By Peggy Noe Stevens
1. Engage attention – Instead of a pointless gimmick or a questionable joke, deliver an experience or an interactive moment that orients them to the work at hand. I am a firm believer that every presentation is a story to be told. Thinking back to your childhood, do you remember how engaged you were when a story was read to you at bedtime or by a teacher at school? You and any other children around hung on every word, waiting for the next big move from the main character. Adult audiences are no different.
2. Establish credibility – Provide your background in a few sentences to preemptively answer why you are speaking. Also, do your homework and know your audience.
3. Deliver a message with impact – Just as a good story has a central theme, so too does your presentation need to have a central message. Your entire presentation should focus on delivering this message in as engaging a manner as possible. Give careful attention to visual images and metaphors keeping the message clear. While visually rich content is desirable, too many bells and whistles can over stimulate the audience and drown the message. Also, use real-life examples. They offer something relevant to the audience and paint a picture in their minds. Finally, use signpost phrases like “My point is this” and “The most important thing to remember is” act as signs that point to important concepts.
4. Ensure that information is retained – This technique is simple and straightforward—just ask. I purposely stop at certain times during my presentation, whether it is to a crowd or in a one-on-one meeting, and ask, “Are you with me? Is this clear to you?” Sometimes the audience will just nod their heads yes in an attempt to move on, but don’t forget to read their faces: Are they perplexed? Does it look as though they are processing the information? Don’t continue to unload new information on them unless you know where they stand. Additionally, remember to SLOW DOWN where necessary and memorize your closing making sure you leave them with the main message of your presentation.