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more engaging presentation
Minutes feel like hours. The effects of your mid-morning coffee have long worn off and it takes every last bit of strength to keep your eyes on the presenter at the front of the room. You know how it feels to sit through a boring presentation. Perhaps the only thing worse is being the boring presenter yourself; watching the attention of your audience decrease exponentially. Luckily, there are ways to spare everyone the pain.

Here are five tips that will help you level-up your presentation game:

1) TELL A STORY

Take the main idea within your presentation and frame it in a narrative that contains a beginning, a middle, and an end. Introduce a flaw in the status quo, describe your quest for something better, and show the great potential of what you’ve found. This structure helps your audience feel invested, as though they’re right there with you, navigating the circumstances. A story format is easy for audiences to absorb, and they’re more likely to remember your conclusion.

2) KEEP IT SIMPLE

“Short and sweet,” as they say. Keeping a presentation short means a greater chance that your audience will stay attentive the whole time. This means cutting out any unnecessary information or redundant data. Slides should be free from visual clutter. Too many bullet points means focus pulled away from the presenter’s voice and onto reading the screen. You are conducting your presentation, the powerpoint is not.

Images are your friend. This includes graphs/charts, but again, nothing convoluted or difficult to interpret.

3) GET YOUR AUDIENCE INVOLVED

Active involvement from the audience exerts spontaneity. People are more likely to stay engaged when there’s an opportunity for something unrehearsed to occur. The use of props, asking for a volunteer, leading an activity, doing a demonstration or initiating discussion are all great ways to lift up the energy in the room.

4) SPEAK EFFECTIVELY

What if you could take information that you want to convey, and rephrase it in an enticing way? You can! Use the power of questioning to your advantage. Rhetorical questions work well as transitions and plant curiosity in the listener. You voice is a tool, use it! Exclaim important things! Find a section of your presentation that could use a boost and change your inflection.

Alternatively, take a power pause. A brief pause is an effective way to let a message resonate. It can also replace any dreaded ‘Um’ or ‘Uhh’s.

5) MOVE WITH INTENTION

Don’t underestimate the role of body language. Engaging presenters stand confidently and use hand gestures that reflect the tone of their voice. Try making eye contact with someone long enough to finish a sentence or two instead of continuously scanning the room. Your movements are an extension of your words–your physicality can impact how your words are received.

Regardless of the topic or how experienced you are, following these tips will shut down the snore-factor at your next presentation. Remember that the more you believe what you’re saying is important, the better your audience will listen. Your ideas are worth hearing.

 

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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interactive speaking

You’ve all seen it—that mind-numbingly boring presentation that makes your thoughts wander and your eyelids droopy. Or maybe you’ve been the presenter and you noticed your audience’s attention slowly start to drift as they checked their cell phones or doodled in notebooks. But how to engage today’s audience with their short attention spans and long to-do lists? Here are five ideas for jazzing up your presentation and getting people interested:

1. Get people moving

I like to start my presentations by getting my audience up, out of their seats, and moving around. I usually start with some kind of prompt like, “Find the people in the room with the same birth month as you,” or “Find people wearing the same color shirt as you” and gather together. Then, I ask questions relating to my topic and have the group brainstorm answers. This gets people talking to each other and mingling and it energizes the audience for the rest of the presentation.

2. Show YOUR energy

An audience often follows its speaker’s lead. If you don’t seem excited about the topic you’re presenting, why should anyone else? Step away from the podium, use your hands to gesture, show excitement in your tone of voice.  I periodically ask open questions to the audience to keep them engaged. Also, don’t forget to smile! Your positive energy has a direct effect on those watching.

3. It’s all about images

Have you ever seen a PowerPoint presentation that is filled with text? What do you tend to do when the speaker is speaking? That’s right, you read the text! Instead of filling your slides with words, use as many images as possible. Images keep people engaged without distracting them and they act as a prompt to help you remember your place. If you do decide to add some text, keep it to under 20 words per slide. Anything more is overkill and will most likely be too small to read anyway.

4. Use smart handouts

Handouts are nothing new—it’s useful to have a brochure or postcard about your presentation waiting at the seat of each audience member—but some handouts are better than others. The most effective handouts are the ones that keep the audience’s attention throughout your talk. I’ve found that fill-in-the-blank handouts work great if you want people to really engage with what you are saying. They force your audience to pay attention and listen for when you’ll give them the answer to the next blank space. Here’s an example:

3 Ws of Success5. Make it personal

Know your audience. If you’re talking to a group of teachers, make specific references to the educational field; if you’re talking to a group of bankers, reference finance in your talk. You don’t have to be over the top with your references, but you do want to make your audience realize the value of your words and understand how, specifically, your presentation relates to them. That way, they won’t be left wondering how to apply the information you gave them.

Take the boredom and drudgery out of presentations. Apply these five steps and I guarantee you’ll have a room full of alert, interested audience members and chances are you’ll enjoy the presentation as well!

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