Whether you’ve never presented before, or you’re an experienced presenter but want to improve, presentation training can really make a difference to audience engagement. While there is no substitute for effective slides, whatever slides you use, there are changes a presenter can make to boost performance. Here we have detailed 10 tips that any presenter can implement immediately to improve presentation effectiveness.
1. Priority: The audience.
The most important thing to remember in any presentation is that the audience should be your main focus. Audience members are only interested in what they want to hear, not what you want to say. What will most help you to stress the importance of your message upon them? Yes, you have points to get across – but they need to be done in a way that the audience will want to hear them. Engage with them, and clearly demonstrate how your message is relevant to them.
2. Benefits, not features.
This mistake is one that many presenters make unknowingly. The prospect seeks a solution to a problem – and the presenter lists all the features his product or service has to offer. The sale is not made, and the presenter wonders how the audience failed to ‘get it’.
Customers buy solutions, not products. Stressing the benefit of each feature will make its usefulness far more apparent to the audience, meaning that the presentation is far more likely to result in a sale.
3. Keep them guessing.
Even with relevant content, not all audience members will be able to stay engaged. Keep the audience wanting to hear more, by using mystery and posing questions or puzzles. For example, present a problem, and ask the audience to solve it, before revealing the answer. For maximum effect, presenters can use Visual Cognitive Dissonance
4. Practise out loud.
Reading through your slides is not sufficient practice when preparing for a presentation. Unless you practise out loud, the first time you actually speak the words will be in front of an audience. You will notice things when you speak your patter out loud that you never would have noticed just reading silently. Actually stand up and deliver your talk using the voice and gestures that you would naturally when in front of an audience. The most important reason to practise out loud is to ensure that you get your timing right – nothing is more irritating to an audience than a presenter who overruns.
5. Use positive vocabulary.
Think about the words you are using. Weak words and phrases such as, “we think” and “we should be able to” will do a presenter no favours. If the presenter does not project any faith in his message, how can he expect his audience to believe it? You’re there to convince your audience. Use positive, definite phrases such as “this will lower your expenditures by half” or “this method is proven to be effective”.
6. Use ‘you’, not ‘we’.
People don’t like to hear other people talk about themselves. It is not interesting, and it is rarely relevant. What audiences like to listen to is a presenter speak about them. Don’t talk about yourself, your company, and your beliefs; instead, talk about your audience, their company, and their beliefs. Use ‘you’ throughout. This makes it easier for you to drive home benefits, and to demonstrate relevancy. And directly addressing your audience leaves you far more likely to keep them engaged.
7. Address your audience by name.
If you are presenting to a small audience and you know their names – use them. Of course, make sure you have permission to do so, and be sure not to leave anyone out; in this situation, it is easy to offend. Don’t overdo this, either; nothing can sound more grating in a small setting than one name being repeated over and over.
8. Don’t be afraid to interact with your slides.
A lot of presentation training coaches recommend that presenters should never turn their back on the audience. This is a reasonable piece of advice; no one wants to attempt to listen to the back of someone’s head. Yet, when visual aids are truly engaging, it can create a seamless and engaging effect if the presenter interacts with his slides. This could be looking back when something significant changes or appears on the screen; pointing to sections of a graph; or gesturing as icons move across the slide. Engaging with your content in this way will help your audience to absorb the information via dual channels, thus absorbing and retaining more information.
9. But don’t lose their attention.
Sometimes, you just want your audience to pay attention to you – but you have a really interesting slide on the screen behind you. How can you talk to them and ensure that they are really listening, while the diagram is behind you, bigger and more visually engaging than you are? Hitting the ‘B’ key will render the screen temporarily black, ensuring that your audience have nothing else to distract them, and that their attention will be specifically focused on you. When you are ready to return to your visuals, hitting any key will bring the screen back to life.
10. Keep it focused.
Yes, keep the presentation relevant to your audience – but make sure that you stay on track with your message. Ensure that everything you say and every visual you use is tailored to your presentation objectives. How does that sentence enforce your message? How does that phrase support your benefit statement? Any word that doesn’t work towards your objectives is wasted, and with a limited attention span, you want to make sure that your audience absorb as much relevant information as you can impart to them. Make sure you stay on track, and every minute of your presentation will be working in your favour towards your ultimate goal.