As our audiences change and are influenced by an unending flow of media and attempts at communication, does the average presenter have a chance of cutting through all this noise and clutter in the minds of their listeners?
Yes! However, it requires some intentionality on your part as a speaker or teacher. In no special order, here are ten elements for great contemporary presentations.
The days of you being able to create a good presentation just off the “top of your head” are gone. Audiences are becoming more focused on singular subjects and you will need to be able to best speak to their niche. There is no excuse for putting together a presentation the night before you present it.
Repeatedly, I see good presenters fall short of being great presenters in one area: audience involvement. Most adult learners require interaction to best absorb any material. Ask questions of your audience as you speak. Ask them to turn to a neighbor and respond quickly to a point you are making. Help your audience feel a part of the process rather than mindless seat-fillers.
You cannot be expected to know everything about any subject, even for those where you might be an expert. Include parts of your presentation where you ask questions to which you do not know the answers. Be genuine in the process.
Embrace good storytelling techniques. If you want your audience to remember your facts, frame them in the context of storytelling. Stories and anecdotes carry information back and forth across the brain, giving listeners of all types the chance to hang the information you share on a memorable story hook.
With the exception of the highest-level presentations of theory, give your audience a way to apply some new learning immediately when they return to home or office. For example, in my storytelling for business training, I give leaders several tools to find and create stories from their everyday interaction with customers. The concepts I present become usable tools.
Everyone learns differently. Include some lecture, some activity and some visuals in all of your presentation. Let your audience use many of their senses.
It is okay to laugh a bit. Especially in very complex subjects, add a bit of humor to lighten the mood or make transitions between the concepts in your presentation. Be sure your humor is good for general audiences.
Why should an audience listen to you talk about your subject? Be creative and offer a new understanding of your topic. You want your audience to think, “I’ve never thought about it like that before.”
You do not know it all. As you practice the element of authenticity listed above, be grateful and honest when an audience member challenges you or helps you with a new understanding.
Keep your presentations moving forward. Keep your learning goals to just one or two main points. Your audience should feel like they are on an exciting journey to new knowledge with you. Be fun, focused and (usually) fast.
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The author, Sean Buvala, is a professional storyteller and business coach specializing in the needs of nonprofit and corporate communications. Since 1986, he has helped national and local organizations communicate great ideas and grow their bottom line. You can find his website at http://www.seantells.com. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/storyteller. Sean lives with his family in Arizona.
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