We’re all presenting virtually all the time. Interviewing for a new job? That’s a presentation, and you’re the brand. Giving a PowerPoint demonstration to your supervisor or board? That’s a presentation, quite possibly one that could catapult your career or set you back a few notches. Don’t let those opportunities go by without maximizing your chances for success.
Here are some ideas to help you stand out when you’re speaking to a professional audience.
1- Involve your audience early… & often
Listeners want to be engaged, not bored. Right out of the gate, give them a reason to sit through your presentation. You have 30 to 90 seconds to grab their attention. Throw out the old rule of starting with a joke. Bad idea. I’ve got news for you: You’re not Chris Rock.
Don’t get me wrong — injecting a humorous aside is perfectly acceptable. But throwing out such an aside is a lot different than starting with, “Two guys walk into a bar…”. Instead, start by asking a question. I’ve seen this technique work wonders. It brings your listeners into the discussion, and sets an informal, but positive tone. Another technique used by master presenters is to refer to one or two people in the audience by name.
2- Be animated
The best presentations are given by people who are animated in both body language and vocal delivery (we’ll get to the latter in a moment). Resist the temptation to hide behind a podium or to stand in one place. When I work with clients, I place a video camera in one fixed position. If they move out of frame consistently during the course of the presentation, they’re animated.
Try this next time: When speaking to a group of 20 people or more, walk among your audience as you speak. Stop every once in a while, placing your hand gently on one of your listeners’ shoulders (it might help to know the person the first few times you do this). Walking in the audience will help you retain their attention and create a special bond with them.
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