Presentation Skills: Seven Tips For Capturing Your Audience

Presentation Skills 101 tells you that your audience should be your primary focus.

Sometimes, however, presenters become wrapped up in the importance of the information they plan to deliver.  Sometimes they get wrapped up in a self-perceived importance of themselves.

When this happens, they lose the audience because the audience starts to feel they are being “talked down to.” The audience members become “second class citizens.”

To avoid these traps, presenters can use the following techniques to keep the audience engaged and

1. Involve the audience early and often.

Within the first two minutes of your presentations, the audience becomes the focal point of the presentation.  Ask them questions or ask them to remember a time when, in an attempt to engage them either physically or mentally.  Find a way to make them part of the presentation.

2. Whenever possible, meet and greet the audience members before the presentation.

Learn their names, employers, key work issues, favorite celebrity, or their hobbies.  Ask them what one thing they would like to learn from your presentation.

After you have met as many audience members as you have time to engage, you can use their names and their information to re-enforce your message.

3. Also, now that you have a few “friends” in the audience, you can easily make eye contact with most of them which gives the appearance that you are talking specifically to them.

In reality, it allows you to look at them but make eye contact with all of the people around them.  And, this allows you to talk about them and their situation.

4 Use the word “you” at least twice as much as you use the word “I.”

Before the presentation, ask the person who hired you to share a brief participant profile.  This way, you can use their wants and desires, their stories, their expectations, and, their names.  And, you can speak their language, not “consultantese.”  Avoid “shifting paradigms,” facing “conundrums,” or addressing “exciting new initiatives.”

5. Always speak from the heart, not the head.  You want them to know you have experienced what you am talking about and want to use that experience to help them.

6. Always empathize with the audience.  They are doing you a favor by listening to you so you want to thank them by making them feel comfortable at all times.

7. Never set your audience up for failure.  I get really upset when I see speakers or trainers asking audiences seemingly easy questions and then making them look stupid by contradicting their answers.

For example, imagine a speaker or presenter asking an audience this question.

“How many of you believe George Washington’s picture is on a one dollar bill?”

Probably, most of the audience would agree.

Then the speaker does a reverse on them by saying something like, “Actually, the image on a one dollar bill is a photo of a painting of Washington.”

As a presenter, you will gain more points by making the audience look brilliant than by making yourself look smart.

Talking down to your audience seldom builds you up as a speaker or presenter.

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