Remember the last presentation you sat through?
Chances are the speaker fired up his laptop, opened PowerPoint and started talking. You, and the rest of the audience, were an afterthought.
Audience engagement is key to presentation success. Research shows our attention spans last only ten minutes — that’s not much time to captivate and educate! According to a study by the National Academy of Sciences, students in traditional lecture classes are more than 1 1/2 times more likely to fail than students engaged in more active learning exercises. Even if you’re not a classroom teacher, engaging your audience increases the likelihood that your message is heard and your audience is inspired.
Here’s how to speak so your audience will listen:
- Know your audience – Before shaping your presentation, get to know your audience. Go beyond demographics and psychology. Understand them: what do they know about your topic? What parts of your message will they resist hearing? What misconceptions about the topic do they have?
- Create value – Offer ideas, or a promise, that add value. Your listeners are thinking: how can you make my life easier? What advice do you have to help me do something better or more efficiently? Sharing ideas with your audience converts them to supporters and collaborators.
- Interact – Put yourself in the audience. It’s pretty boring when the speaker does all the talking. Interact with the audience. Move closer if you can, encourage them to move up, ask questions and pause for responses. Tell a story that brings them along. The more invested your audience is in your presentation, the more memorable it — and you — will be.
- Inspire action – You probably sat through presentations that offer lots of information but left you wondering “what’s next?” Inspire your audience to take action. Include an action in your presentation that moves your audience closer to your promise. If you discuss goal setting, have audience members set a goal. If you talk about your company’s new marketing initiatives, ask for audience questions.
- Be genuine – When you talk to friends, your conversations are spontaneous and genuine. You listen (hopefully!). Do the same during your presentation. Listen before you speak, during your presentation and after you’ve finished. If you’re genuinely interested in your audience, they’ll appreciate it and respond.
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