A great presenter manages to connect with every single person in the room—whether they’re presenting to 10 colleagues or 10,000 strangers. Of course, there’s not enough time in the day to sit down and chat with every single audience member at length. But you can design your presentation to resonate with each viewer, giving them a reason to engage with your content and retain the most important information.
Are you giving a presentation in the coming future? Here’s how to better connect with your audience.
Understand Your Exact Audience
As one contributor for The Balance Careers writes, “Your audience won’t care about what you say until you’ve demonstrated that you care about them.” This means designing your presentation to meet their needs. What do they already know about your topic? What do they want and need to know? What should they leave your presentation having learned?
Think about it this way: A presentation about the same topic will be very different depending on whether you’re delivering it to a room full of industry professionals vs. the general public.
Cater your content and delivery to the exact audience you’ll be addressing. This helps ensure your presentation stays on target.
Turn Viewers into Participants
Observers in passive roles tend to tune out. Participants in active roles tend to lean in because they feel they’re part of what’s happening around them. An interactive PowerPoint goes a long way toward getting your audience involved. Using an audience response system like Poll Everywhere, presenters can embed different types of live polls directly into their decks, to which audience members can respond in real time using their mobile devices.
There are myriad ways to add interactive elements to a presentation: icebreaker questions, multiple-choice quizzes, anonymous feedback, Q&A sessions, trivia competitions, collaborative word clouds and more. However, you choose to do so, the simple act of directly involving your audience helps them feel more connected to the outcome of your presentation. Plus, polls serve as a gentle wake-up call for people whose attention may have drifted.
Use Slides to Enhance, Not Convey
Many presenters use a deck of slides to accompany whatever they’re saying aloud. The key word to remember here is accompany. It’s easy to inadvertently design your PowerPoint or Google Slides to do the heavy lifting of conveying data, information and takeaways. However, audiences have a hard time keeping up with dense, text-heavy slides. Their attention becomes split between trying to read and trying to listen at the same time, rendering them unable to do either one well.
A good rule of thumb is to convey just one point per slide. This allows viewers to take in what’s written or displayed, then turn their focus to what you have to say about it, centering the human connection.
Address Valuable Audience Feedback
Humans are a curious bunch. Audience members almost always have questions and comments about what they’re seeing and hearing. A good presentation opens the door for further discussion, which is where much of the value of the session emerges.
Consider the best way to facilitate that conversation. Traditional question-and-answer sessions leave a lot to be desired, at least if they involve passing a microphone—literal or figurative— around the room full of people. A more inclusive strategy is to utilize audience response technology, allowing participants to submit their questions and comments. The most important submissions get upvoted to the top, so you can quickly discern what the audience wants to know most.
The impact of your presentation ultimately depends on how well you connect with your audience. The more targeted, interactive and human you can make it, the better the outcome will be.
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