I used to just get bored in presentations that did not engage me. But now I find I am getting increasingly irritated. Why do people insist on talking at me (and the rest of the audience) instead of creating rapport and a conversation? And while we are on the subject, isn’t it disrespectful to fail to connect or engage with your audience – a bit like saying to them that you and your topic are far more important than they are.
OK, rant over. Actually I do understand why this sometimes happen with presenters of all levels of experience, industries and age. Firstly we have few good role models, in business especially. With few exceptions we are all subjected to presentations that are dull, PowerPoint led, unstructured or endless lists of information that may or may not be relevant or beneficial to us. Even though we hate it, in the absence of other better role models, we end up repeating the same mistakes. Secondly, lots of business presenters start off with opening up PowerPoint and listing all the information they need to tell their audience. Then they do exactly that – talk around those same bullets!(yawn) And thirdly and probably most importantly, beyond thinking about who is going to be there, numbers and type of equipment available, few presenters consider the thoughts, feelings and experiences of their audience in as much detail as they should.
I run whole course on audience engagement but here are five quick tips:
Tip 1. Start off by thinking like your audience is thinking before they come into your presentation. What keeps them up at night? What are they hearing around them? What feelings might be being experienced? What do they see? What are they saying? What might their bosses/clients/family be saying and doing. Get into their psyche and use this starting point as a way of building connection and rapport with them.
Tip 2. Use the language of the audience. I mean this in terms of the style and also the actual words, phrases, stories and references that the audience would typically use. If you are speaking with accountants you might use different references than if you were speaking with music artists. (unless you have musical accountants or financially acute artists)
Tip 3. Ask questions of the audience – usually these will be rhetorical rather than direct. When we ask a question, the listener is almost compelled to answer (at least in their own head) so they are involved in your presentation. Asking questions is also a great way of using your presentation to educate. Or put another way, the audience can use your presentation to learn some stuff!
Tip 4. Spend time at the beginning of a presentation highlighting why this presentation is of value to the audience. Too many times presenters start with an agenda, followed by a background, followed by detail and finally ending up with the recommendation/asking for the sale/action required. The reason this doesn’t work is that it is BORING and doesn’t work with the way most people listen! Start with the WHY this is important, explain the OUTCOMES of the presentation for the audience, SEED the sale or recommendation, give a big PICTURE and then detail. (There are some exceptions to this but not too many)
Tip 5. Gain eye contact. Keep eye contact. Use eye contact. Eye contact is the key way a speaker will engage their audience. Think about it…if you are in an audience and you know that the speaker knows you are out there, keeps including you, maybe even focuses briefly on you, then it is hard to be disengaged isn’t it? ( assuming all other tips above are followed) And psychologically, having eye contact with someone, anyone is an intimate and close gesture. It is one of the fundamental features f relationships. So if you have this with ALL your audience at some point, they will feel a connection, rapport and engagement with you.
So which presentations have you been to where you have been fully engaged? What was the speaker doing to keep you that way?
If you want to know more about engaging with the audience, then download my FREE report Five Star System for Presenting here. And let me know what you think in the comment box below.