If you want to engage your audience during your next presentation, you'd better be quick. You have about 30 seconds to grab their attention before it starts to wane. Reseach shows that the first lapse in concentration occurs about halfway through the first minute, so it’s imperative that you know how to get, and keep, their attention from the get-go.
The following techniques will help ensure that all eyes are on you and that you hold your audience’s interest throughout your presentation.
1. Delve into your audience’s psyche
To deliver a successful presentation that holds your audience’s attention, your work starts before they even enter the room. Work out how you can be audience-centred in your approach, your delivery and your content.
- What do they already know about the topic and what do they like or dislike about it?
- How are you going to offer them value and why should they listen to you?
- How can you make them feel important and as if they are the star of your presentation?
It’s more than being an expert on your topic. You need to be credible, relevant and appealing. To do this, you need to get into the head of every person who will be in the room and understand what makes them tick. If you know what encourages and what bores them, you can design and collate content that resonates, and deliver it in a way that inspires.
Consider sending a paper or online survey to your audience to help you tailor your presentation and to get them thinking about the topic in advance.
2. Invite interaction
When you speak to a person, you forge a relationship. Remember this and look for ways to reinforce that bond so that you are memorable. By involving your audience, you are deepening your relationship. Think of ways to encourage active listening, subconscious and conscious reactions such as laughter and clapping, physical gestures and movement, and discussion and involvement.
Use the following presentation skills:
- Tell personal stories, particularly those involving adventure, humour, overcoming obstacles or other evocative emotions.
- Ask your audience to raise their hands if they have experienced something similar, or if they agree or disagree with something.
- Include a slide with blank spaces where words, facts or data should go, and ask your audience to volunteer the answers.
- Design a quiz for before or after the presentation, or include group work or discussions.
When your audience interacts during your presentation, they are alert, animated, more open to learning, and are more likely to remember you.
3. Delivery trumps content
It’s all about the delivery. You could be the world’s leading authority on a subject, have stunning visuals that are delivered with cutting-edge technology, and use awe-inspiring language; but if your delivery isn’t right, it will all be for nothing.
- Explain your content, or the point you are trying to make, in a simple, easy-to-understand manner.
- Don’t overuse acronyms and technical language or you risk alienating people.
- Educate your audience without them having to try too hard to follow and understand what you're saying.
Think about the rise and fall of your voice, when to pause and for how long for maximum effect, when to inject humour or become serious, when to smile and when to sound grave. When you smile or feel nervous, it shows in your voice.
This includes eye-contact, nodding your head, using your hands, and walking around the stage. Although you don’t want to be static behind a podium for the entire presentation, if you walk around like a caged lion waiting for feeding time it will be distracting.
Non-verbal communication trumps verbal communication. Make sure the room is well-lit and that your audience can see you.
4. Mix it up a bit
Any meeting or presentation is more successful when one person doesn’t talk for too long. When that happens, participants’ attentions start to wander. By mixing it up with different voices, personalities, perspectives and viewpoints, your presentation will be much more likely to hold your audience’s attention.
- Your presentation needs to be fluid and without interruption. Make sure you schedule a timeslot for audiences to ask you questions.
- Remember, when it comes to visuals, the audience and the speaker come first. Your slides are only a backup, and you don't want them to be so lengthy or absorbing that they take your audience’s focus away from you.
- Mention names to get your audience’s attention, for example, “I was talking to (name) earlier, and they mentioned this exact thing.”
- Incorporate fun sound effects and video clips.
5. Bring props to your presentation
When you walk into a presentation, what evokes the most interest from you? A blank stage and an individual standing behind a podium? Or a screen for visuals and a stage with interesting props? Props can be metaphors, such as a magnifying glass or a rubbish bin. They can grab your attention, like a human brain or some real mosquitoes, or they can inject humour and make the event memorable.
- your props aren’t too distracting, lest the audience become preoccupied with them when you are talking.
- everyone can see them; you may need to project an image onto a screen for smaller props.
Express Virtual Meetings can help you deliver professional presentations via web or video conferencing.