6 Presentation Tips to Keep Your Audience Engaged

August 1, 2013

Errol Ahearn

Errol Ahearn, vice president of design at GES, is a creative leader and industry speaker on exhibit strategy, design and technology.

How often have you sat in a presentation and said to yourself, “Wow, this is so boring … I can’t sit through another meeting like this”. Now on the opposite end of the spectrum, when was the last time you left a meeting inspired and confident about what you just heard? There’s no better way to influence customers (and even co-workers) than by delivering an effective and motivating presentation.

Over the past 20 years, I’ve spent hundreds of hours working with GES’ sales teams presenting designs to our clients and prospects. The list below contains valuable presentation tips I’ve learned for coworkers over the years:

1. Be genuine and credible-One of the first things I learned is that your audience needs to first “buy in to the presenter (you)” for your words to ring true. You should speak with conviction and try to provide insight from your own personal experiences. By doing this your words immediately become more interesting and memorable, knowing your facts and believing in what you’re saying 100 percent of the time is important.

2. Balance your presentation- There are many ways to balance a presentation to keep your audience alert and focused. Having a monotone presenter talk for 30 plus minutes without taking questions can easily turn off an audience. One of the best ways to keep the audience fully engaged is to have two or more presenters with a well-rehearsed script. This works for both in-person and online presentations. Listeners, by nature, stay more alert when voices and images are changing throughout the meeting. You can also balance your verbal tone, pace and pauses to highlight items.

3. Present one simple message-I’ve watched several successful presenters use this technique of one simple message or theme that’s easy to understand and resonates with the audience. They simplify complex topics, knowing that a simple idea or picture is worth a thousand words. No matter how long the subject matter is, the speaker includes small accents in their content and verbal tone that all point back to that simple message for maximum impact from beginning to end.

4. Speak to your audience and not to your slides-Some of the best presenters are confident because they know their content, are focused on their audience and stay in control of their nerves even when responding to difficult questions. When these speakers present it’s like watching a casual conversation between friends. Some of these speakers also let their audience know they’ll take questions along the way, knowing they can control the meeting and have allowed time for this feature. Your audience will appreciate your candidness and be more attentive.

5. Use animated body language-Emitting energy during a presentation can be infectious. Some of the best presenters “rally the troops” by moving around during the presentation. Simple movement can help you “reach” your audience and deliver more impactful messages. Arm or upper body movement can help you make key points and you can also engage the audience by asking spontaneous questions. It’s important to speak to all corners of the room, making sure to have eye contact with audience members—especially to key decision makers or those who appear to lose focus.

6. Inspire your audience- Opening up your meeting with confidence and a smile sets the tone and can inspire your audience right from the start. Regardless of the topic, presenting in a forthright manner mixed with experience and a touch of humor can make you the friendly authority in the room. The combination of these three things creates your most important outcome —leaving your audience feeling upbeat, confident and positive!

I’m fortunate to work with a diverse group of talented people that I’ve learned from over the years. As you can see, everyone has their own personal style of presenting information. Hopefully, some of these tips will help you to produce upbeat and informative presentations at your next meeting.

Do you have any presentation tips you’ve learned from your coworkers? Share them below!

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