Ways to present with confidence and keep your audience engaged
Steps to an effective presentation
To give an effective group presentation two things must happen, one – the presenter must be comfortable to speak in front of a group, regardless of its size, and two – the presenter must keep their audience engaged and interested throughout the entire presentation.
I am not including the obvious steps that one must take prior to the presentation, such as: conducting detailed research about the topic to be presented on, creating presentation outline or agenda, and ensure that all necessary room arrangements are completed, such as: location, presentation materials, audio and visual technology, and room temperature. All these steps are must before any presentation and can be completed by almost any moderately experienced presenter. However, feeling comfortable and relaxed during presentation, even with the top level executives present vs. feeling nervous and scared, as well as being able to keep your audience engaged, is a step that must be mastered if we want to take our presentation and our message to the next level.
How to feel more comfortable and relaxed during presentation?
Many speakers, even more experienced, still feel nervous whenever they need to step onto the state or in the conference room to present. They’ve done their preparation, they know the content and what they want to discuss and share with listeners/attendees, however, for some reason fear and nervousness comes to play whenever it’s a go time. Why is that the case? A lot of times the presentation that we give can determine our future growth or advancement within the company or implementation of the initiative we are presenting on. Therefore, we are so afraid that we may make a mistake that will destroy any opportunities we may be going after. Even though we have spent countless hours studying and preparing our presentation, we still feel that we may have missed something.
You can never know everything, and that OK
Here’s a thing, we can never know everything. There’s always going to be something that we do not know, regardless of all the research and study completed, and that is completely normal. In most situations and presentations, we should know and be ready to answer most questions coming our way from the audience, as long as we’ve done necessary amount of research and preparation beforehand. If there’s a one off question that you do not know, you should be comfortable to take that question offline for further research and provide the answer at the later time. It is better to do that than pretending that you know the answer and make something up, it is rather obvious when a person does not know the answer and is trying to create something out of thin air. Don’t be that person. Instead, take down the question, and ask the person asking it if you can come back to them with the answer after the meeting, as you need to look into it further. Knowing this process and expectations, speaker/presenter should feel more comfortable going into the presentation.
You are speaking to people, not robots
When you are presenting in front of others, remember that they are people, just like you are, regardless of different titles they might have achieved within the company or outside of your immediate business. Therefore, please know that if you are observed as very nervous and scared, your audience will quickly recognize it and will use it to see how well you present under pressure and will typically test your level of understanding of the topic presented to the smallest detail. In this case, the perception that your audience may receive is if you didn’t prepare enough or know much about the topic you are presenting on, and that is why you are nervous. So, take it easy, relax, you know the subject or topic inside and out, assuming you did you necessary preparation beforehand, you’ve lived it for some time, there’s nothing that you could be asked that you don’t already know the answer to, and even if there is something you might have missed during the research, you can take the question offline and come back with an answer later in the presentation or after the meeting. With all these things in mind, there should be no reason for anyone to be nervous or scared to step in a room full of people and present with ease and confidence.
How do you keep your audience engaged throughout the entire presentation?
Best way you can do that is by going into the presentation not with a plan to speak for most of the presentation, but with an objective to create a conversation vs. monologue. Nobody want to sit in a room for 1+ hours just to listen for someone to speak the entire time. If you take most of the presentation to yourself, people will quickly disconnect from the presentation and disconnect from you as a presenter. However, if listeners feel that they are actually part of the presentation where they are encouraged to share their opinions and feedback, they would be much more connected to you and the content.
It's never about you, and always about the listener…
One way you can keep your audience engaged is by pausing regularly and checking for understanding, while welcoming input and ideas from all attendees. Remember, it is never about you, and all about the listener. Think about this when you are building your presentation. You may have created a very beautiful presentation deck with advanced graphics, images and other content, this deck may be 50+ slides long, and you may think that It’s great, but ask yourself if your audience would feel the same. Considering your indented audience, do you feel that they would be interested watching you present slides full of detailed content for 1+ hours and still be engaged? In most cases these type of presentations end with “Do you have any questions?” and there’s silence in the room, or the answer is “No,” because, everyone is checked out and ready to get out the room to go about their business. Therefore, remember to build your presentation around your intended audience to create engagement, allowing multiple opportunities to ask questions and provide input, and create a dialogue. You should be a facilitator of the conversation where your audience does most of the talking, not the other way around. Focus on telling the story vs. reading the information off the slide, people can read on their own. Discuss key points and takeaways, inviting feedback and input from others.
These few points should help you to enhance your presentation and turn it into a productive and engaging two way conversation, where audience chooses to be part of it vs. being required to attend. Additionally, you will receive effective and constructive feedback you are seeking in order to move project or idea forward.
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