By: Ashley Fell, McCrindle
It can be hard to communicate and connect with audiences in a time of message saturation and information overload. This is compounded by the fact that today, audience members have the ultimate distraction tool in their pockets – mobile phones.
During a presentation, anyone can be checking their emails, social media feed or even the weather as a speaker tries to engage and maintain their attention.
And I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing.
Why? Because people’s attention is a gift that shouldn’t be taken for granted. It means the onus is on the speaker to put in the work and deliver great content in an engaging way. After delivering hundreds of presentations over the last seven years, here are my best insights for delivering an engaging presentation.
Tailor your introduction
I believe the power of a strong introduction should not be underestimated. Oftentimes, I find that audiences sitting down to listen to a presentation have automatic scepticism about why they should listen to you. As the speaker, I use the first five minutes in a very strategic way. I use it to introduce myself and establish my credibility, connect with people and make them laugh. I give them context for what they can expect from the presentation. If you can hook your audience early, they are much more likely to be receptive to what else you have to say.
Deliver with humour
I am a firm believer that humour is the secret sauce to a great presentation. In my experience, humour instantly disarms people and makes them warm to you, which is why I always try to include it early in my presentations. Through using stories that connect with people and make them laugh, I am then able to deliver an engaging presentation full of interesting content, because they are now paying attention and have trust with me as the presenter.
Utilise the power of visuals
As a demographer and someone that presents a lot of data. I find visuals to be so engaging They are an essential tool in my arsenal to maintain an audience’s attention. They are also helpful because of the fact they provide another mode of communication to your presentation. If you are speaking, then you are using verbal communication, but if you use visuals then you also appeal to the visual learners in the audience (which I think everyone is anyway!) Plus, visuals can help to convey your point in a different way, and they keep the audience’s attention if you move through them relatively quickly, as they don’t want to miss anything! Even verbal cues such as ‘on this next slide’ or ‘as you can see here’ – which pertain to visuals – can be simple yet effective ways to draw an audience’s attention back to your presentation.
Another insight I have learned with regards to visuals is to utilise the power of reveals. I find that when I have one slide with lots of information on it and I reveal it to the audience at once, I lose their attention. While I might be talking about point 1, they have moved on and are reading about point 2 – because people can read faster than they listen. Therefore, if you reveal the information as you speak to it, you can build the story and take people on the journey, while also maintaining their attention.
Read the room
As you gain more experience on the stage, you learn to read the room. Some audiences are very engaged and are ready to listen, others you have to worker harder to engage. Either way, my recommendation is to give more energy than what might perhaps feel natural (especially in a virtual presentation) and where you can, respond to the vibe you get from the audience. And once the presentation is done, don’t forget to review how you did and make note of where you can improve next time, then release it and move on. Happy presenting!
Article supplied with thanks to McCrindle.
About the Author: McCrindle are a team of researchers and communications specialists who discover insights, and tell the story of Australians – what we do, and who we are.