By now, everyone has heard the statistic that the human attention span has become shorter than that of a goldfish. Whether you believe this is true or not, it doesn’t remove the fact that holding the attention of a business audience is, and always has been, a unique challenge for presenters of reports, slideshows, and sales pitches.
According to one study, 92% of managerial staff admitted to doing other things while at meetings and presentations. 70% said their workplace meetings were unproductive.
The cliché of the student falling asleep in class seems to shine through in the business world, as well. But how do you fight it?
Even with high-tech tools, business presentations aren’t known for being very compelling. How do you give an engaging presentation that holds people’s attention?
Keep reading to learn some of the top presentation tips for presenters and persuaders in any industry.
Get your audience involved
It’s common for presenters to rely on recitation to get through a presentation. Recitation is safe and is relatively easy. There’s less chance of making a mistake when you aren’t saying things off the cuff.
But recitation is a recipe for a boring presentation. Most people don’t have fond memories of sitting through recitations in the classroom. There’s no reason to make your audience feel like they’re back in school.
Instead, try to relate to your audience and get them involved. There are multiple ways to do this.
If you’re familiar with your audience, don’t hesitate to call on people by name. Ask them questions or even invite them to the front of the room to help you discuss your topics. If you have a resident expert, tap them for knowledge before giving your presentation and during it.
Here are some other ways to get your audience involved in your presentation:
- Start with an ice-breaker.
- Show your passion for the subject.
- Conduct a poll.
- Quiz your audience.
- Ask for a show of hands.
- Play a game with your audience.
- Appeal to human emotions.
- Share a personal experience.
- Comment on a relevant event.
- Give shout-outs to people in the audience.
- Tell your audience what’s at stake for them.
- Summarize each section of your presentation.
- Provide closure with a challenge.
Of course, not everyone is comfortable engaging with an audience in these says. You may wish to brush up on your presentation skills. Consider attending a public speaking seminar or taking a class on the subject if you need help.
Keep It simple
Everyone wants to wow their audience. But in a presentation, the desire to sound smart and professional can sometimes overshadow the point.
Using overly clever language, long sentences, and complex graphs and figures won’t necessarily keep your audience engaged. In fact, complex presentations are much more effective at lulling people to sleep. They can also prevent your audience from remembering what you say.
A good practice is to start with your conclusion and fill in the requisite information afterwards. This gives your audience something to latch onto while you go through the finer details. It provides context so that the other parts of your presentation are more meaningful.
For example, if you’re giving an end of quarter review, start with the bottom line or the KPIs. For your conclusion, look to the future. Summarize what your audience has learned and what it means for them.
Your audience also needs something they can relate to. Graphs, figures, and KPIs are important. But they aren’t very relatable.
Sometimes, the simplest way to keep people’s attention is to translate numbers and figures into human terms. Good numbers are usually the direct result of hard work or great ideas. Bad numbers are usually the result of miscommunications or hang-ups in a process.
Tell a story
Australian workers reported that 66% of the meetings they show up to provide them with no value. What people find valuable can vary from person to person. But the love of stories is universal.
People will respond much better to a story than they will a lecture. Stories have a unique way of pulling people in and keeping their interest. The desire to reach a resolution is usually enough to keep an audience engaged, even with the dryest subject matter.
Not everyone is a natural storyteller, but your stories don’t need to be complex. Stick with a basic story format.
Every story contains characters, conflict, and a resolution.
Typically, the character in a business presentation is the business itself. It could also be the customer or the audience’s organization, depending on the context of your presentation. Regardless, the character or characters must be relatable.
Your conflict may relate to a business challenge, such as a poor earnings report. But often, the best conflicts involve opportunities. Focus on previous successes, then introduce the conflict as a future opportunity or challenge.
Finally, the resolution should work to overcome the conflict. Your resolution could be a plan of action, for example.
Every story also needs a structure. That is, it needs a beginning, middle, and end.
The beginning introduces characters and successes. The middle introduces the conflict. And the end introduces a resolution and key takeaways from the presentation.
To tell a compelling story, you need to understand your audience’s context. What are their goals and pain points? What type of story will they relate to most?
And don’t forget: Tell real stories, if possible. Fictional stories may come across as too juvenile.
Use graphics, video, and other media
The main points of your presentation are certainly the most important part. But design elements keep your audience interested and engaged. They also make your presentation more professional and persuasive.
In other words, images, graphics, and other forms of media aren’t just for decoration. They can be the most memorable pieces of your presentation. Most importantly, they can help you communicate complex ideas with a simple format.
There is one universal rule when it comes to graphics: Don’t use clipart.
Clipart has been around for years and most people have seen the same old graphics repeatedly. Instead, you should design original graphics that are beautiful and branded.
This may require you to enlist the help of a graphic designer. But if presentations are important to your business success, it’s a worthwhile investment.
