Stories Are Not Just for Bedtime
Stories at bedtime are often designed to put children asleep; but a well-crafted story that relates to a key point in your presentation will keep your audience wide awake and focused. That is our first tip for grabbing and keeping an audience’s attention. Here are a few more…
- Keep it short. Make your points clearly and cleanly and repeat them only for a quick summary at the beginning (for an executive audience) or end (for the audience take-away). There is no need to belabor the obvious. In fact lingering too long on one bullet will bore and even annoy your audience.
And beyond moving quickly through each major point, remember that it is always better to end early rather than late. Your audience will appreciate your respecting their time and you will have time for questions or to follow up with individuals as needed.
- Beware of how you use slides. Too many presenters “kill” their audience with too many slides and with slides that are too dense. Keep them simple and use them only as back-up to what should be the real center of attention—you. The worst faux-pas is to read them. If you have bullets, they should contain only the key words of your broader point. If you have a graphic, it should be a simple illustration of an overall concept.
- Watch your language. Do not speak in jargon. You cannot count on your audience being as familiar with industry-specific terms as you. Using overly technical, complicated language may sound impressive but you risk losing listeners who cannot follow your thinking. It would be like getting a diagnosis from a doctor who speaks not in simple lay terms but as if you had gone through medical training too.
- Use a story or two. How does this help a presentation? A story not only can illustrate the gist of a critical point but it can also engage your audience emotionally. By not overwhelming your listeners with dry facts and figures, they are much more likely to leave with a visual image that encapsulates a key thought. If you are reporting on climate change, for example, you can paint a picture of how the local area would be adversely affected…drought or flood, loss of flora or fauna, more extreme weather in winter or summer. The more personal and relevant the story, the more it will grab and stick.