Engage your audience from the get go

At a recent conference, the presenter before me started strong with a great topic and a room full of people. But she soon started struggling. She read – no, rambled – from prompt cards, so we couldn’t understand what she was saying and then completely ran over time (15 minutes into my time slot).

Realising she was late, she then rushed the end, skipped over cramped slides and key points and left not with a bang, but a slow, dying fizzle. Everyone in the audience was left wondering, what just happened?

You must make your audience feel like the hero of your presentation – not like they are burning in hell.

When we present, we only get one chance to impress our audience, to engage them and make an impact. We are judged from the moment we open to the minute we finish – our squeaky voice, shuffle of feet or terrible clip-art slides and prompts.

That’s why it’s imperative that you invest the time to plan and practise a presentation, if you want your audience to invest their time in you.

Start with a strong foundation

Your presentation content includes the way you plan, prepare and create what you are saying and how you say it. It is the foundation to successful communication and to engaging your audience.

If you don’t nail your foundation, through a well-planned structure and message – your presentation will remain rocky, forever.

The truth is that the design and delivery of your presentation are not the main factors that will determine if your presentation hits the mark and delivers on your objective – it’s actually your content.

It relies on how you define your purpose, how your message resonates with the audience, the words you’re using to transfer that message, and your images that will present it.

Why are you presenting? What is at the heart of what you want to communicate?

These may seem like obvious questions, but it is amazing how many people put a presentation together without having clear answers to these.

When you know WHY you are giving a presentation, you can decide what content goes in, and more importantly, what content stays out.

Without this, you could be the best speaker in the world, but still fail to engage or influence your audience.

Take your time

Presentations should be treated no differently to any other marketing collateral or consumer-facing information. In fact, you should invest more care, attention, time and effort into them because shareholders, customers, clients, colleagues and the public see them time and time again.

The challenge most of us face is pulling the information for a presentation together and designing the slides to be on brand – often at the last hurried minute.

Finding the time to research, write, design and rehearse is a constant challenge. We’re often run off our feet with an increasing workload and other deadlines.

You might be doing the best you can, but sometimes the best is not enough.

Being invited to present is a privilege; but failing to deliver can be career suicide.

Take the time to assess the beliefs, values and needs that make your audience tick. You’ll need to get into their shoes at the start, walk with them through the presentation in the middle and listen to their feedback at the end.

Renowned motivational speaker Tony Robbins thoroughly researches his prospective audience before a presentation or event so that he understands what drives them, and can tailor his material specifically to their needs.

Consider:

  • Who is in your audience?
  • What do they want to hear?
  • What do they already know?
  • Why should they care?
  • What problems will this solve for them?
  • What reasons will convince them?
  • What’s in it for them?

Plan a Hollywood blockbuster 

Think of the last good movie you watched. It likely had bright images, a compelling script, music, rhythm and heroic characters. All these elements came together and made you feel something. They made you feel an emotion – excited, sad, angry even apathy.

Stories, whether it’s the latest Hollywood blockbuster or an investor presentation, provoke our emotions. They help us feel something towards the person telling the story, i.e. the presenter, you, which helps create connection, credibility and trust.

A good presentation reads like a good movie. It needs to balance analytical logic with an emotional connection.

In the business world, emotion was once seen as inappropriate because of it was thought that problem solving and decision making should rely on our logic and analysis. This simply isn’t true.

In fact, studies have shown that 74% of participants have changed their decision after their emotion was changed. So it’s this kind of connection you are aiming for.

Make it personal

The more authentic and personal you are in the delivery of your presentation, the more your audience will connect with you and your message.

Remember you are sharing a story so your tone needs to match the tone of your presentation visuals and your personality.

You must make sure you are remembered for your passion and persuasion, not for rambling and making everyone late.

Practise your presentation, over and over, again and again. There’s nothing worse than watching someone looking down, reading a script from scorecards.

While very few people get a presentation right the first time (and you can only learn from getting it wrong), it is this preparation that will help reduce any nerves and anxiety on the day.

If all else fails, Duarte, the world’s leading presentation company, has a GOLDEN RULE of presentations:

Don’t deliver a presentation you wouldn’t want to sit through!

Emma Bannister

Emma is an award winning expert and knows everything you will ever need to know when it comes to designing and creating presentations that work. Growing up in a small town north of London, the ‘big smoke’ was never far from view. Emma designed presentations for banks that traded in high standards and fast deadlines. Their expectations ignited her ambition, leading her to bigger and bluer skies. Emma arrived in Australia in 2002. Knowing intelligent visuals packed a powerful punch; Emma took her passion for presentations one step further, launching Presentation Studio from her kitchen table in 2006. As the CEO Emma is no longer a “designer”; instead her creative skills are applied to visualising business ideas and plans for the company’s future.

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