How to captivate your audience during a presentation

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07-07-2012

Building an efficient strategy, mastering excel, powerpoint and keynote, developping an attractive presentation is useless if you do not know how to present it properly. How to captivate your audience during a presentation?

If you are shy or if talking in public isn't your strength, this article might help you out. The idea of writing this article came to me after a conference in the Hong Kong Polytechnic University: to be understood by others, a beautiful presentation with nice pictures isn't enough.

If you work in marketing or if you sometimes present projects, you certainly had the opportunity to face people in order to explain your ideas in details. Even if your concepts are great and your presentation crystal clear, your main challenge is to keep your audience awake.

 

I will now share with you some of the keys opening the doors of successful presentations.

 Comment captiver son audience lors d'une présentation

1. Keep your audience awake

Easy to say.

There is always a student, a colleague, a person who'd rather sleep or send SMS than listening to you.

The idea is not to focus on him but to conquer the rest of the people.

 

The three first minutes of your presentation are absolutely crucial: those will determine whether people will listen to you or not. Therefore make sure you do not start with the boring part of your presentation. Capture your audience from the very start of your presentation with some funny or exciting facts.

The next point is to learn how to control your voice: a stable boring voice will do nothing but getting people asleep. Train your voice to change tone and volume in a soft manner. Such fluctuation works directly on people's brain, keeping them awake and aware. Bolden your presentation's keypoints by raising your voice: not only this would print those facts in your audience's memory but will also help you awakening the last row of the room who started playing Angry birds.

Finally, make use of some humor: it isn't about transforming your serious presentation into a joke stage but about making use of smart humor from time to time to keep your audience interested. A nice joke at the right time can get everyone awake and help those who were lost to get back on track.

 

2. Make use of empathy

It can happen that your presentation is very technical. Even if your listeners have also a technical background, you would never be able to know what they know and what they don't. They might not know all the technical terms you are using and nothing could be more annoying for them than a presentation in which they do not understand anything.

 

Let's take an example: we are here all specialists in marketing. Most of you would know what I am referring to when talking about SEO, SEM or CRM. However, there might be some of you who never heard of those terms or just don't remember their meaning. Why not explaining it?

 

If I talk about SEO while my powerpoint shows "SEO: Search Engine Optimization", everyone will know exactly what I am referring to. Otherwise, I would already lose the majority of those of my listeners who do not know what SEO stands for. (for information, SEM stands for Search Engine Marketing and CRM for Customers Relationship Management)

 

It doesn't cost much to keep everyone on board so never assume that your audience uses the same vocabulary as you.

3. Get your audience involved

Another method to keep your people interested is to involve them.

 

Not only you will make sure they are awake but also will you bring new elements to your presentation. You will give life to your speech and be able to react to people's comments.

Don't play it like a teacher interrogating students: no-one likes to be taken as an example in front of everyone. On contrary, ask people to share their experience, opinions and ideas.

 

 JulienRio.com: Comment captiver son audience lors d'une présentation

What if it doesn't work?

It can happen that you ask a question and no-one replies. Are you done? Not at all.

If no-one replies or wants to participate, just use some humor. Don't lose face by waiting for no reaction. A simple joke should get the people laughing or smiling and will insure a better participation next time. 

 

4. Connect the dots

This is the most important point.

 

You are such an expert in your field that you might easily forget that some people are not.

If you start creating dots without connecting them your audience will quickly be lost.

 

Let's take an example:

"By launching strategy A I expect a return on investment Z".

 

You just created dots A and Z. It might be really obvious for you that Z is a consequence of A, but for your audience, there is definitely something missing.

You have to explain, even briefly, how you go from A to Z through B, C, D, etc...

 

Example:

"By launching strategy A, I will reach a new market B, create a new profit C, ... from which I expect a return on investment Z". Your audience might disagree with you, but at least your demonstration will be clear to everyone.

 

 

5. Be confident

It might sound obvious, but it is really important.

Actually, the main issue here isn't much about being confident: it is all about looking confident.

If you look confident, sure of what you say, people will have a natural tendency listening to you and trusting you. If you look panicked, whatever the quality of your presentation, they will certainly doubt you.

Don't let them destabilize you: keep control and give the impression you master your topic (it would indeed be better if you did really master it!)

 

6. Don't count too much on your notes

It is unbearable as well as impolite to listen to someone simply reading his notes.

Your presentation is nothing more than a visual support for your audience. It is never meant to be for you to read. If you need notes, those must be written in the form of bullet points - no sentences.

Never read your notes: that would be a lack of respect for your audience and you would lose all credit.

 

Be confident and express your thoughts: do not just read.

 

With those few pieces of advice you should be able to succeed in any kind of presentation.

 

Julien Rio.

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