anxiety, fear, nerves; worry about boring your audience.
You hate being judged. You especially hate being judged in real time by 40 people sitting in front of you.
If you do one of those typical, boring presentations, like the ones you hate so much, the audience is going to judge you harshly.
You need to do something to keep the audience interested.
Here are 3 zero-effort presentation hacks to keep your audience interested:
1. Open your presentation with empathy
It costs you nothing to use empathy in your presentation.
And it gives you so much!
Using empathy in your presentation means framing your delivery around the audience’s perspective.
It means listening to your audience.
It means taking their concerns seriously.
It means putting yourself in your audience’s shoes.
Let’s take the standard opening of a presentation and make it more empathetic.
“Good morning ladies and gentlemen. My name is Fred Thomas from the admin department. Today I’d like to talk to you about our the state of our office. As you know we have a lot of clients visit during the week, and we’ve received several complaints about our cleanliness. In this presentation I have 3 things I’d like to talk about. Firstly, the cause of this problem. Second, the difficulty we are having securing extra storage space. Lastly, how we are going to fix this problem.”
“Good morning everyone. Have you ever looked around the office and been frustrated to see boxes everywhere? Have you ever tripped on the many obstacles scattered around? Who’s irritated by the state of the office?….. This situation has become so bad that even our clients are noticing it. Today we’re going to address the problem. Today we’re going to make your job a little easier to do by giving you the space to do it.”
In the better example the presenter focuses on the audience. He focuses on the problems they are having and how he’s going to make their lives better. He addresses the “What’s in it for me?” question at the start of his presentation in an empathetic way.
2. Deliver your presentation in an audience-centered, conversational tone
Think about the last presentation you attended.
Was the presenter stiff and formal?
Did you enjoy that?
I thought not.
Nobody likes to listen to a robot blurting out rehearsed lines; turning to the slides and reading bullets in a monotone; hands glued to their sides like a soldier in a dictatorship.
Audiences want to listen to naturally delivered speeches. And this is good news for you and presenters everywhere!…
It means that you can reduce the amount of practice you do. It means you can speak in your own natural voice. And it means that mistakes are not the end of the world.
You see, the problem with regular presentations is presenters don’t speak the way they normally would.
This bores the audience and turns them off.
Speak like a normal person in natural conversation and watch the audience’s interest peak. (If you need hints on what “natural” means, watch a Steve Jobs keynote and study the way he speaks).
3. Remember you’ve got 10 minutes or less
In his book Brain Rules, John Medina shares studies which show you have about 10 minutes to capture your audience’s attention or they check out.
If you manage to capture their attention you’ve bought yourself just 10 more minutes until you have to re-capture it.
What does this mean for your presentation?
It means you have to regularly be giving the audience a reason to care about your presentation or they’ll lost interest.
That doesn’t mean you should be planning to say something in particular at every 10 minute interval. What you should do instead is remember that even the most interested audiences will turn off eventually. You should be constantly looking for ways to frame your presentation to appeal to them.
What do you think? Let’s chat in the comments below…