Graphics are useful when communicating relative amounts. For example, you can use interesting graphics to communicate sales numbers from one quarter compared to another.
Graphics are also useful for breaking down complex statistics. No matter their education and background, most decision-makers will grow numb at the sight of a complicated spreadsheet. A colourful graphic can take a set of complex data and make it more relatable and understandable.
You can also add icons, colours, and illustrations to make your presentation more appealing. Try not to overburden each section with too many graphics, however. Give your audience one or two main points to pay attention to, then give them enough time to absorb the information.
If the popularity of YouTube is any indicator, people love video. As of 2018, approximately 1 in 2 Australians use YouTube. The site received over 15 million unique Australian visitors each month in 2018.
As the internet and smartphone market continues to penetrate the country, that number is expected to increase.
Using video in your presentations is a great way to tell a story and keep your audience engaged. However, it’s easy to make mistakes with video. A poorly executed video could taint the rest of your presentation.
If you want to take advantage of video, here are a few rules to follow:
- Keep video clips short – they don’t need to be more than a minute long.
- Embed videos within your presentation – don’t keep them separate.
- Use original videos.
- Videos must be relevant to your audience.
- high-quality videos only.
Short, original, high-quality videos can make your presentation stand out. They look more professional, can help you build trust, and can even improve your prospects for a sale.
Master your presentation tools
Many business presenters have PowerPoint certifications. But let’s face it: Most PowerPoint presentations are no more advanced than the ones being designed in classrooms. These days, any secondary school student can create a PowerPoint presentation.
Most are presented in the same fashion: The presenter scrolls through slides, explaining the meaning of each one to the audience.
Some slides may hold value to the audience. But likely, they’re viewing the same type of presentation they’ve always viewed.
As a presenter, your goal is to ensure your audience understands what you’re attempting to communicate. But to truly shine, you should also persuade and influence your audience to act.
You may need to take some steps to truly master PowerPoint. Look up some PowerPoint presentation tips or take a course to give yourself a refresher. You can also partner with professional PowerPoint presentation designers to make high-stakes presentations pop.
Nonetheless, here are some general guidelines for creating amazing PowerPoint presentations:
- Open with something surprising or intriguing.
- Keep text limited.
- Focus on one subject at a time.
- Use design best practices.
- Use images and media strategically.
- Follow the 10/20/30 rule.
- But break the rules when necessary.
Don’t be afraid to add other tools to your process. For example, most people can recognize graphs that have been auto-generated by survey tools or Microsoft Excel. Use design tools to make your graphs unique, branded, and eye-catching.
If PowerPoint isn’t cutting it for you, there are numerous alternatives on the market that could help. But PowerPoint is the recognized leader in presentation software.
Use a non-linear format
When people sit down for a presentation, they expect a slideshow. There’s nothing inherently wrong with slideshows. They are useful tools and universally appreciated as an excellent way to impart knowledge.
But if you want your audience to stay engaged, you’ll need to go beyond what’s typical.
One study of Australian CEOs revealed that they spend 72% of their work time in meetings. If every meeting involves a similar slide deck, it shouldn’t be surprising that the format is tiresome.
Instead, consider using a non-linear format.
Non-linear presentations let you move through your material without following a preset order. Instead of scrolling through slides one-by-one, you can jump to relevant slides organically when the information becomes relevant.
This may require some improvisation. Non-linear presentations are perfect for small meetings, but they’re also useful for large audiences.
It’s best to think of a non-linear presentation like a website. You may have a “homepage,” but it’s easy to navigate from one slide to another. You can even create non-linear presentations in PowerPoint.
If you’ve never worked with a non-linear presentation before, you may wish to practice before presenting. You can also join forces with presentation design specialists to perfect your presentation.
Put away the mobile phones
Depending on the context of your presentation, this may not always be an option. But if possible, ask your audience to turn off or put away their mobile phones. This request is most appropriate if you are in a position of seniority or if you’re working with a close-knit team.
41% of Australians worry they use their mobile phones too much. They are a constant distraction in office settings. During a presentation, a mobile phone could lead some audience members to miss most of it.
Clearly, you may not have enough command of the room at the beginning of the presentation to ask people to silence their phones. Nonetheless, you should always turn your own phone off and put it away when leading a presentation.
Move beyond presentation tips
Presentations aren’t just a formality. For many businesses, they’re an essential tool for selling. Stale and repetitive presentations aren’t just a bore to sit through; they can have an impact on your bottom line.
You need exciting, persuasive presentations to keep your team engaged and your prospects enthralled. Once you’ve followed these presentation tips, speak with a team of professionals at Persuaders.
Located in Sydney, Australia, we’ve developed a methodology to ensure the effectiveness of all our client projects. Our team is backed by a series of core values that guide us in everything we do.
Contact us today to start a conversation about your project.