We’ve all had to sit through a gruelling and boring presentation at some point in our lives and it’s definitely no fun.
The worst thing about boring presentations is the moment you try to remember what you actually learned or took away, only to realise that you spent most of it drifting off, while trying with every fibre of your body to stay with it.
So, what can you do next time it’s your turn to present, to make sure that the audience is with you from start to finish and how can you make sure your presentation isn’t a complete snooze fest.
Since it’s more than likely that you’ll be asked to present at some point in your career, here are 10 great tips that will make the experience memorable for you and the audience, in the best way possible.
1. Do your homework and know your audience
We all know that regardless of what you’re doing, it all boils down to preparation. But, don’t just stop at reading through your notes, making sure your slides look great and practicing the presentation. One of the most important things you can do even before all this is to find out who you’re presenting to and to know exactly what they want to get out of it.
Once you know this, you can do two things, firstly, you can make sure you focus on the most important things for them and what they’ll want to take away and secondly, you can make sure you pitch it just right, because regardless of what your content is, you’ll need to tailor how you present it to the audience which you can’t do, f you don’t know anything about them.
2. Don’t go PowerPoint crazy
OK, so you might have heard this a million times before, but it’s so important it’s worth highlighting again here.
Having way too many slides is not god for a number of reasons, the first being that If all you’re doing is reading what’s on the slide deck people will wonder why they’re there, because they can read it for themselves, and probably more efficiently. With 100 slides for a 30 minute presentation, it’s more than likely they contain every word you plan to say and then some, so cut it down.
Another draw back to having too many slides is that, everyone will be focusing more on the slides than what you have to say. Since you’re giving up your valuable time to do this, doesn’t it make sense to be heard? When you speak, you’ll be able to emphasise things for the audience in a way that a slide deck just can’t do.
And if you need a third, since we all love things in threes, too much Powerpoint is just boring, so unless you’re trying to help people get to sleep, keep it to a minimum.
3. Stick to 3 key takeaways
You’ve got an important presentation to give and you’re pleased because you’ve got a LOT to say. Your department has been working really hard and you want everyone in the company to know exactly what you’ve done, how you’ve done it, why you’ve done it, what your teams challenges are… blah blah blah. Sometimes, having the chance to present is great, and timely because we do have a lot to say and it provides us with just the stage we’ve been waiting for.
Before you start writing a novel, it’s worth remembering that the average person can remember 7 plus-or-minus 2 things at once, with some studies even showing this to be less, more like 3 or 4 things. Since, each of your three key takeaways will be expanded upon, this means that you’re less likely to cause information overload so people will actually take on board and remember what you cover.
If you need to go beyond three, keep in mind the 7 plus/minus 2 rule and stick to no more than 5 key points.
4. Start strong
You get on stage, introduce yourself and tell the audience what you’re here to talk about. Pretty standard stuff. But according to Simon Sinek , whose no stranger to captivating crowds with his amazing speeches, this might not be the best way to grab peoples attention. Instead, it might be worth staying completely silent for a moment or two. This might sound scary, but it makes you appear more confident and together than you would if you were to start rattling things off as you walked on stage.
When someone doesn’t say a word, it causes intrigue and raises anticipation. Now that’s grabbing attention!
If staying quiet is a step too far, you can start by posing a question or making a statement that will get people thinking, all before you introduce yourself and really get started.
5. Speak to their emotions
Ever wonder why some things stay with you, even things you’d rather forget. One of the main reasons for this is that we remember things when they’re associated with deep emotions a lot more than we do when they’re neutral and don’t cause any emotions for us.
In the words of Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
When we remember things, there’s too much information to remember every moment or everything that was said and done in detail. So our feelings guide us and we remember the things that made us feel something.
Use this to your advantage by conveying the information in a way so that people can connect emotionally to it. Whether that’s telling a personal story or asking them to think about specific events and experiences in their own lives.
6. Tell Stories
Telling stories is powerful. Through stories you can connect to the audience on an emotional level, which we already learned is a good thing. You can also relate to the audience and their own experiences, and what’s more, since people remember stories far more easily than just statements, facts and figures, by telling stories you’ll be helping everyone to remember the points you covered.
7. Get them involved
Sitting in silence while someone talks at you sucks. Presenting this way is a great way to make sure that everyone shuts down for the next hour while you basically talk to yourself.
To avoid this, make sure you engage with everyone whenever possible and as much as possible. This can be by asking questions, asking for people thoughts and opinions or anything else you think would work with your specific audience.
The bonus of this is that the get to do some of the work and are the heat off you, if you hate presenting that’s a win-win!
8. Be surprising
As well as things that impact us emotionally, we all have a tendency to remember things that surprise us. Anything that is not what we expected. So, try and include some elements of surprise.
Instead of opting for a clown outfit, which will probably do the trick, you could try using shocking statistics, or eye opening graphs. This is one time when data can be your friend, if what it shows is really unexpected, its shock and ore!
9. Make eye contact
You may have heard that when speaking to large groups of people, you should look at some point at the back and not at any one person in particular.
However, according to Simon Sinek, scanning the room disconnects you from the audience so looking at individuals one by one is a better approach if you really want to build a connection.
10. Finish strong
You’ve given a great presentation, people were attentive and everyone seemed to be nodding and listening intently.
Don’t throw it all away at the end by not finishing strong.
Just like we remember things that are emotional for us, we also remember how things end. The peak-end rule states that the way an experience ends determines the happiness we ascribe to it and according to the peak-end rule, we remember how we felt at the peak of an event and at the end of it.
So make sure the end of your presentation is as memorable and engaging as your very first words.
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