It is really hard to win an audience. Additionally, you can also lose them very quickly by using the wrong words.
Here is my top 10 list I created while attending a series of presentations. This is to ensure it won’t happen to you.
PS: feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments section below. Others will benefit from your input and we will never have to listen to boring presentations again.
(I really think the last one is kind of strange). Not sure why people say such things. Or something like “I was only invited yesterday!” or “I am exhausted from my trip!”
The audience only wants to hear and see you at your best. If you cannot be at your best, why not cancel?
Better have an espresso, a Red Bull, take a pill and drive your presentation home.
“Can you hear me?”
They always do this: tap on the microphone, ask this question and no-one answers. Because we all can hear you. And then they smile in a very funny way, because they realise how stupid this question was.
You are not a technician. It is not your responsibility to check the microphone. So relax and just deliver your presentation with high impact.
They will let you know if there is something wrong with the sound.
If you don’t have a microphone: always make sure that you speak up and use your Volume 2 voice, which is your real secret on how to create influence.
“I can’t see you.”
“… because the lights are too bright.”
Yes, the lights are bright and hot when speaking on stage. It will be difficult to see the audience – but they don’t have to know.
How to do better: stare into the dark, smile often, and be yourself. If you want to be closer to your listeners, you can walk into the audience.
Tip: I use this often because I like to engage with my audiences. I ask a technician to bring up the lights when I speak. I inform the technicians before my presentation so they are ready when I want the lights to go on.
“I’ll get back to that later.”
Why dismiss someone that is interested in your presentation? Interactions don’t happen too often, so rather take your chances.
If someone is brave enough to ask you a question, compliment them and invite the rest of the audience to do the same.
If someone has a question you will address in a later slide, just skip to it right away. Never delay anything.
“Can you read this?”
If you have to ask this question, you are doing something wrong.
Tip: When you create your slides, take the diagonal of your screen – multiply this times 6 – step back: if you can read this from the multiplied distance you will be fine in most situations.
(screen 50cm x 6 = 3m. This will be the distance for proofreading the size of your words)
“Let me read this out loud.”
Never, ever put so much text to your slides, that people have to spend time reading. This is one of the fastest ways to lose your audience. When people start reading they cannot listen at the same time.
Slides should tell a story. Try to limit yourself to a maximum of four to six words or a phrase. This in return will make you speak more freely, which audiences appreciate.
“Shut off your phone/laptop/tablet.”
This is old school. Today people use their devices to take notes, twitter your awesome content – or play Solitaire 🙂
You can ask people to put their phones on silent – that’s ok.
Otherwise, make your presentation hot and give your best. Make sure that your speech is incredibly inspiring. They will switch off their laptops because they don’t want to miss a second of your presentation.
“I will put this presentation online. You don’t need to take notes.”
This is really cool that you will upload your presentation. Unfortunately, if this was a good presentation and not too many words on the slides (see above), this won’t be helpful.
Don’t tell people what they should do. The best way to remember content is to write it down in my own words.
“Let me answer that question.”
Of course, you will. But before you answer you have to do something else.
Not everyone in the room may have understood the question. So first, show appreciation for the input, repeat (or rephrase) the question and only then answer using the 30 seconds rule.
“I’ll keep it short”
Maybe the biggest lie ever. And still, most people use this phrase.
Audiences don’t care if you keep it short. They came because they want to be informed and inspired.
You can say: “This presentation will take 30 minutes, but I will do it in 25 – so we all can get our coffee.”
All you have to do now: keep your promise.
Bonus tip: “Oh, I’m out of time? I still have 15 more slides!”
Well, if this happens, you did screw up. If you come unprepared and need more time, you are not showing your appreciation to your audience. Rehearse your presentation and fit it to the given time frame.
Tip: End five minutes early and ask for questions. If they don’t ask, relax and invite for coffee where you can have one-on-one talks.
You will gain respect and gratitude by giving an audience five minutes back. Taking an extra five minutes annoys them.
Conclusion – how to do it right:
come prepared, be yourself and be professional. The audience will love you for being clear and having a clear message, for being serious, and for not wasting their time.