On the day of your presentation, a lot can go through your mind. “Did I include too much data?” “Are my objectives clearly stated?” “Should I have added more visuals?”
While sufficient preparation can certainly help ease anxiety, don’t let the presentation content be your only focus. Even if you know your content inside and out, the way in which you deliver it can have an impact on how it’s perceived by your audience.
In Part 1 of this series, we covered the do’s and don’ts of preparing for face-to-face presentations. In this article, we will discuss various ways you can ensure your audience stays engaged during your presentation. Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind:
1. Know your audience
Before you presentation starts, walk around and talk to those who are arriving early to determine their experience and knowledge related to the presentation topic. Also, build in some time at the start of your presentation to survey participants through a quick show of hands. This will help you tailor the delivery of your presentation to meet your audience’s needs.
2. Don’t use slides as your script
Even though this should go without saying, there are many presenters who feel it’s necessary to read directly from the slides. Doing so not only causes presenters to turn their backs on their audience but it also shows little respect for your audience’s reading skills. A much better approach is to use bullet points as prompts and then paraphrase the text. This allows you to place more emphasis on your message instead of the slide while maintaining valuable eye contact with your audience.
3. Move around
Being still is important, especially during key points of your presentation. However, frequent movement not only helps you relax but it makes you look more confident. Moving around also helps keep the audience engaged by adding energy to your presentation. Just make sure to walk slowly and not pace.
4. Use an expressive voice
Adding expression to one’s voice is one of the most effective techniques for engaging an audience. To accomplish this, speak in a conversational tone and emphasize special words or phrases by adjusting your pitch and volume. To make this feel and sound natural, practice using variations in your voice while rehearsing the content. Also, don’t underestimate the power of pauses. When used intermittently, pauses provide opportunities for your audience to absorb and reflect on critical pieces of information.
5. Redirect your audience’s attention
Research has shown that the average adult is unable to sustain the same level of attention for longer than 20 minutes. This means that your audience will begin to lose focus early on in your presentation before attempting to refocus at various intervals of time. One way to address this is by changing the direction of your presentation in a way that will allow participants’ brains to shift gears.
Here are some simple ways to help your audience refocus:
- Ask questions to gauge comprehension
- Provide discussion opportunities
- Provide practice opportunities
- Incorporate images or short videos that reinforce concepts
- Tell a story to illustrate your points
Keep these great tips in mind and you’ll knock your next presentation out of the park. As we move on to Part 3 of this series, you will learn about free tools that are available for conducting webinars to a live audience.
Check out the entire series on Best Practices for Effective Presentations: Part 1, Part 3, and Part 4.