So you’ve got a roomful of people in front of you, whether or not they want to be, and you have some information to pass on that you really want them to take on board – whether it’s an internal gathering; a formal presentation; or a conference seminar; there are a few handy hints that can help keep your audience engaged and ensure no-ones time is wasted.
1. THE ROOM – you can pique everyone’s interest from the get-go by doing something unexpected with the room. Depending on your content and the mood you want to create, rearrange the seating, play with how the space is divided and perhaps change the orientation of ‘front’ for different sections of your talk. People feel completely different when seated in a circle to how they feel in rows behind tables – and remember, you can change things around part way through too.
2. THE TECH – we’ve all experienced “Death by Powerpoint”, and there’s just no excuse for it these days. If Powerpoint is your favoured tool, make sure you use it in a fresh way, and include plenty of visuals – under no circumstances show a slide of text and then read it out, this irks everyone who can read already! If you want to move away from Powerpoint, have a look at Prezi, Powtoon, Fuzebox or Keynote, and there are plenty more online tools to try – and shake it up a bit – the low-tech alternatives of good old fashioned pen and paper have their place too, and switching back and forth helps keep everyone interested.
3. KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE PRIZE – What do you want the result of all your hard work to be? What is going to be the key benefit to your audience, staff, client or colleagues? Find the place where the answers to these two questions hook up, and keep going back to reiterate that point. If you keep reminding everyone in the room – including yourself – why you’re all there, then there’s a constant acknowledgement that everyone’s engagement is required to attain the desired outcome.
4. MAKE THE MOST OF THE RESOURCES IN THE ROOM – No, I don’t mean the projector – I mean the people! Of course it depends on the context, but if you have a group in front of you with a shared responsibility, skill set, or interest, then the chances are they would like to hear a bit about how their peers operate, the challenges they are facing and the solutions they may have come up with. It doesn’t have to be all about you, use the people and experience in front of you to help contextualise the information – when it’s all about them, they’ll retain more.
5. GIVE THEM A ‘SOMETHING’ TO TAKE AWAY – Yes, sometimes a photocopy of your presentation is going to be expected, but can you also offer something a little more personal and memorable? It can be anything at all, something to remind them of what you have said and/or the action or behaviour they are committing to – and, of course, if you know that everyone gets a daisy at the end, then that’s the metaphor to introduce at the start. . .
(this blog is an excerpt from our full seminar, “How To Make Information Interesting”, part of Engage ABC)