1. Be genuine
Honesty and humility go a long way. Just because you’re addressing an audience doesn’t mean that you have to be perfect or infinitely knowledgeable. Open with something your audience can relate to: life as we all know it. Sharing a few non-specific or less sensitive details about obstacles or failures relating to the presentation topic can go a long way in connecting with your audience on a personal level.
Just be yourself and let your own voice and personality shine through. You don’t need to be stiff and conservative to look professional. It’s a lot easier for your audience to listen to a real story told by a real person than to sit through a formal presentation.
Avoid clichés and technical jargon as these phrases tend to lose meaning when they are over used. Instead, try to find more original ways to get your message across. In short, keep it natural and let others learn from your experience and mistakes.
2. Invite participation
People are often more interested in themselves than in what you have to say. Make it clear that your audience can feel free to interrupt you in order to make comments or ask questions. This makes the flow of your presentation real and useful to your specific audience and means that they can participate in helping you provide the information they need. Ask regularly if anyone has questions. Perhaps your audience won’t feel comfortable to put up their hands at any given time so take the time to repeat your invitation for conversation. Also plan some time after your presentation to engage in further discussion as a group or on an individual level. Make sure to exchange some business cards in order to build on your new connections and continue the conversation online and into the future.
Always keep a contrast between the status quo and the dream that could be: people will be interested to act and participate when you present an idea that could make their business (and their life) better. Your presentation should answer this question from the audience’s perspective: “What’s in it for me?”
3. Keep it simple
Your audience should be able to interpret your slides within the first three seconds and keep their focus on what you’re saying at the same time. If it takes them longer, it’s too complex. We live in an era of information overload – don’t add to it.
A lot of PowerPoint presentations are too cluttered and you may not even realise that this takes away from your message. More isn’t always better. Don’t put everything on one slide. Stick to the basic, key thoughts (one idea or thought per slide) and let your audience complete the bigger picture in their own minds. It’s better not to repeat what your audience can see for themselves on the slide. Rather use side notes in order to help you remember what you want to say and to guide your audience’s thought process.
Consider using images rather than text to convey a key thought: if a picture speaks a thousand words this might help you get a fuller message across. Bullet points can be distracting. Rather let the audience concentrate on your voice than read through lists. This will mean more preparation from your side rather than relying on your slides to convey information – but of course being prepared is key in doing better presentations.
Each element on your slide should be there for a purpose. Don’t add anything that doesn’t add to your message in a simple, clear and concise way. Then end with a simple call to action that could lead to a significant gain or reward which makes adopting your ideas worth the effort.
More personal presentations can work wonders in engaging your audience. Balance the serious facts and figures with a few inspirational anecdotes in your own natural style and see for yourself how your confidence soars. Bottom line is, if you’re comfortable and having fun, your audience will too.