On television, images change approximately every 7 seconds. Yet, in organizational settings and conference presentations, we expect audience members to watch the stationery body of a presenter, speaking from behind a podium, for an hour or more. No wonder people dread these presentations!
To be effective as a speaker, you have to recognize that our culture is increasing fast-paced and increasingly visual. Here are some tips to build changes into your next presentation:
Give up the podium. It’s okay to use the podium as a home base. Just don’t plant yourself there! When you move with purpose, you add interest and variety for your audience. For example, try moving away from the podium when you make a key point, or when you ask for audience participation. Of course, random pacing, due to nervousness, doesn’t count as purposeful movement. Think: walk, plant your feet; walk again, plant your feet again.
Make your PowerPoint visual. An agenda for the presentation is helpful for the audience as well as the speaker. Overall, however, words on a slide don’t work as visual stimulation—no matter how often you change them. If you choose to use PowerPoint, add changes with photographs and dramatic graphs. Show brief video clips that support your points. Just make sure that everything you use is relevant and easy for the audience to grasp.
Add vocal or auditory changes. Raise the volume of your voice to emphasize a point. Try a stage whisper to draw the audience into a little-known fact. Practice a powerful pause. If possible, add brief musical transitions between points.
Give your stories the stage. Concrete examples, brief case studies, and stories are powerful ways to add variety, interest, and practicality to presentations. Make these gems stand out in the midst of a PowerPoint presentation by hitting the “b” key on your laptop. “B” will give you a blank slide, so that you, the presenter, can move forward and connect with your audience in a powerful way. The change will be refreshing to audience members. When you wish to return to the slides. Simply hit the “b” key again.
Use natural gestures. Use the gestures that come naturally in conversations. These include suggestive gestures like shaking your head and demonstrative gestures like showing the height of an object. Even a shrug will create a brief change for the audience. For a bigger change, consider using a prop or two as natural extensions of your gestures.
It’s hard to compete with a change every 7 seconds. Unfortunately, this is what your audience members have come to expect, even if they don’t realize it. Build changes into the content and the delivery of your next presentation. You’ll be rewarded with a more engaged and attentive audience.