3 Ways to Keep Your Audience Engaged During A Killer Presentation

The ability to give a killer presentation can be a workplace differentiator, but it’s still no easy feat. There’re so many things to consider – slides or visuals, organization, talking points, and your audience, to name a few.

We’ve all endured presentations that were disorganized, boring, or unclear. Beyond that, many people fear presenting in front of others, limiting their ability to communicate well with their audience. Learning how to present well may be the quickest way to increase your effectiveness at work.

Communication and presentation skills are so important, it’s worth your time to learn, practice and improve. This post includes three tips to keep your audience engaged during a killer presentation and provides other resources to upgrade your presentation’s design and impact, as well as your communication skills.

1. The opening is everything

Want the brutal truth? You have 30-60 seconds to engage your audience when presenting. Each person will decide the level of attention they will give you in that short moment. Here are a few ideas for opening your presentation:

  1. Watch A BUNCH of Ted talks to see how the pros do it. Here is one of my favorite openings.
  2. Start your presentation with “Let me tell you a story…”. We’re all hard-wired to love stories, so this grabs attention every time.
  3. Start with a “what if” scenario. What if we were all rowing in the same direction? What if our team can come up with a solution that makes this problem look easy to solve?
  4. Start with an alarming statistic that is related to your presentation.
  5. Tell a joke. However, be sure to run the joke you plan to use past a few co-workers to ensure it’s not unintentionally offensive.

2. Involve the audience in your presentation


Work in audience engagement moments at various points in your presentation to keep everyone’s attention. Some common ways to involve the audience:

  1. Ask the audience a question that requires a hand raise to respond.
  2. Have the audience write something down that you said.
  3. Ask the audience to shout something out (e.g., shout out your favorite [insert something related to your presentation])
  4. Have the audience tell their neighbor something (e.g., tell your neighbor your favorite song)

3. Be dynamic in how you present


Find ways to add energy and variety to your presentation. Keep the audience from getting bored and checking their phones or daydreaming. Ways to add variety:

  1. Change the pace of your words, sometimes fast, requiring the audience to keep up, sometimes slow, building anticipation.
  2. Use your voice to introduce variety in other ways, including your volume and melody (avoid monotone).
  3. If appropriate, increase your use of facial expressions, including smiling, looking surprised, or concerned.
  4. When standing, be sure to move around the room and use hand and arm gestures.
  5. If it’s a small group, call on people by name to answer questions or provide their thoughts on something you said.

Resources

Presentations require a lot of skill to get right. Here are some additional resources that may help:

Duarte has some excellent communication and presentation information and tools. Check out their free download on powerful presentations, and their free tool, called Diagrammer, has over 4,000 customizable diagrams you can download to PowerPoint.

Forbe’s article Want to Be A Better Public Speaker? Do What The Pros Do.

Harvard Business Review article Do You Have What It Takes To Give A Great Presentation?

Viome.co’s Presentation Design: Beginner’s Guide (Tips, Tools & Templates).

Practice

Need some practical ways to practice? Here are some things I do on a regular basis to ensure I am working on my communiation and presentation skills.

  1. I pay close attention to other presenters and presentations.
  2. I try to get on recurring meetings where I am preseting. For example, I give regular finance updates to large teams to have a regular opportunity to present information. I also participate in networking groups in my area, and offer to present when the opportunity arises.
  3. Keep a file of slide presentations you liked. This can be a go-to resource when you want to present a concept, but are not sure how to visually communicate something.
  4. Join a group that gives presentations just to work on the skill, such as Toastmasters.

Let’s give a killer presentation

Just like most things in life, giving a killer presentation takes practice. The more presentations you give, the more confidence you will have and the more effective you will be at keeping your audience’s attention. Paying close attention to the audience’s body language, including where they laugh and where they reach for their phones. This will give clues as to what’s working and what’s not.

Be sure to use every presentation as an opportunity to get feedback from audience members. Candid feedback will help you see where you need practice and where you can change things up.

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