It is always a burning question for any presenter — how do I make my presentation interesting and keep my audience engaged? Certainly presentations are now a part of everyone’s daily working life, ranging, for example, from explaining strategic processes to giving financial data.
In today’s highly competitive business environment, it is essential that you deliver attractive, interesting, engaging and stylish presentations. Here are some creative presentation ideas to give you that “edge” when you give presentations.
Know thy audience:
The first place to start is to gain a very firm grasp on who exactly your audience will be. Of course, once you know this, then you can adopt your style accordingly.
Obviously the more visual impact your slides have, the more the audience will be attentive. So really take a step back from your slides and ask if factually dry data can be displayed with some kind of visual attraction. Viable possibilities include pictures, colours or key word headings that will catch your audience’s attention.
While we are on the topic of visuals, do not forget that you yourself are also in your audience’s focus when giving your presentation. So look good, look calm and shine with personality. No matter what the topic, any audience would always prefer a smiling face to a growling scowl.
You know there is a lovely word, which was actually accepted in 2004 into the Concise Oxford Dictionary “va-va-voom” which means the quality of being exciting, vigorous or attractive. These qualities capture the ideal presenter. So next time you are presenting something, ask yourself, “Am I or does my presentation have va-va-voom?”
Setting the scene:
Once you have your slides ready and the moment to begin has come, it is a really great idea to inform your audience who you are, what the topic is, and above all, to outline the structure and timing of the presentation as well as instructions on how to deal with questions that arise. In this way the audience will have an idea of how the presentation will unfold and, more importantly, exactly how long it should take and whether they can interrupt as you go or wait until the end of the presentation for a “question-answer” session.
This is always great to know, as some of your audience can then prepare themselves for the session, knowing that they will be there for maybe 15 minutes plus a 10 minute question session or a 20 minute presentation with a 10 minute question session. And it has to be said that psychologically, if I personally know that I have to sit and listen for 20 minutes, then I am fully prepared for it. There is nothing worse than sitting through an endless presentation wondering how much longer and how many more slides there are to see. Such an undefined presentation timeframe can potentially annoy and bore and that is exactly what you do not want.
Language during the presentation:
Certainly if you are speaking in your native language, then the actual language you use should signal and sign post exactly where you are and what you are conveying as information. Use your structural language wisely in the following ways:
- Indicate slides
- Point out data
- Highlight and emphasise interesting points
- Sequence and list when necessary
- Tell the audience at all times when you are moving to the next slide, the next data, the next topic
- Always make your audience your accomplice.
Furthermore, engage the audience by asking them questions. Get them involved and be interactive if the topic allows for that. You want your audience to be intersted and alert at all times. Use light and shade in your voice, tell jokes or use irony if the situation permits, and make it entertaining, even if you are just presenting straight-forward dry financial data.
If, however, you are presenting in a language that is not your own native language, then prepare well and in particular, learn the signpost language of presentations. Rehearse with a language coach; if you do not feel confident, then write out the presentation and use the text as a back-up or write key words and vocabulary on white cards and use these as cues for each slide to give you the back up of the vocabulary in the language. Avoid words you have difficulty saying; one of my clients had problems with the word “legislation” so we changed it to “the law.” Also, write out numbers in words because often when you just write numbers on cue cards, you will find through your nervousness that you flounder when saying the numbers aloud in the heat of the moment.
Try to pay attention to the time that is running – are you within time? Can you already foresee that time is going to run out? Keep the audience informed if you are going to need more time than you had planned or if question time is running over the allotted time. Then you could ask if they mind staying a little longer in order to be able to deal with all questions and issues that have arisen. At least if you give people a choice, they can then decide if they have to slip out or if they can in fact remain longer than planned.
The final moments:
So you made it to the end of the presentation. It is always nice and good manners to thank your audience for their attention and, if they were particularly interactive, then thank them for participating and for turning your presentation into a lively and no doubt beneficial discussion. In
In addition, always take some time later to really reflect on how it went. Ask yourself if you connected with your audience fully or if there was something that you could have done to make a better connection. Other great, relevant questions to ask yourself include the following:
- How was the slide show?
- Did the audience react to it?
- How well did you handle the structure and the sign-posting?
- What about the language?
- Were there any comprehension problems at any point and if so, why?
- What could be improved next time and what could be changed to make it even better?
Remember, never be complacent. Always practice these creative presentation ideas and aim for better with each presentation. As the old adage says — “practice makes perfect”.