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Presentations: Do's and Dont's of Keeping Your Audience Interested

Mon, 06/23/2014 - 11:54am | by JaredJ

If you’ve ever had to present something in front of a group, then you probably know just how difficult it can be to keep your audience interested and engaged. Generally, this has little to do with how exciting your topic is. Neither is it an accurate reflection upon your ability as a speaker. Ensure your next presentation will receive more applause than yawns by following these do’s and don’ts..

DO:

  • Know your topic. If your audience doesn’t feel as though you are an authority on whatever topic you’re addressing, then they will feel less inclined to listen to what you have to say.
  • Make sure that you know enough about what you’re saying to be able to speak fluidly, self-assuredly, and at a normal pace (not too slow or too fast).
  • Be sure to be prepared for any possible questions, and be able to answer them without referring to notes/slides.
  • Get them involved. As a general rule, people are more interested in participating in a discussion than they are in listening to a lecture.
  • Ask them questions as you go, and make sure that the questions are ones that incite actual, thoughtful response. Be flexible with the path your presentation is taking, and allow your audience to dictate the pace and direction (even if it doesn’t all line up perfectly with your slides). Remember, people are more likely to remember and be influenced by things that they become personally involved in.
  • Use multimedia. The best presentations are the ones that break away from the norm and incorporate different forms of media. Move beyond still images and bullet points, and use music, videos, and well made hand-outs to keep your audience attentive. Don’t be afraid to include things that don’t directly relate if you can use them to get a quick laugh or draw everyone’s attention back to your topic. For handouts, be sure that the information you chose to give them is presented in an eye-catching—but not distracting—way (page layout software can be useful in making everything look exactly the way you want it to).
  • Bribe them. People love to get free stuff. More than that, people love to be winners. So, while you’re asking questions of your audience, don’t be afraid to throw in a little incentive. Bring along a few candy bars, and if an audience member makes a particularly good point or addresses an important issue, toss them a treat as thanks for their participation. You might be surprised at how quickly the other members of the audience will become involved if there’s a chance that they might get a 50 cent goodie out of it. For even more involvement, turn your presentation into a contest or game show, and reward the winners.
  • Include interesting facts. People love trivia. So, throughout your presentation include some interesting and applicable facts. People are so used to seeing boring old charts and statistics, give them something instead that they can easily remember and repeat to friends.

DON’T:

  • Repeat what is on the slide. If you’re showing slides, assume that your audience can read the words and bullet points that are being projected. Don’t read along with the slide. It removes yourself from engaging with the audience and making eye contact, and give the audience the impression that you as a presenter are completely unnecessary, and they’ll stop listening to you.
  • Avoid controversy. In polite conversation, it’s generally a good idea to avoid inciting controversy. However, this is not polite conversation; this is a presentation, and the more challenged that your audience feels about what you have to say, the more involved they’ll become. This isn’t to say that you should create contention just for the sake of contention, but neither should you avoid controversial topics or points just so that everyone feels comfortable.
  • Belittle yourself as a presenter. It’s natural human behavior to try to use self-mockery to incite empathy. However, when it comes to presenting, you’re expected to be an authority on the subject. As such, you need to prove to your audience that you know what you’re talking about if you want them to stay interested. Don’t start off by telling everyone how underqualified you are, or about how bad the presentation will be. Instead, showcase yourself as an expert, and be confident enough to back it up. 

 

About the author: Jared Jaureguy is an independent technology consultant. He loves all things tech and staying up-to-date on all the latest news in the technology field. You can follow him @jaredjaureguy.

 
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