Know your audience….know your audience….know your audience.
So how is it that even when we’ve done our research about our audience, and written our content to address their needs….we somehow still deliver with the jitters! Our message gets lost in a flood of ‘Ums’ and ‘Aaahs’….stumbles and stalls through our slides…..the jokes and punch lines we had planned, to raise a chuckle, barely muster a mumble.
Let’s have a look at how professionals are making effective presentations.
Step 1: Consider your audience
What is it that you need to tell them? What’s in it for them?
In the time you have for your presentation, prioritise the information you have to share. What MUST be in the content, what SHOULD be in the content, and what COULD be in the content?
Step 2: Structure your flow
In the time you have for your presentation, you should be allocating between 5-10% to the introduction and context, 70% to the bulk of the content, and 20-25% to your summary and highlighting of the key points. The introduction will vary in length and detail depending on how familiar you are with the audience. The main content should cover all of your ‘MUSTS’. The last section of summing up and highlighting your key points should leave your audience with a high impact, thought provoking last comment…something that will linger in their consciousness for some time….almost compelling them to act on the messages in your presentation.
Step 3: Build in some pzazz!
To capture your audience from the outset, aim to start with a powerful statement. Effective methods for generating intrigue and interest range from the use of alliterative opening sentences, through to metaphors that provoke subject-relevant thought in the minds of the listeners. For example, if you are making a presentation about challenging financial times ahead in your organisation, the use of a historical reference or story of similar times resulting in success would be appropriate.
When closing, leave your audience with a thought aligned to the aims of your content. For example, if your subject is sobering, use a suitably dramatic parable or anecdote to emphasise it. If your topic is uplifting, motivating and energetic, leave them with an inspirational quote relevant to the content.
Tip 1: Materials
Keep your visual aids clean, clear, and with as little text as possible. Aim to have the audience’s eyes focus on the most relevant, important words. Avoid excessive animation – it is distracting and somewhat dated. Use topical, current messages from the media, news, current affairs, to keep your content modern and relevant.
If you have a lot of data to share with your audience, use handouts to compliment your slide content, and aim to give them out towards the end of the presentation to avoid loss of eye contact during your actual presentation.
Tip 2: Appearance
Dress according to your environment, audience and message. Ensure, if you are speaking at a conference, or in another organisation’s premises, you are clear on the dress code. Unless you want to make an impact for the wrong reasons!
Tip 3: Pitch, tone, pace, expression
Use your voice and facial expressions to emphasise your messages. Most communications models tell us that audiences take in more of how you say things that what you actually say, so leverage this for influence. Be confident….pause for emphasis, make eye contact across the room, use your vocal tone to stress key points. Ensure you can be heard clearly.
Tip 4: Language
Most NLP practitioners will strongly recommend you incorporate all four of the main communications preferences in your script to ensure you build rapport with as much of your audience as possible. ‘Thinking’, ‘Feeling’, ‘Seeing’ and ‘Hearing’ words are sure to do this.
Prepare, prepare, prepare……do yourself and your audience justice…..and above all…..have fun and enjoy making effective presentations for your audience!