Of all the fears we face as adults, public speaking is always near the top of the list for most people. Despite this fact, there is a large sector of the population that makes their living as presenters for conferences and at workshops, and love it. They have discovered how intoxicating it can be to present to a large group of people and captivate their attention for long periods of time.
Either explaining a very complex technical subject and trying to convince the audience to buy their solution, or other times trying to motivate those in the audience to improve some aspect of their lives. All of it comes down to grabbing the attention of the people in that room, and holding it as you walk them through your vision. The good speakers do this on occasion, but the great speakers can do this every time, no matter the venue.
If you think about the best speakers you have heard over the years, I’m sure there are some common traits that they all share. The first thing that most great presenters have is a very confident style in their presentations.
Even if you are not following all of the nuances of the material being covered, you get the feeling that the presenter understands it, and believes it. This is critical if you want your audience to follow you, let them know that you believe in the material you are presenting and want them to as well. Be impassioned about the details, let them know that you are excited by the material and convey to them that they will be as well if they follow you through it. Pace of presentation is important here as well so try and keep it lively and crisp. Be sure to know your material fully before presenting.
Nothing loses an audience faster than a presenter reading his presentation off of the screen. Whatever you are presenting visually should be there to enhance your verbal presentation. You conversation should be independent from anything you are projecting on a screen. This ability to hold a conversation about the material you are presenting and further augmenting this with visuals will go a long way to establishing your credibility with the audience.
Another good technique used by great presenters is to establish a bit of a conspiratorial relationship with the audience early on, as if you are letting them in on a secret.
You can do this by joking a bit and telling them that you are involved in a lot of meetings about the material you are presenting and sometimes forget about what you can disclose and what is still under wraps, so you may let a few things slip that were supposed to be kept quite for a while yet. This immediately established a bond between you and the audience because they feel that they may be getting advanced information about the product you are explaining, information that others that missed the presentation won’t have.
This will keep their attention glued to the presentation to make sure they don’t miss anything. It is also ok to refer to minor problems that may have occurred in the past with the subject or product you are presenting that have been corrected. Taking responsibility for these corrections is a powerful statement to make to an audience and will impress them with your sincerity.
A lot of great presenters use humor as well to bond with the audience.
Be careful here as too many jokes can make you seem trivial with the material. Also, be careful to not just “tell” a joke, but rather be humorous about the material you are presenting. You can also enhance the effect of humor by making it slightly self deprecating. If you can relate an interesting story about a hitch in travel to an event, or a mix-up during another presentation, this is a great equalizer. It helps to strengthen the bond between presenter and audience because they see you as human.
Also, there is a natural bonding that occurs when two people share a laugh. These are all good connections to make with your audience as you present since people believe someone they know. Most of the audience had probably never met you before you started presenting and you need to establish whatever bonds you can in the short time you have to present.
Have a theme for your material and stick to it throughout the presentation. Nothing turns an audience cold faster than a presentation that meanders or jumps form topic to topic with a clumsy transition. Also, if possible gauge the impact you are having on the audience every now and then with a “show of hands” question.
This can be something simple like “How many people agree with Point number one”, then follow up with “How many people already knew this”, and finally “How many people just like raising their hands”. This keeps them active, adds a little humor and is fairly unconventional. The key here is to keep the audience from settling back in their chairs and tuning out. Most of the best feedback presenters get is based on the feelings the audience had about the presentation (event) and not the material.
Finally, as you are about to conclude your presentation, try and end on an interesting or humorous story. There have been studies that have found that customers remember the last 10 minutes of most presentations the clearest and you want them entertained. The truth is that people agree with (and buy from) someone they identify with, and enjoy the company of.
Even though you have the greatest presentation in the world, you still need the audience to relate to you and having an interesting or funny story to end the presentation will help you leave on a good note. And lastly, be sure to say thank you to the audience for their time. This lets them know that you appreciate them. And if you did a good job with incorporating all of the above advice into your presentation, the next thing you should be hearing will be applause.