We’ve all sat through presentations we wished we wouldn’t have. Maybe the topic wasn’t very interesting or relevant. Perhaps the speaker completely missed the mark. Or, maybe it was YOUR presentation that completely bombed. If the latter is the case, we’ve got a few tips to help you move forward from that unfortunate situation and start wowing your audience every time.
1. Give Them What They Want (But Don’t Give Away the Farm)
Long before your sweaty palms grasp the podium for dear life, you’ve got to build your presentation. It’s important to note that in almost all situations, your audience does not care about you, your company or your solution. They really only care about what’s in it for them.
So, when you are building a presentation, make sure to structure it around the audience. They want …
- To know what you can do for them
- A clear outline of the value and/or benefits you can provide
- You to deliver what you promised, i.e., if your presentation description says you’re going to cover how to increase the number of leads, make sure you cover how to increase the number of leads
They’re also looking for things they can put into play as soon as possible. What are three actionable steps they can take with the information you provided? Is there a downloadable checklist they can grab from your website that will help get them started?
Though it’s important to provide enough information that they leave feeling satisfied, be careful with oversharing. We’ve had opportunities in the past where we laid the process out so well for our audience (all well-qualified prospects by the way), that they already had everything they needed, which meant they no longer needed us (facepalm).
2. My Name is Bond, James Bond
We’ve been taught to start every presentation by introducing ourselves and reading the agenda line for line but just because it’s what you’ve always done doesn’t mean it’s the way to go. The James Bond movie, No Time to Die, touts the longest pre-title sequence at 23 minutes and 45 seconds. Do you think many people were looking for a list of actors and a title before they decided whether or not to give it their undivided attention? Of course not.
We definitely aren’t suggesting you take 23 minutes before you introduce yourself and provide some context, but we do think you should carefully consider what you cover in the first five minutes of your presentation. Do you have any cool stats or attention-grabbing stories that will draw your audience in? Is there a way to involve them right from the get-go, maybe an audience poll or question?
Then, once you have their attention, take less than a minute to introduce yourself, including why you’re qualified to relay this information. Keep it short and simple – remember … they don’t care!
Finally, rather than reading the agenda word for word off your slide, briefly talk about the overall outcomes. Don’t waste valuable time talking about what you’re going to talk about.
3. The First Pitch is Always the Worst
Would you ever headline a concert without learning your songs? Or, throw the ceremonial first pitch without a couple of practice throws? Of course not. So why would you ever try to “wing it” and give a presentation without running through it at least a few times?
Practicing your presentations can help you avoid using excessive filler words such as “umm” and “like”. If you know what you’re talking about as well as what you’re about to say, you won’t feel pressured to fill empty spaces with meaningless words.
Timing your practice sessions will also help you stay on track during the live presentation. There’s nothing worse than a presentation that:
- Ends way too early or,
- Feels rushed at the end or,
- Goes over the allotted time
TIP: record yourself presenting with Zoom or your phone and use that to identify weak spots or areas of improvement. You could also send it to a co-worker or friend. After all, receiving feedback 1:1 is typically preferred to totally bombing in front of a large group of strangers.
4. Abide by the Rule of 3
Nothing bothers us more than overcrowded slides. Not only are they not visually appealing, too much text can literally overwhelm your viewer. Research shows that our working memory, or conscious mind, can’t comprehend more than three ideas at a time. Think about how you typically recite a phone number in groups of three and four rather than a string of all seven numbers.
This isn’t to say you can’t talk about more than three concepts at a time. In fact, elaborating or talking about ideas NOT listed can help retain your audience’s attention as they expect you to cover what’s on the slide but not necessarily anything else.
5. Keep Them Guessing
Similar to the last point, reading word for word on every slide gives your viewers nothing to look forward to. The overachievers have already read through and are ready for the next slide; others figure they can zone out and ask you to send the slides post-presentation.
Another option is to present your bullet points from bottom to top. It’s out of the norm and will throw your audience off which, in turn, forces them to listen. They’re there for a reason and if you’re switching things up, they don’t want to miss any tidbits.
6. Don't Insult Them
Though unintentional, asking your audience if what you just said makes sense is the equivalent of saying, “do you understand this, dummy?” Let them ask questions if they need to rather than assuming they don’t get it.
Also, if you have to ask whether or not it makes sense, you probably aren’t explaining it clearly enough. Try presenting the concept to someone with little to no knowledge of it. If they are confused, you may have to go back to the drawing board and rethink how you’re approaching the subject.
7. Let Them Speak
TED Talks or lectures aside, nearly every presentation should look for audience engagement and interaction. After all, you’re there to provide value to them, right? Beyond simply asking if there are any questions at the very end of your presentation, how can you get them talking?
Here are just a few ways …
- Encourage questions throughout the presentation
- Incorporate polls – great for video presentations!
- Ask for questions and/or issues upon registration
- Research your attendees to uncover broad pain points to address
We can’t guarantee you will wow every single attendee at every single presentation but we can confidently say that adopting just a few of these tips can greatly improve your and your audience’s presentation experiences.
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