Think of all the times in your life you’ve been lectured to. There were those many days in school when your teacher would drone on and on about an already-dull subject making it incredibly difficult to pay attention.
Then of course there were the times your parents laid into you about doing your homework and sitting up straight and the importance of getting into a good college. If you dared ask the simple question “why?” you’d end up getting the ubiquitous “because I said so” response.
Is it any wonder most of us grow up to become the kind of presenters that talk AT our audience, giving them little regard? The difference is, as kids, we had no choice but to sit there and listen. Your adult audience does have a choice whether to give you their attention or not. Today’s professionals are far less patient and tolerant. They don’t want one way presentations but rather meaningful conversations that are much more dynamic and engaging.
Here are 7 ways you can turn your presentation into a conversation.
Don’t Read – Engage
Reading your PowerPoint presentation acts very similarly to tryptophan – it will put people immediately to sleep. If you want to read something to somebody, read a bedtime story to your kids, it will have also have a sleep-inducing effect.
By all means have an outline or note cards ready and handy so you will be able to address all of your key points and stay on topic. But conversations never involve reading, so speak to your audience as if you were speaking to a group of friends.
Make Eye Contact
Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone who simply wouldn’t make eye contact with you? Something immediately feels shifty and shady about the other person and you don’t listen to, let alone trust a word they say.
Do not be one of those presenters who looks over the heads of their audience at some spot on the back wall. To truly share your passion about your topic choose an individual in the audience and make direct eye contact with them. Then choose someone else, and on and on. There is no better way to engage a group of people than by looking at as many of them in the eye as you can.
In everyday conversations you use your arms and hands to add emphasis or when describing events, it’s just natural. Yet how many presentations have you seen where the person was either holding onto a podium the entire time or walking around with their arms down at their sides?
Using gestures is a way to penetrate that invisible wall that stands between you “up there” on stage and your audience who is “out there” in the audience. It makes you far more engaging and, quite frankly, makes you look ‘normal.’
Don’t Tell Facts – Tell Stories
It doesn’t matter if you are a business professional, you are a human being first, as is everyone in your audience. And, as human beings, we have a deep love of storytelling. Stories were the first way we learned about ourselves and the world around us.
No matter what your business or industry, dumping a bunch of information on your audience and spouting facts and figures will force them to tune out. Give a presentation without any stories or anecdotes and you’re putting your audience right back in school, giving them a lecture instead of asking them to join you in a conversation.
Pause for Reflection
In a conversation you don’t make the other person a victim of your verbal barrage, instead you pause to allow the person to take in and fully process what you’re saying, and also respond. The same can be said for giving a presentation. Speak slowly and be sure to pause every now and then so your audience can get the full impact of what you are trying to convey.
Lose the Corporate Speak
Many corporate presenters think that in order to come off as professional they’ve got to be completely serious and use a lot of industry jargon. But the truth is you can get your professional ideas across without the mumbo-jumbo and while still offering your full personality.
Use a conversational tone when speaking and don’t feel you need to bombard your listeners with industry jargon. Forget trying to be a corporate spokesperson and just be a person.
Open Up the Floor
Just as a good conversation goes two ways, so should a presentation. When you have finished sharing your ideas with your audience, be sure to open up the floor so they may ask any questions. You may also want to engage your audience by asking them questions. This will do two things: measure whether or not your presentation was effective and whether or not they were listening, and get ideas for your next presentation based on key points that garnered the most interest.
Unless you want to bore your audience and force them into a deep slumber like your chemistry teacher used to do, don’t lecture to them but rather have a conversation with them. You’ll find your presentations will be much more effective and welcomed.