Keep It Engaging

You’ve just accepted an invitation or assignment to give a presentation. What is the very next thing you should do?

  1.    Develop an outline
  2.    Create slides
  3.    Define what your audience cares about

If you didn’t pick 3, read on.

People everywhere are the same; they are more likely to engage with material that’s relevant and useful to them.  Put yourself in their shoes … would you actively engage with a presentation that offered irrelevant or useless information? Whether it’s a 10-minute high-level overview, or a 45-minute keynote, ask yourself: What value can I bring the audience? How can I make their time spent with me worthwhile? The easiest way to answer these questions is to …

Ask Them

If presenting to peers, or a well-known segment of your own company, your familiarity gives you an edge. However, you must still do your homework. Ask your peers what they’d like to hear or learn about. Even though they know you, or at least know of you, people still like to feel like they’re the ones driving the car. Establishing two-way communication like this will help you gather important information and build a valuable rapport weeks before your presentation beings.

For audiences you do not know, you must do even more homework. Look past website marketing-speak and search for online peer discussion groups or articles that speak openly and honestly about current challenges, trends, and points of contention in their industry. It’s important to understand what they value most, and what keeps them up at night.  When you have a clear picture of this, frame your content by creating a link between their values and pain with topic. Your audience will be immediately drawn in. Wouldn’t you?

Be Conscious of Diversity

Learn the male/female ratio of your audience; age ranges; ethnicity; religions (if applicable); cultural differences; etc. This information is invaluable and will help you develop a presentation that’s inclusive.

The success or failure of your presentation may boil down to using the right personal pronoun or visual.

Much of this is intuitive, but it’s easy to be lulled into a false sense of complacency. It’s always what you don’t know that will come back to haunt you.