Whether you’re speaking at a meeting, conference or training event, business presentations are a fact of working life. Done well, they can be captivating and a winning way to convey important information. Done badly, and you’ll run the risk of losing your audience’s attention.
Recent research has shown that nearly half of those listening to a presentation don’t give the speaker their full attention, and this figure rises sharply after the first 10 minutes. Distractions include sending text messages, checking emails and, yes, even falling asleep!
Luckily, there are several ways in which you can increase engagement with your audience so they will stay alert and focused, and ready to take in what you have to say.
1 – Help to break the ice
The first thing you need to do, even before you begin your presentation, is to get everyone in the room to focus on the here and now, resetting their minds and leaving the rest of their workday outside. Simple ice breaker exercises can be really helpful here. Whether you ask people to simply say hello to the person sitting next to them, share their favourite movie or holiday destination, or find out what they’re hoping to get from your presentation, it’s important to get people to interact to create a sense of team.
2 – Be a story teller
No-one likes dry facts and figures, however well the information may be presented. Instead, inject some life into the proceedings by personalising your content. For your attendees, it’s much easier to relate to a personal experience, so why not turn your message into a story or drop in the occasional anecdote? Storytelling is the most universal way to captivate the attention of an audience. Before you know it, you’ll have them on the edge of their seats desperate to hear what happened next…
3 – Use additional visuals
OK, so you’ve got your PowerPoint slides but so does every other speaker. What can you offer that makes you stand out? Video is a great tool to enliven your presentation – no wonder when you consider that over 6 billion hours of video are watched on YouTube every month! Physical props are another good way to focus your audience’s attention. Whether you give a product demo, use a quirky prop or even a member of the audience to help you visualise and reinforce a key message, it’s be a memorable way to make the point.
4 – Try non linear presenting
Rather than predictably plodding through your slides in numerical sequence, increase audience engagement by mixing things up. Talk about the ‘big picture’ by highlighting the relationships between your ideas. Or present the main points, then let your audience choose the direction they want your presentation to take. Not only will your speech be tailored exactly to your audience’s interests and needs, they’ll appreciate and remember it for a long time.
5 – Make time for questions
It is a well known fact that any audience’s attention span will drop significantly after just 10 minutes. That’s when it’s time to stop and check in with your attendees. Perhaps lighten the mood with a short anecdote, or ask if anyone has any questions? You could initiate a short discussion on a particular point to re-energise the audience? You can also turn teacher and ask questions yourself, perhaps with a view to creating a summary together of the material covered thus far.
6 – Ask the audience
For instant engagement with your audience, there’s nothing like a quick straw poll. Whether you ask for a simple show of hands or use electronic audience response keypads, this is an exercise that helps participants to think about your question and the answer they’re going to give. A live poll creates a welcome mental break in the middle of the presentation and bonds your audience by way of a shared experience.
7 – Share the stage
Make your presentation more interactive by inviting other participants to contribute on stage. Whether you ask external speakers, colleagues or audience members to help you put together your presentation, it’s more memorable when there’s more than one person. Take a leaf out of Steve Jobs’ book, for instance. Rather than hogging all the glory, he always made a point of inviting several speakers including partners, executives and designers to help him introduce the latest Apple product.
If you need professional help to find the perfect venue for your next presentation or business event, contact Best Venues London on 020 7186 8687. We offer a fast, free one-stop shop service for all types of venues along with a wealth of event planning expertise to ensure your meeting goes exactly as you wish.