In today’s business environment, how to persuade and entertain an audience seems to be a perennial concern, so let’s take a look at five classic techniques and tips for powerful presentations.
Follow these and you’ll be on your way.
1. Pick the Right Time
Research shows that the best time of day for presentations is around 10:30 AM. In the midmorning, both morning and afternoon types will be alert. If at all possible, avoid presenting right before or after lunch, or in the late afternoon, especially within the final hour of the workday. You don’t want to fight the restlessness of a hungry stomach or the lethargy of a full one, nor do you want to struggle against the afternoon energy slump.
Of course, the timing of your presentation isn’t always up to you. If you get stuck with a bad time, the next four tips become all the more important.
2. Keep it Short
Never add content to lengthen a program when it isn’t necessary. If you do, people will get bored fast. They can tell when you’re feeding them fluff. You never want them leaving a presentation thinking, “Man, he could’ve said that in 15 minutes but instead he wasted an hour of my time.” Keep it on point and your audience will be happy.
3. Involve the Audience
It’s difficult to hold people’s attention for over 20 minutes. One solution is to keep the audience involved. Try injecting humor to get a laugh, or asking a few questions. When I’m speaking to audiences about the importance of selecting a stable company for employment, I always say, “Let me see a show of hands if you ever knew someone who lost their job because their company was poorly managed and went bankrupt.” Hands always shoot up in the audience. This technique gets people thinking about how the content I’m delivering relates to their own lives, and helps them get engaged with my talk.
4. Make an Emotional Connection
Connect an emotion to your message and it will be remembered. When I speak to audiences about the importance of having the right job, I often try to motivate and engage them by rousing their emotions: “You should see your job as enjoyable. If you’re not happy, find a job where you are. Life is not a dress rehearsal. We only get to go around once. Don’t end up on your death bed feeling like you wasted your life.” When you use emotions and mental pictures, people internalize the message, and it stays in their minds.
5. Use Visuals
Research shows that some of us favor auditory learning while others are visual or kinesthetic learners. That means that some portion of your audience is always going to learn better through seeing or doing. You’ll help the kinesthetic learners somewhat by involving them in your presentation (see point three), but you can also include the visual learners by enhancing your words with helpful graphics. These will also improve learning and attention for all kinds of learners.
One caveat, though: Don’t over-rely on your visual aids. PowerPoint and Keynote are great applications, but don’t read the slides. Speak to what they show. You want your audience focused on your message, not just on the slides.
There they are: five timeless tips for better presentations.
I’ll even throw in a bonus tip—an idea that’s often repeated, but that I still find to be a helpful reminder. Start your presentations with a summary of your talk and then end with a short review of what has been covered. We can shorten this concept thusly: “Tell ’em what you’re going to tell ’em; tell ’em; and then tell ’em what you told ’em.” Repetition equals retention.
Now that you’ve had a refresher, get out there and start presenting.