Tips for Delivering a Memorable, Engaging Presentation
The prospect of a presentation can put fear and dread into the hearts of many. But the ability to deliver an engaging presentation is an important career skill that, when mastered, can set you apart from your peers.
A presentation opportunity, whether optional or required, offers an excellent opportunity to make an impact on senior staff members and external stakeholders, getting you noticed. If you can come across as knowledgeable, engaging and confident, you’ll have done yourself a big favour and helped your company at the same time.
With that in mind, here’s how to make your next presentation, and by extension yourself, stand out.
1. Be audience-focused, not self-focused
When you’re drafting the presentation, consider the nature of your audience. Why are they there? What level of expertise do they have? And how much background will they require in order to grasp the material? Obviously, you’d pitch a presentation very differently to a group of executives than you would to a room full of university students, so make sure that the audience is foremost in your mind as you prepare.
In addition, inexperienced speakers are often tempted to start a presentation with a long bio or lengthy explanation. It feels like a way to establish credibility with your audience, but in fact it runs the risk of projecting exactly the opposite. If your audience has shown up, they already believe that you’re qualified to listen to. So resist the urge to give a lengthy introduction and move on.
2. Make the presentation interactive
It can be difficult to retain an audience’s attention for a long time without pause, so build in some ways to get your audience engaging and interacting. That furnishes them with a break from your voice, and keeps them in active listening mode rather than passive.
Try asking an engaging question and leaving a pause for it to be answered. Call for volunteers to help you illustrate a point. When you’re describing a problem or an experience, ask for a show of hands to see who in the audience has had the same issue – you’ll get their bodies moving and create a sense of unity in the room.
3. Tell a story
Human beings are hardwired to respond to storytelling. When we listen to stories, our brains are activated and our sensory cortex lights up. That engages us in what we’re listening to, improving the likelihood or retention.
You may think that stories are the province of fiction, but in fact you can weave a story out of anything. No matter how dry your presentation topic appears to you, there’s a narrative that weaves through it. Use an example to illustrate your main point and connect with your listeners through a shared experience – they’ll be sitting up a lot straighter in their chairs.
4. Use visuals, not text
Nobody wants to be reading dense walls of text behind you as you speak. It’s off putting in its own right, and takes attention away from what you’re saying.
If you’re using a presentation aid like a PowerPoint, make sure it’s backing up your words, not repeating them. Utilise graphs, illustrations and simple graphics to underline what you’re telling the audience. If there’s background reading to be done, it should be handed out as notes prior to the presentation, not put up on the screen.
5. Don’t bluff
It’s okay to not know the answer to every question. If someone asks something that’s outside of your area of expertise, explain that you’ll get back to them. It feels very stressful to receive questions you can’t answer, but how you handle it is more important than being on the spot with the answer every time.
Equally, resist the urge to use buzz words or overly complicated vocabulary. You may be trying to impress, but you’re more likely to confuse and listeners switch off fast if they’re having trouble processing your words. Keep it simple and straightforward.
Share your experience…
Delivering a solid presentation that people will talk about long after its finished is not easy. How do you keep listeners on their toes and ensure your key points are comprehended?
This article was written by Jelena Milutinovic and Tanya Ashworth-Keppel on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB. The following sources were used to compile this article: Business Insider; Entrepreneur; Forbes; HubSpot, New York Times and Inc.