How to make presentation effective and keep your audience interested

Make Your Presentation Effective: listening Skills are as Important as Speaking Skills

It's not always convenient to listen to a whole room full of people during your presentation, but there are ways in which you can use listening skills to hone your presentation so that it is more effective.

I quite often am in a situation where I will have to present an important line of thinking, and I will do some preliminary work with my prospective listeners.

1) I will discuss with individuals what they think of my proposal. This achieves a couple of things.  First it means that they have a chance to ask me questions about what it is I am suggesting, so that they can get clear in their own minds the line of thought.  Secondly I am able to refine my own ideas so that I can either change my presentation, or realise that my first suggestion won't work

2) If you struggle to be able to remember what people are saying in a board meeting to you as they ask questions, simply ask if they mind if you make notes!  The alternative is to listen carefully to keywords and use memory techniques to mentally note what they are saying.  Don't try to formulate your response or argument until you have heard everything they have to say, otherwise you may be answering the wrong thing.

Eye contact to connect with individuals and reduce nerves

3) Humour, persona/personality, and an Effective Presentation

We will come to this in more detail a little later in another hub, but it deserves consideration. I frequently use my personality to negotiate some of the more boring elements of what I need to speak about in an educational context. I am also very interactive in my style and expect to take the crowd along with me. There is nothing wrong with using the gifts and skills you were born with, but again appropriateness is key. Don’t go mad at a funeral.

If you are going to hold the attention of your audience then there are three points to remember.

1) Presentation Effective Communication Skills: Does Your Subject Relate?

I think I will be saying this over an over – this is already the second or third time. It’s crucial! Please make sure that if you are invited to go and speak somewhere you are VERY clear as to the theme or information that you are being asked to communicate, the age of the audience, the social grouping of the audience, how many there are. Then do some research! Look on the internet at what the people in that area do for a living, or spend their time doing as a hobby. Get to know them as if they were your best friend! If you were talking to your best friend you would want to talk about what interests them, not that you are the proud collector of milk cartons from 1908 (or whenever!)

2) Use the Right Language for the Audience to Make Your Presentation Effective

I have a bit of a hang up about using bad language. It isn’t necessary. If you have to use crude words as a shock tactic then you really aren’t crafting your work. Near me there is a clean comedy club that is very well attended month after month. Last week when they asked if they could swear a bit the crowd called back no! Unfortunately there are many comedians who do this these days, and whilst popular the style will eventually wane. Keep ahead of the crowd. Equally, using profanity (God’s name for example) won’t go down well in some places. Try to avoid it, you don’t need to. You are more likely to alienate believers from a number of faiths by swearing or profaning than you will other folks who have no preferences if you leave out those phrases. Chances are they won’t even notice – but trust me, keep the phrases in and those religious sorts will!

Other language considerations go back to the ‘relate’ issue. Does your language relate? Are there ‘in-house’ phrases you use that they won’t understand… or even that you must use for them to understand? If they are educated the you must use more complex language, especially if it is in an educational context. Be aware though that in some organisations you may have new employees who will feel excluded if you use inclusive language. If in doubt, be clear.

How to develop presentation effective nonverbal communication skills

You make your first impression within 10 seconds. The way you walk. The way you hold yourself. The way you react to your audience. Non-verbal communication is more important than what you say sometimes.

A casual flick of the hand can show emotion. Whilst someone who waves their hands around too much can be distracting.

Getting used to non-verbal communication that we all give off, often called body language, is a crucial skill to develop, both in terms of the awareness of the signals that you are giving off, and the signals that other people are giving to you. Here is one particular skill that I have developed personally when engaged in personal situations where I need to win someone over. And it all sounds very suspect...and probably is! But it does work.

Mirroring is a sign that someone is sympathetic to the person who they are listening to, so you can use it to your advantage. Don't be too obvious, and let it come naturally, but when you are listening to your prospective client, take a moment to start mirroring them. After a while you will get a sense that they are ready to listen to you, so shift your position. And if you have them, they will shift their body to match yours. At which point you immediately mention your key point that you would like them to remember. It works time after time.

If you have a number of people to influence in a meeting, I have found that to get the person who everyone else looks up to onside using this technique, and winning them over to my side before the meeting, makes the end result much surer in my favor. Of course, none of this is replacement for good preparation, but it will add some sugar to it.

Developing Skills To Make Your Presentation Effective: Feedback is Essential

It's not something everyone wants to here: criticism.  However it is essential if you are to make any sort of progress in your presentation and communication skills.  Following are some pointers that you could address.

1) Try to avoid asking people generalities such as 'so, what did you think?'  They will no doubt tell you whether or not they agreed with your content. Rather, ask them specifically if what you said made sense.

2) Ask if there are any mannerisms that people find distracting

3) Did you begin clearly with an introduction, lead concisely through your points, and finish with a satisfactory conclusion that was stated just once.  One problem many people have is not knowing how to finish so they go round and round repeating themselves.  Sometimes it's a good idea to actually write down your final line, or at least learn it verbatim.

4) Ask if the length of the presentation was right.

5) Were the visuals appropriate?  Often people put too much text into their presentations.  If you divide the attention of someone then they will listen to only a fraction of what you are saying.  Avoid putting quotes up in texts.  If you have statistics, keep them graphical rather than numbers.  If you really must have numbers, then distribute them before the presentation if possible, or at least have them on hand outs.  Have images that connect with your key points rather than just there to brighten up otherwise dull presenations.

6) Your personality is the most important feature, but is there anything in it which rubs people up the wrong way?

It isn't going too far to actually create some sort of feedback form that lists these items, and if you look for feedback from people you will find that you won't be as offended when they give it. Of course, you have to take it on board.  Make a note of the main points, and when you next practice your presentation skills, have them jotted down in front of you things to watch out for.  Bear in mind that they are often mannerisms and habits that you have developed over years, and it may take some time to unlearn them. I for example have a tendency to always talk too fast: I have discovered that it is worse when I have a microphone!  So I have to make a mental note to slow down!

In the next hub I will offer some advice on creating presentation effective with content that enhances your message.

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Simon 5 years ago

Hi - great page! May I add one tiny note of caution though (your points in general are spot on!).

Treat mirroring with caution. Firstly, if you're not sufficiently in rapport with your 'target' it will look false. In any case, if someone spots you doing it, it'll blow up in your face!

Secondly, it's an old NLP trick and like much NLP misses the point in some way: mirroring isn't the *cause* of rapport but more of a result of *being* in rapport. Use with care!


AndrewGee profile image

AndrewGee 5 years ago Author

Indeed - perhaps I should have given more weight to that warning. thanks loads for pointing it out

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