Are Your Presentations Putting People to Sleep?

Since I have conducted a number of presentations with audiences ranging from a group of 6th graders to 75 networking professionals, I wanted to offer some advice on how to create an effective presentation. Good presentations and public speaking skills can help you to overcome other weaknesses you may have. Ever notice that the best speakers sell more, get promoted more and are good at impromptu discussions? Here are a few tips:

1- Know your audience. Don’t use industry jargon in front of people who will not be familiar with the terminology.
2- Practice in front of a mirror. You may be making strange facial expressions, wringing your hands, or pacing. These bad habits can distract you audience.
3- Watch the ‘umms’ and ‘you knows’. Take a Toastmasters class and the group will track your ‘umms’ using a clicker. You will be amazed at the number you rack up! This is a great place to practice speaking in a nurturing environment.
4- Vary your speaking tone. M-o-n-o-t-o-n-e is boring.
5- Pause during your speech and ask if people understand your points. Allow time to backtrack and provide alternative explanations to get your point across.
6- Beware of the use PowerPoint. 50% of the time it crashes and disrupts the momentum of your presentation. Dimming the light for more than 5 minutes puts people to sleep. The average human being has a 20-minute attention span. Looking at graphs in the dark is a great way to get people to use their cell phones to send emails.
7- Be careful with jokes. You do not want to accidentally offend your audience. A better idea is to use a humorous personal or made up story about you. Laughing helps people pay attention and relax.
8- Throw in a couple moves during the speech. Switch sides of the podium, walk in front of the audience. This forces people to follow you and not go comatose staring a fixed object.
9- Don’t read your presentation. This is a big no-no and the number 1 cause of audience boredom. If you have back up reading material, hand it our after you are done or email it later.
10- Limit your number of handouts. People will skip ahead and not pay attention to what you are saying.
11- If someone’s cell phone rings…STOP speaking until the offending individual mutes the phone. Everyone will stare at them, and feel bad for you. Sympathetic listeners are more prone to hear your message.

Have a big presentation coming up at your company? Beware of these 3 people.

The Casual Listener. This is the person who was made to go by his boss. He would rather be texting his buddies than hearing you.

The Numbers guy. He/she likes to look over your financial data and check you math for accuracy while you are presenting. This person can make you look like an ass when the questions come up at the end so make sure to double check your material for accuracy.

The Decision Maker. This is the most important person in the audience. If you know what he/she likes, you can make sure to hit those topics hard during your presentation.

Finally, be sure to make time for questions at the end of the presentation. If there are no questions, then you probably were unsuccessful at capturing the audiences’ attention. Make sure your presentation will cause people to ask questions by doing a dry run for a trusted colleague. Have them make suggestions on how to stimulate the crowd. Give some of these tips a try and see if they help your career down the road.