While communication comes more naturally to some people than others, nobody is born with a power suit and laser pointer in their hand. Every great public speaker — from Socrates to Steve Jobs — has had to learn the art of presenting.
Whether you’re presenting an idea to a team of five or a room of 500, there are some proven steps to capturing people’s attention and driving your message home.
1. Start with an introduction
If you’re presenting to an audience of people you’ve never met or don’t know well, start by helping them get to know you. This opens a dialogue and creates a more personal setting. Talking about yourself is easy (nothing to memorize!), so it can help ease your nerves before getting into the meat of your presentation.
Explain a bit about your background and share why you’re qualified to speak on the subject matter. This increases your credibility and will prime the audience to buy into your idea.
2. Set up the presentation framework
After introducing yourself, give the audience a preview of what they’re about to see and hear. Share a brief outline of what you’ll be presenting. This sets the expectations and gives the audience a roadmap to follow.
Creating structure for the conversation will allow your audience to better connect with the content and keep them engaged because they know what’s around the corner.
Set the stage by sharing the following information with your audience:
- What the presentation is about
- Why it’s relevant
- What they’ll get out of it
3. Engage the audience with great storytelling
Not every topic is interesting to everyone, but your delivery can make a huge impact on how engaging and memorable your presentation is. Use images, videos, and relatable anecdotes to relate to your audience and entertain them.
Listening to someone stating facts and figures or reading a bunch of bullet points is boring and forgettable. Think about how to get that same information across but in a way you would enjoy learning.
4. Get people talking
While it may not be possible in every situation, if you can use audience participation in your presentation, definitely do.
People only retain about 20% of the information they hear but 80% of what they see or do. So when your audience participates in the conversation, the amount of information they retain increases.
Asking questions allows you to talk less and causes the audience to think more. Just be intentional about the questions you ask, and keep the back and forth brief — the audience did come to hear from you, after all.
5. Use swag and giveaways
People love getting free stuff. It doesn’t really even matter what it is. Getting tossed a tootsie roll for answering a question can feel like a major win for your audience members.
If you’re speaking on behalf of your organization or company, giving away some branded swag is a way to engage the audience while doing a little promotion as well. (If you’re on a budget, candy still works just as well.)
6. Be consistent with your message
While you introduce visual aids, storytelling, and audience participation into your talk, don’t forget the point of it all. Whatever your message is, make it clear, consistent, and memorable.
Winston Churchill once said: “If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time — a tremendous whack.”