5 Ways To Keep Your Audience From Checking Facebook During Your Presentation
August 12, 2015
It isn’t easy: There’s too much vying for our attention these days, and our attention spans are shorter. But you can keep them listening.
It used to be harder to tell when an audience wasn’t listening to your presentation. There were always some clues, like that glassy-eyed look, or the more blatant round-the-room glances and stifled yawns.
These days, a downward look doesn’t necessarily indicate deep concentration and thought. Instead, it means that your audience is checking email or Instagram.
You probably have many of your own ideas about how to do a good presentation, based on all of the bad presentations you’ve attended. We’ve all tried to follow the messages delivered by a speaker who droned on so long that those messages were lost. Or the one who wouldn’t make eye contact with anyone – or worse, focused his or her attention solely on one poor individual in the front row.
Here are a few of the things that I try to do (or not do). Sometimes they work.
- Know who your audience is, and speak their language. Your presentation to a bunch of 30-year-olds is going to be different than the one you’d give at a gathering of seasoned sales VPs. Don’t tell jokes or anecdotes that the younger crowd won’t get, and don’t use cultural references that only millennials will understand when you address a crowd whose average age is 50.
- Don’t try to dazzle your audience by maxing out PowerPoint’s features. It’s a good idea to have graphics and text running on a device during your presentation, but keep your screens really, really simple. Use easily-readable fonts and bullet points. You’re using visual aids to reinforce the messages you’re trying to get across. The audience
shouldn’t be distracted by a lot of words or flashing pictures.
- See how few words you can use to sum up your primary message(s). You probably know a whole lot about the topic you’re going to present. Your audience probably doesn’t. Don’t try to impart your entire body of knowledge on them in 60 minutes. There’s only so much they can absorb. It’s better to expand on a few main points than to give short shrift to many.
- Time your presentation prior to show time. This is tricky. People speak an average of 75-100 words/minute, but know your own speed before you decide how much you can say. Write a 200-word paragraph and read it aloud as if you had an audience besides the cat. But don’t time a presentation to completely fill your allotted slot. You’ll have interruptions and – hopefully – questions and comments at the end. You may speak slower or faster if you’re nervous, so be aware of that.
- Have contingency plans. It probably won’t happen, but you could run short on your allotted time. Maybe you left time for questions and there weren’t any, for example. Have some FAQs or additional slides loaded and ready to go, and have everything backed up to a USB drive.
If you don’t like to give presentations but you must, or if the prospect of standing in front of a crowd just plain makes you nervous, some smart preparation will make it easier. You might even start to enjoy it.
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