I give a lot of seminars. I’ve learned over the years that audience engagement is a critical component of a successful presentation—and the key to gaining additional opportunities to present, which furthers your brand and highlights your expertise. It can also lead to new business.
Within the past year, I have given presentations at the Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN), Final Salute, the Public Relations Society of America-NY Chapter and Sterling Women of Washington, DC. To build upon your own speaking success, here are five tips that really work in engaging audiences:
Provide actionable material
We have all attended presentations where we leave and go “OK, what was that about?” When preparing your talk, don’t go for 30,000 foot views. Get granular, and provide information that attendees can immediately incorporate into their business models. And tell them at the start of your lecture they will be receiving that nuts-and-bolts information. I always see attendees perk up and whip out their notebooks when they hear that.
Closely watch your audience
Are they taking notes? Nodding in agreement? Or gazing out the window? Being able to read your audience will allow you to determine which points are resonating, and where your presentation may be dragging. For the latter, you may need to quickly make an on-the-spot adjustment. You can jump to another point or shorten the section that is making more than one pair of eyes glaze over.
Keep content light
If you’re using PowerPoint, don’t overwhelm slides with copy. That looks cluttered and is distracting. Your PowerPoint should be a tight outline with minimal content. Spice up your slides with graphics and motion—it will complement your speech while keeping your audience’s attention.
Interact with attendees
Ask questions. Let them know it’s OK to make a quick comment during the actual presentation. Aside from keeping attendees on their toes, it will make them feel they are a part of the presentation.
Use your voice—or not
A 30-minute presentation in a monotone voice is akin to nails screeching against a blackboard – unbearable. The voice can be a powerful tool. Use different tones and inflections. Plus, it’s OK to pause every now and then to underscore a particularly important point. Silence can absolutely capture attention.
Here’s a bonus tip—keep it moving!
Don’t stand stock still behind a podium. Work the room by walking around it. Walk the aisle, pause at the room’s mid-point and continue your presentation there. You’re forcing your audience to follow you, which translates into deeper listening.
If you have additional advice, feel free to share. The better we each are, the stronger we all will be.
This post originally appeared on Jennefer Witton’s LinkedIn page; reprinted with permission.