Giving a Presentation?
Here’s How To Engage Your Audience
You invested your blood, sweat, tears, time, and plenty of bathroom mirror rehearsal sessions into this important presentation. So, when it’s finally time for your big moment, you take a deep breath, calm your nerves, and launch into your well-prepared spiel.
Five minutes later, you glance at your audience. One person is not so subtly checking his phone. Another looks like she’s mentally making her grocery list. And, that guy in the back row? He’s actually napping.
Your heart sinks. You know your presentation is important, yet you’re met with nothing but glazed over eyes—and even the occasional snore.
Take a little bit of comfort in the fact that it’s not just you—it happens to all of us. One study shares that a whopping 91% of professionals admit to daydreaming during business presentations. Another 39% have confessed to actually falling asleep (so, that back row snoozer isn’t really that rare!).
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to wake up your audience the next time you give a presentation. Implement these five tips, and you’re sure to keep your crowd engaged!
There’s a big difference between being well-prepared and over-rehearsed.
Of course, you want to make sure you’re ready to eloquently deliver your presentation and answer any questions that arise. So, by all means, run through your presentation and look through your notes a couple of times before that big moment arrives.
But, that doesn’t mean you want to come off like a robot reading an encyclopedia. If it’s obvious that you’ve committed every single word of your presentation—even those carefully timed pauses—to memory, it’s bound to seem stiff and impersonal, rather than engaging.
Whether you’re presenting in person or via video, resist the temptation to plan every single element in favor of staying a little loose and flexible. The more conversational you can keep things, the more captivating and relatable your presentation will be.
If you’ve ever had to suffer through a presentation where somebody read from walls of text that appeared on their PowerPoint slides, you know just how painfully boring that can be.
Your visual aids should be just that: visual. They aren’t meant to be something that you read from word for word.
Instead, they should highlight and complement whatever you’re speaking about with graphics, charts, videos, and even short bulleted lists.
There’s no need to cram every last word of your presentation onto your slides—that’s what your notecards are for!
TED Talks are some of the most engaging presentations out there. But, what exactly makes them so attention grabbing? Put simply, they encourage interaction.
Rather than someone standing behind a podium on a large stage, many TED speakers involve their audience. They ask questions. They tell jokes to solicit laughs. The weave in personal narratives (more on that later!). These are all things you could implement for both in-person and web-based presentations,
When you watch these talks, you feel like that speaker is talking directly to you—which means you can’t help but to pay close attention.
Think of a few ways that you could include your listeners in your own presentation—whether that’s by asking them occasional questions or even calling on a volunteer for a demonstration—and you’re sure to keep your audience on their toes.
Take a look back at the introduction to this very article. It started with a relatable story of needing to squelch your nerves and deliver a presentation.
Now, could I have skipped that anecdote and jumped right in with the statistics or all of the reasons that engaging your audience is important? Certainly. But, chances are, you would’ve taken one look at that dry beginning and left immediately.
Your presentation works the same way—you want to weave in stories and examples wherever you can. Not only do they add clarity to your presentation by demonstrating how this information plays out in a real situation, but these anecdotes also keep people that much more interested in what you’re saying.
The best presenters aren’t the ones who spew out all of their findings and then pack up and leave. Instead, they view their presentations as launching points for continued conversation, clarity, and occasionally even disagreement.
This is why—regardless of what topic you’re presenting and the method you’re using—you should consider leaving some time for discussion at the end. Before you begin your presentation, let your audience know that you’ll conclude by leaving some time for that conversation.
Whether people want to ask follow-up questions or challenge a point you made, give them the opportunity to do so when you’ve finished. When your audience members know that they’ll have a chance to chime in with their two cents, they’re that much more likely to actively listen to the things you’re saying.
Let’s face it—nobody wants to put a bunch of elbow grease into a business presentation only to lose the attention of their audience a mere five minutes later.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to keep everybody engaged in what you’re saying. Put these five tips to work, and you’re sure to do away with those back row snooze sessions!