Hello and welcome back to Business Skills 360. I’m Tim Simmons, and I’m glad you could join me today for the second part in our series on effective presentations. Last week, we talked about keeping it short, simple, engaging, and real. Much of that happens in the preparation. Today, we’re going to talk about what happens when you stand up in front of that audience and have to start speaking. Take a deep breath…
Your first goal should be to make a connection with each and every listener. That connection is the pathway along which your message travels. If you have a good connection, there’s a good chance your message will sink in.
To make this connection, you have to do two things: you need to control the audience’s attention and you need to engage their minds. Remember that: control and engage. And to do these two things, you have three tools: your voice, your props such as PowerPoint – and your body or movement.
Let’s start with your voice. It needs to be confident and clear. Show everyone that you know your stuff. Speak slowly and steadily. And remember that silence can be your friend. You need to pause sometimes to give people a chance to think. If you fill every space with your voice, you might start to get on people’s nerves, and the words won’t carry any power. Try very hard not to use “ums” and “ahs” when you’re thinking. Think silently, choose your words carefully, and deliver them confidently. Otherwise, people will tune you out.
When you speak, you should invite people into your presentation by asking for input. That means using questions. Ask easy ones so that people don’t have to think too much. Some of your questions can be open, to the entire audience. Some of them can be directed at specific people. Don’t move on until you get an answer. As soon as people start contributing by answering questions, their engagement goes up. They feel like they are participants, not just listeners.
The next tools are your props and visual aids. That could mean PowerPoint slides. But it could also mean a whiteboard, a flipchart, a wall chart, or anything else that people look at that is not you but is part of your presentation. The most important thing is that you use these aids. Don’t just let people look at the slides. The slides should help you illustrate your points. Don’t put up a graph and not explain it. It should be worked into your presentation.
These aids are useful, not just for giving information, but for keeping attention moving. Humans – and not just children – have short attention spans. They can’t concentrate on one thing for long. So you have to work with that, and take their attention somewhere else before it wanders somewhere else. Move people’s attention back and forth between you, your aids, other listeners, a handheld prop, back to you… and so on.
Now, your body, and what you do with it, is also important. I’m talking about body language and movement. Let’s start up top with the face. Firstly, make eye contact. Don’t just quickly scan the faces in the room. Look directly at an individual when you’re making an important point. That person will respond with his or her attention, and the connection will last. That person’s engagement in your presentation will shoot up. Try to do this with every individual in the room at some point. Okay… your face also includes your mouth. And what are you going to do with that? You’re going to smile. Sure, you’ve heard it before, but it’s easy to forget once you get nervous. The smile is universal. It has unique power to create a connection with someone. Just think about your interactions with others today. Which people smiled? What was the interaction like? I think you’ll see what I mean.
Using your body also means using movement. Do not stand in one place and drone on about your topic. Move around the room. Use the left side, the right side, and even the back of the room. This will help you control people’s attention. You must be dynamic. Remember that humans become quickly bored with something that doesn’t change. You can sit down, stand up, lean over a desk, or lean against a wall. Just don’t do one thing all the time. You are controlling their attention by moving it around. People will follow you with their eyes as you walk to the back of the room, then you can throw their attention back to your PowerPoint at the front of the room.
Right. We’ve looked at how you can use your voice, your props, and your body to control people’s attention and engage their minds. It takes practice, but if you’ve got a presentation that is short, simple, engaging, and real, then it’s a lot easier to do this.
That’s all for today. If you’d like to test yourself on what we’ve just covered, have a look at the myBEonline.com website. There you’ll find a quiz about today’s show as well as a complete transcript. Thanks for listening, and see you again soon.