I recently attended a webinar and within three minutes I started to work on other projects in my office. Within ten minutes I hung up on the session. Although some say I have a short attention span, which is true, I figured I could review the handouts of the presentation in a fraction of the time the meeting would have taken.
Your audience is strapped for time, impatient and likely overworked. Therefore, you need to respect their attendance and give them a reason to stay focused on what you have to say.
In this new series about becoming an engaging presenter, I will cover the following topics:
- Opening your presentation
- Your presentation
- Knowing your audience
- Reading your audience
- Fielding questions
If it were only as easy as when Renee Zellweger says to Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire, “You Had Me at Hello,” but captivating an audience doesn’t work that way.
When you start your presentation, don’t ramble on about your credentials. The audience assumes that if you are presenting the topic you are qualified and have the appropriate background. If there was doubt about your background, then the attendees wouldn’t have shown up.
However, if you really think your background is interesting and pertinent to the topic you are about to discuss, then share something personal first. It is much more likely the audience will remember you if you share something unique—perhaps a funny story, a video or show a picture of your kids or dogs (can’t go wrong with either). After that, list your jobs and designations and explain the connection to your topic.
If you say your topic is fun and exciting, don’t do it in a monotone manner. If you begin without enthusiasm, then you basically suck the energy out of the room. Be sure to use your voice to your advantage, and don’t be worried of pauses. You do not need to fill everyone second. It is very effective to pause after you say something to give it emphasis.
Another way to quickly derail a presentation is to start on a topic that is not related to the subject attendees came to learn about. If the agenda doesn’t align with expectations, then you have challenged the value of the rest of your content.
An excellent way to pull your audience in is to get participation early. Ask questions that get a raise of hands, solicit stories, ask why someone decided to attend the session or what topics they want to cover, or even if they liked the meal. By engaging with your audience from the very start, you’re likely to get buy-in and active participation throughout your presentation.
And finally, do not start with slides that are text heavy. This is a sign that you are going to rely on your slides, either by reading them or telling your audience to read them instead of focusing on what you have to say. Key takeaway: Your slides are not your speaking points or script, they are visual cues and reminders. Your audience came to hear what you have to say. Otherwise, save time and send your slides if you have nothing to add.