Whether you’re pitching your products/services to a client or presenting a business plan to the board, your successful outcome depends largely on how you present your case. Many people lose the attention of their audience by making common mistakes that can be easily avoided.
Over the years, we’ve seen some great concepts being presented that never made it because of the way they were delivered. In some cases, the audience never grasped the idea. In others, they were simply bored to sleep. Here is a list of ten dos and don’ts that you should take into careful consideration when addressing an audience.
Know your Audience
You’ve got to do some research to determine the level of your audience’s understanding of the subject. If they are familiar with what you’re presenting, don’t discuss basics. On the other hand, if they are new to the subject,make sure to include a few “background”slides, but don’t get too technical.
Start with an Outline
Begin your presentation with a summary of what will be discussed so your audience has a clear vision about the sequence of your presentation. Also, be very specific about what you expect to come out from the presentation, such as a decision or other actions you may seek. Let your audience know how long your presentation will take, so they won’t spend half the time looking at their watches.
Never hand out Copies of your Presentation at the Start
You don’t want people reading ahead to slide ten while you’re still on the third. Inform them that they will receive printed (or soft) copies on their way out, and that they don’t need to take notes during the presentation.
Keep it Short
The usual attention span is 15 minutes. You can push it to 30 if your audience is really interested in what you have to say, but anything beyond that is a killer. You can always leave behind additional materials for them to read, but don’t attempt to discuss everything during the presentation.
Less is More
PowerPoints are meant to emphasize what you’re saying, so limit your slides to five lines, and avoid wrapping sentences. Whenever possible, substitute words with visuals that drive home the point you’re making.Cramming your slides with text will keep your audience busy with reading.This is ineffective, and frustrating for the presenter.
Stay on the Move
Don’t sit down while you present;stay on your feet, walk around, maintain eye contact, and be lively. Practice your presentation in advance. And whatever you do, never turn your back to your audience and read off the presentation.
Keep it Interactive
Some presenters ask their audience to keep questions until the end. This creates boring, one-way communication. Encourage your audience to interrupt with questions or comments, it keeps them engaged. If they ask about something that’s coming up later, you can point out politely that the issue will be addressed shortly.
Watch your Audience’s Body Language
There are some vital signs that indicate when people start to lose attention. Tapping fingers, fiddling with phones, yawning, and straying looks mean it’s time to wrap things up.
Forget about flashing distractions such as blinking words or floating images. They will only divert attention from you. People are here to listen to what you have to say, not to watch a show on the screen.
Keep it Printer-friendly
Use a white background for your slides because it is very likely that your presentation will be printed, as many people don’t feel comfortable reading documents off the screen.
Remember, the purpose of PowerPoint presentations is to emphasize what you are saying, and drive home the key points you are making. Spend more time focusing on the content of your speech, (how it is reiterated throughout the slides) and less time formatting fancy coloring and graphics. You only have half an hour of your audience’s attention (if you’re really good), so use those precious moments wisely and effectively.
About the Author
Pinnacle Business & Marketing Consulting is a results-driven boutique consulting firm that specializes in providing clients with practical and pragmatic solutions to their business and marketing challenges.
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