Take a minute to answer the following true/false questions:
- A microphone is the key to capturing the attention of an audience.
- A stage and power point presentation always help get a point across.
- More information is always better in a presentation because it shows the audience you know what you’re talking about.
If you answered true to any of the above questions, I want you to consider this story.
I recently emceed an economic forecasting dinner with an audience of about 500 market analysts. I watched as three presenters took the stage, each armed with a microphone, power point slides and scripts. Following the dinner I had a chance to speak about the presentations with several of the attendees. I was stunned when each one of them shrugged their shoulders and gave the same response, “I don’t know what he/she was talking about. I zoned out and I couldn’t read the charts.”
The presenters missed a couple key principles when it comes to speaking to a group. One of the biggest mistakes is failing to realize that a captive audience doesn’t necessarily translate to a captivated audience. Having a microphone, stage and spotlight is a certainly a great way to turn the attention to you and what you have to say, but that’s not enough to hold an audience. You need to provide information in a way that keeps your audience engaged and entertained.
Approaching a presentation using the following strategy will help make sure your message gets communicated effectively. It’s easiest to start at the end and work backward.
1. Call to Action
Do you want them to take immediate action; be motivated; be inspired; be educated? Whatever the desired outcome, start with that objective in mind. Don’t get sidetracked with all the “cool” presentation tools you can use if it doesn’t serve the overall purpose.
2. Specific Takeaways
This is the “less is more” approach and it works. Most people don’t remember more than one or two things at a time. Overloading your audience with facts, figures and information will overwhelm them and quite possibly paralyze them from taking any action at all. If you want your message to come through loud and clear give the audience less to think about.
Writing a script and providing power point slides and other presentation tools are great ways to stay on track, but don’t get so absorbed that you forget about the people you’re trying to reach. If you have an audience sitting in front of you, make sure you look up, make eye contact and gauge their reaction. No one wants to feel ignored and that’s exactly how your audience will feel if you don’t establish a connection with them.
4. Put it in Context
Spouting numbers, facts and stats might seem like the best way to inform the audience, but if they don’t know what each of those stats are important, it’s unlikely they’ll take action or put the information to use. Don’t make the assumption that the audience is following your same line of thinking, spell it out and help them understand the usefulness of what you’re sharing.
5. Make it Interesting
Good information alone isn’t enough to hold the attention of a group of people but if you get an early buy-in from the group it’s a lot easier to do. Think of something to grab the attention of the audience in the first 3 minutes of the presentation. A story, a comparison, a stat or a recent headline draw them in and explain why they’ll be interested in what you have to say.
This strategy works on groups big and small. You don’t have to be speaking to a room full of people or have a microphone in front of you to put this plan in place. Use it as part of an effective communication strategy and a winning business strategy.