Once you’ve learned exciting new information at a conference or in a class, the next step might be to share with colleagues or members of your chapter. However, no one wants to be the person at the water cooler who won’t stop talking about their exciting experience; instead, you can arrange an opportunity to present this information to everyone at once through a special training or education session. But how can you be sure your excitement and the reasoning behind it are successfully conveyed? Here are some tips for giving an effective and memorable presentation.
Think Like an Entertainer
The first step to giving an effective presentation is deciding your overall point, or thesis. Maybe you want to share the information to solve a problem, or help others be more efficient, or because it’s highly relevant to the future of your industry. Whatever the reason you want to catch the attention of the crowd, try to think like an entertainer as you decide on the structure, order, and content of your presentation.
Lead with a Hook: The best presentations are stories that give us an “aha” moment, according to Forbes. If you frame the presentation as a mystery that you and the audience are on the journey to solve, they’ll be waiting for the answers to fall into place.
Self-Edit the Narrative: It’s essential not to overwhelm your audience with information or try to summarize a huge lesson in one presentation. You might be able to share the content of one session at your conference, or one learning unit from your class, but hitting the audience with a full “brain dump” is likely to cause them to tune out. Research has shown that one week after a presentation, audiences only remember 10 percent of the information on average. Consider this as you decide what to include and emphasize.
Create Supportive Visuals
One study from the University of North Carolina found that presentations given in an audio-only format with no visuals might lead to higher recall in the audience. With that said, many presenters and audience members alike expect and rely on tools like PowerPoint and Prezi to keep the flow moving. If you plan to use visuals during your presentation, here are some more tips to consider.
Don’t Overuse Charts, Graphs, and Data: According to presentation guru Nancy Duarte, who has assisted executives in delivering amazing business presentations since 1988, it’s important to share just the right amount of data in a chart or graph. “You need to highlight the most important items to ensure that your audience can follow your train of thought and focus on the right elements,” she writes on the Duarte company blog. “Using a lot of crazy colors, extra labels, and fancy effects won’t captivate an audience. That kind of visual clutter dilutes the information and can even misrepresent it.” Instead, be sure the visuals enforce your key concepts, and then provide the finer details in a handout the audience can take away with them.
Mix Up the Provided Templates: From the colors and layout of the slides to the content itself, it’s important to break the mold of a typical presentation if you want better-than-typical results in your audience. For instance, one study published in Technical Communication magazine demonstrated that using a full sentence as the slide headline versus just a few key words led to significantly higher audience recall. Refer back to our blog from last year about preparing for a presentation for more insights about presentation formats and styles, as well as some public speaking tips.
Reinforce Information Through Audience Interaction
Lastly, a great way to ensure your presentation is memorable is to involve the audience. On a basic level, this means you need to memorize the presentation as much as possible, according to Harvard Business Review, and maintain eye contact with the audience. If you aren’t engaged with and focused on the audience, they won’t have any reason to focus on you in return. Additionally, there are some insights to share about rethinking audience interaction that will take your presentation to the next level.
Go Beyond the Show of Hands: Asking people to raise their hands or shout out a yes-or-no answer is not full engagement, according to Forbes contributor Nick Morgan. “You need to make the audience do some of the work. That way, the audience will feel like it owns, at least in part, the result,” he advised in a blog for the publication. Some of the specific activities he mentions as alternatives are getting the audience to tell a story to their neighbor or asking them to handwrite or hand-draw something relevant to the core concept.
Ask for Feedback After the Show: A final way to help the audience retain what they learned and help you at the same time is to ask for feedback. Whether they complete an online survey or answer a few questions on paper, even a few responses will give you enough insight to review and improve before the next presentation.
Sharing information with others in a way that helps them learn, retain, and apply the concepts isn’t an exact formula. Overall, your audience wants to hear from you about the solution or insights you are bringing to the table. Remember the classic quote from Maya Angelou: “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” If your audience feels better equipped to solve or cope with a problem after your presentation, they will remember.