How can a presenter ensure that his audience are fully engaged, and feel that they are being listened to? We’ve gathered tips from presentation enthusiasts around the web, as well as from our experienced trainers at m62, to advise you on how to fully interact with your audience to deliver an interactive PowerPoint presentation.
Consider using mystery, and the common desire to solve problems, to engage your audience. Don’t fall into the trap of assuming that the audience will want to know what you have got to say – attention must be earned. Use twists, questions, and puzzles to leave the audience wanting to hear more. Even a simple multiple-choice question can engage the audience, if the answer is surprising.
In their book Selling Visually with PowerPoint, Robert Lane and Andre Vleck make the case for non-linear, interactive sales presentations. ‘The standard way of using PowerPoint – a strictly linear movement from slide to slide from the beginning of a presentation to its bitter end – forces people to be lecturers rather than conversationalists.’ Better, they argue, to allow the audience to share in setting the agenda, using hyperlinks to move seamlessly between slides as required by the audience.
Allow your audience to engage in dialogue. By having the audience ask questions and think about the implications of what you present, a presenter increases audience engagement and helps brings objections to the surface. Advertising guru Jon Steel (of ‘Got Milk? fame) tells of a time when this idea was implemented in a rather extreme way – ‘a client was simply asked to pick which question he was most interested in hearing [Steel’s team] answer… The presentation became a conversation.’ Just remember the need to present a memorable value proposition too – which might be difficult without presenting at least some material in a coherent and pre-planned way.
With this in mind, don’t spend too much time talking with your audience. When audience attention span is taken into consideration, you only have 20-25 minutes to make your point. If a large part of this is spent debating over one small issue, you’ve missed your chance. There are subtle ways to help your audience feel that they’re involved: ask rhetorical questions and allow a three second pause, or refer to audience members by name. Just be careful not to overdo it!
Inform your audience that they would get a clearer picture of what you do if they let you carry your presentation through to the end, but if a question is asked, don’t ignore it. Instead, make sure you really listen to any question raised. Identify it: is it an objection? Could it be a further selling opportunity? Take your time understanding the query and thinking about your answer. Interactivity is about really engaging with your audience, and building a relationship.
In Brain Rules, developmental molecular biologist John Medina explains the rules of attention, allowing us to apply this understanding to sales presentations. His top tips? Use emotions and meaning to get attention – don’t present detail until the audience care. Don’t present text while reading it aloud – the brain can’t multi-task well. And, finally, don’t overload the brain – present less information, and devote time to connecting the dots.
If you really want your audience to take notice, don’t talk about what your company offers – talk about their company and their needs. People are naturally more inclined to listen to things about themselves, and you will be demonstrating how you can help them directly – something that is difficult to ignore.
Be careful when creating a credentials presentation. Different audiences have different needs, and different interests. As Jerry Weisman, author of Presenting to Win points out, ‘the same story that excites and inspires your own employees may bore your customers and actually alienate and anger your suppliers, or vice versa’.