Making Engaging and Dynamic Presentations
By Laurie Brown
that you have spent the better part of two weeks working on an
important speech you plan to give to your company. You think you have
done everything right. You have created a PowerPoint presentation with
tons of information and flash animation. You have created handouts of
the slides for your audience, so they can follow along. Although you
haven’t had time to rehearse the presentation you are not worried,
because you have the entire speech typed out. You plan to read it
while you blow their socks off with the dynamic PowerPoint slides.
Everything should be perfect, right? Wrong!
were to look at your audience (which you cannot, because you are
reading your script) you would see them either riveted to the screen
or to the handout in front of them, but not at you. The audience
members who are eye weary from all the information you have packed
into the slides are closing their eyes just to rest them. What went
Experienced speakers know that to engage their audience, they must
build rapport. Reading from a script makes this difficult, if not impossible, because
connecting with an audience requires direct eye contact. No matter how
well written your speech, if you read your presentation to an
audience, you will lose them.
Reading to your audience can also make you seem less authoritative. The
audience wonders, "If you know so much about the topic, why can't
you just talk about it? Why are you reading?"
Here are five tips for getting and keeping your audience’s
Make Eye Contact: Free yourself from the written page and
demonstrate your expertise by using one of these ideas:
Memorization: If you want to memorize your speech,
it is helpful to rehearse it out loud just before you go to sleep
and right when you get up.
Outline: If you use the outline method to create
your script, you can simply go back and clean it up and use that
for the presentation. If you don’t have an outline prepared you
can create one using the major points of your presentation.
Key word method: This technique calls for you to
select key words from your script that represent a paragraph or
two of information. These key words should jog your memory so that
you can speak extemporaneously. You can use a single page of key
words, or place them on 3x5 cards (always number the cards). If
you are a visually oriented person you can find an image that
represents the key word and create a pictogram.
Teleprompter: Nothing helps you maintain good eye
contact without memorization like the teleprompter.
speaking to an audience, you want to make everyone in the audience
feel that the message is being directed to them personally. If you
find that actually looking into the eyes of your audience is difficult
and distracting, look at the tops of their heads which will create the
illusion that you are speaking directly to them.
to include the whole audience, use a “Z” pattern. Start by looking
at the front left section of the audience. After finishing your
thought, turn your gaze to the front right section. Again, finish your
thought and direct your gaze to the center section. Then look at the
rear left section and after completing your thought look to the rear
Know your audience: The more you know about your audience’s wants,
needs and level of understanding, the better able you are to craft a
speech they will feel compelled to listen to. Too often speakers give
the same presentation to different groups. “Generic” speeches tend
to lose most of the audience. A speech needs to be relevant and
to make sure that you are using words and ideas that are easily
grasped by your audience. This doesn’t mean you have to “dumb
down” your speech, but it does mean checking to make sure that you
are not using jargon or acronyms that are only known by a few.
audience is always thinking, “What’s in this for me?” Keep this
question in mind when you craft your speech.
Throw away your PowerPoint: I think that there is no other element
of a presentation that can bore an audience more quickly than
PowerPoint slides. Okay, I know you are starting to curse at me now.
Get rid of PowerPoint? Well,
maybe I need to restate that. You can keep PowerPoint, if you use it
properly and effectively and not as an eye sight test. Follow these
Choose an easy font to read, such as Arial or
Font size should be at least 28 pt (bulleted items
should be at least 22 pt).
Use colors carefully (reds and oranges are hard to
Don’t crowd too many words on the screen (3
lines of type is more than enough).
Keep the slides simple, clean and easy to read.
View the PowerPoint presentation on the screen
after you have created the slides and prior to your presentation.
Check for ease of readability. The slides really do look different
on the screen.
Don’t read the slides verbatim. Quite frankly,
most of your audience will be able to read the slide, so why
the most powerful PowerPoints are those that use only pictures, a key
word or phrase or graphics. There is no reason to simply use a slide
to repeat what you have said. Instead, use a visual aid to reinforce
your point. It is true that a picture is worth a thousand words.
direct your audiences attention to the screen and back to you. Simply
turn your gaze to the screen for a moment or two and then look back to
your audience. These subtle cues allow your audiences attention to
move from the screen then back to you.
Give hand-outs after your presentation: If you are making a
presentation that has a lot of important and/or technical information,
you can provide a hand-out, but only after the presentation. If people
have your slides while you are speaking they tend to read ahead or
stay glued to the hand-out and not to you. If you give them the hand
out after your presentation, it will reinforce all of your material
without stealing attention from you.
Rehearse: I know people hate to rehearse. It is hard not to feel
silly when practicing your speech. However, there is nothing that
helps a speaker more than the familiarity and ease you get from saying
the words out loud. (Yes, it does make a difference to say the words
out loud.) I practice when
I am in my car driving alone or while on the treadmill at home. The
shower can also be a great place to practice.
ideas with your next presentation. Even if you only use one or two of
these tips, you will have taken a huge step toward being the speaker
that your audience will be compelled to stay awake and listen to. No
one will be snoring in the back row.
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