Engaging presentations are always about interaction
When preparing a talk about how to give engaging presentations, I happened to come across the findings of the Microsoft Office Personal Productivity Challenge (PPC) once again. Even if this PPC dates back to 2005, I couldn’t help thinking that these findings probably remain pretty relevant even today. In particular, the fact that 1 out of 3 professionals consider ineffective meetings as a major productivity pitfall.
Relating this to my personal experience, I surely remember many meetings where people felt lost in a never ending wave of boring slides. But I also happened to be in quite a few ones that proved to be really productive. So what was the main difference between both types of meetings? Simply put, it all came down to the amount of interaction between the presenter and the audience. Meetings in which the presenter was focused on “giving a presentation” tended to miss their purpose, while meetings focused on “creating interaction with the audience” proved to be of real value.
So how to do things right?
To be clear: there is not necessarily anything wrong with “giving a presentation”. Only, you should never forget that the only reason to give a presentation is to engage your audience. If you can’t do that and keep people’s attention throughout your talk, something is not right. I know it’s not easy, and that not everybody feels at ease in front of a room full of people. Having set all eyes on you can be a pretty intimidating experience – in particular when you plan to give a rather long presentation on a complex subject.
So how to do things right? There are plenty of lists out there that provide you with tips and tricks on how give a better presentation, but that’s not what I have in mind right now. I’d rather like to take a step back, looking at 3 essential elements that will help you make each and every presentation more engaging and interactive.
Keep it simple
Even if speaking in public is not your cup of tea, you should in the first place make sure to feel at ease when giving a presentation. I know that’s easier said than done, but why not start from this simple question:
What is the one key message I want my audience to remember?
Having attended many presentations, I believe that most people are making it way too difficult for themselves by stuffing just too much into their presentation. They have so many things to talk about there is simply no time left for them to actually enjoy their presentation.
So make sure to spend some time upfront on what it really is you want to achieve by giving your presentation. Keep it simple by getting rid of all the clutter that does not contribute to this purpose. That will not only save you a lot of preparation time, but you will also find it easier to stay focused during your presentation. That creates a frame of mind which will put you at ease, making it even possible to have fun while you’re presenting.
Again, I’m not saying this is straightforward. But remember that giving a well-prepared presentation to clients or partners can be a game changer for your business. It’s therefore worth investing in, and it is something that you can practice and perfect over time.
Turn your presentation into a conversation
However hard this may be:
Don’t do all the talking when presenting.
People are just not designed to listen. Instead, they want to interact and engage with others. So that’s what you should really focus on if you don’t want to lose the attention of your audience during your talk.
There are a couple of tricks that you can use to create a conversation rather than a monologue. Why not start on a good foot with your audience? Rather than starting your presentation with an idea your audience doesn’t believe, show them you’re one of them and guide them to where you want to take them. And while you do that, don’t forget to ask questions. Questions are such a wonderful tool to create a dialogue and get people contributing. By having your audience join the conversation, you are building a relationship with them and buying them into your ideas.
Crowdbeamer incites everybody to make eye contact, making it easier to interact and dialogue.
Tell a story
Now this is probably the most difficult one. You can keep things as simple as you can through a good preparation. You can initiate a fruitful discussion by using a number of simple techniques. But building or telling a story is a quality that not everyone is gifted for. Don’t feel discouraged though. Nobody is perfect, and who said that you should perfectly master all 3 of these essentials? You can already go a long way by focusing on simplicity and dialogue.
But if you are good at telling stories, that’s a strong plus. Why is that so?
People find stories easy and interesting to remember.
When it comes to making your presentation content easy to remember, storytelling is not the only technique that you can use though. Tap into the emotions of your audience. Focus on your one key message, instead of 5 different ones. Even if you’re not a natural born storyteller, these techniques can help you deliver a hard to forget presentation.
Remember to listen during your next presentation.
So when preparing for your next presentation, take some extra time up front to prepare well. Look into what is the single key message you want to focus on. Can you build a story that delivers the message? That’s great, but even if you find that too daunting a task: definitely don’t do all the talking during your next presentation. And don’t forget to enjoy it!