There are times that we’ve sat through a presentation that failed to keep our attention from start to finish. They’re tough to sit through, and you can’t help but have sympathy for the person presenting because keeping an audience engaged isn’t easy, and once you lose their interest, it’s hard to get it back. However, there are some tricks to help you avoid this fate if you’re preparing a presentation yourself.
Sometimes a presentation-flop has less to do with the presenter and more to do with the content, but even the most mundane topic can be somewhat engaging if it’s presented correctly. The key is to connect with the audience and deliver the information in a way that anyone with a basic understanding of the topic can follow. To do this, you have to keep the presentation focused, the visual aids to a minimum, and find a way to make things entertaining.
What Makes A Presentation Engaging
Unfortunately, there is no perfect formula for creating an engaging presentation. However, a presenter can do plenty of things to increase their chances of delivering a captivating presentation. Here are some tips to keep in mind.
Demonstrate a passion for (or at least a genuine interest in) the topic. If you don’t care about what you’re presenting, why should your audience? When you’re creating your presentation, think about why this information is essential and emphasize that throughout the presentation to keep reminding your audience why they should care about what you’re saying.
Make it a story. Listening to someone tell a story with a beginning, middle, and end is way more interesting than having someone throw many acronyms and data at you, right? Think about the information you need to cover during your presentation and see if you can organize it into a story-like format (and don’t be afraid to add a little drama in for extra effect).
Keep slides short and consistent. If you’re presenting with slides, make sure you stick to short bullet-point lists and keep the content on each slide relatively consistent. You will also want to create a color scheme to use throughout your presentation to give it a more professional and cohesive look.
Get to the point and stay on topic. When you’re delivering your presentation, be sure to make your central point in the first minute so that the audience remains engaged. Also, once you get going, make sure you stay on topic and try to deliver all of the information in 10-15 minutes (not including Q&A). It’s easy to get sidetracked and go off on tangents, especially if you have an engaged audience, but try to avoid that as much as possible. By staying focused, you show your audience that you value their time and don’t want to waste it with stories and anecdotes that don’t benefit them.
Things To Avoid
You probably already know the basics here, like don’t chew gum while you’re presenting and don’t fixate on just one or two people in the audience. To make your presentation a hit, here are some other things to avoid.
Reading every word of your presentation or putting it all in your slides. Writing down what you want to say in your presentation, word-for-word, will have you sounding like you’re reading a script to your audience. Similarly, putting everything you’re saying into your presentation slides will leave your audience focusing more on the slides and tuning you out entirely. In both cases, use bullet points for main ideas and rely on yourself to fill in the gaps.
Forcing people to participate. It is an easy way to get a portion of your audience to close off because not everyone is comfortable participating, whether by shouting off answers or (worse) role-playing for demonstration. Skip this tactic and rely on other ways to get your audience engaged.
Moving too much. You’ve probably been told that you should not stand still like a statue during a presentation, but moving too much is equally as distracting. If you’re comfortable presenting and find it natural to walk around while you talk, that’s perfectly fine. However, if this isn’t something you do, very often stick to hand gestures and be conscious if your body starts swaying back and forth.
Presenting complicated data. As the presenter, you’re an expert on the topic you’re covering. The chances are high that a few people in your audience have the same level of understanding as you, but what you’re presenting is a lot of new information for most of them. Try to avoid presenting complicated graphs, statistics, or other data that may not make sense and instead keep things simple and straightforward.
Useful Presentation Tools
Creating a presentation isn’t something that comes naturally to most people, which is why it’s a good idea to use different tools to help you out. There are some great platforms and programs that you can use to create effective visual aids, record your presentation, and even help you optimize your content. Some of these tools include:
Powerpoint or Google Slides for creating an accompanying slide show
Canva for graphic design templates and tools
Oomfo for creating clean, easy-to-understand charts and graphs
Beautiful.ai for slide presentation templates that you can customize
Zentation for split-screen video presentations so your audience can see you and your slides at once
Vcasmo for recording and sharing video presentations
Powtoon for video and animations to serve as visual aids during your presentation
When you’re creating a presentation, the main things to remember are to keep the presentation short, on topic, and easy to follow. Try not to overthink things while preparing your presentation, because that can quickly lead to overcomplicating your content. Stick to your main points and present them in a clear, understandable way. Oh, and don’t be afraid to also add in a little comedic relief, just for good measure.
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