How to deliver engaging presentations

Posted on 2017/02/23

Unfortunately there are far too many occasions that I can remember where I attended a presentation that was painstakingly boring. In those occasions I did not learn much, and I struggled to stay focussed and not spend the whole time considering what I would have for my dinner that evening. I would guess that most of you have experienced the same and not appreciated having your time wasted either. And the reality is that most of us are busier than ever before in both our work and personal life, so when we do give up our precious time to attend a presentation, we want it to be valuable. That got me thinking about what makes a presentation engaging, and how those practices can become a list of tips that can be referred to for those planning a presentation. We care about engaging the audience because that promotes attention, interactivity, and learning. These are our top 10!

  1. Start as you mean to go on by opening with something interactive, such as asking for a show of hands, or posing a closed question.
  2. In a small group ask individuals to introduce themselves. For a larger group you could ask each person to introduce themselves to the person to their left.
  3. Do a short survey in advance of the presentation to get early engagement. This can be used to take a vote on a particular preference for which topic/s to be covered by the speaker.
  4. Ask the audience questions during the presentation. These can be rhetorical if individual responses would not be feasible given the size of the group.
  5. Don’t be afraid to use natural humour and personality.
  6. If you are using slides, keep text to a minimum. Make use of pictures, videos, and sound. Think about producing a visually appealing slide deck.
  7. Encourage discussion within the room at certain intervals – this may be done in pairs or small groups. Perhaps ask the group to appoint a spokesperson who will share the information with the rest of the group.
  8. Tell a story to illustrate your point. Storytelling has long been recognised as a very powerful communication tool, and can aid the audience to remember the point you are trying to make.
  9. Give a quick quiz or test during the presentation. Use a tool such as IQ polls to administer it quickly and easy and with the ability to display the results in real time.
  10. Don’t hide behind the slides or a set of notes. Engage with the audience, maintain good eye contact, and try and build rapport. 

It may be that your presentation does not put the tick in the box for all 10 of the above, but the point of this exercise is to consider them and make sure you are hitting at least 5 or 6. The outcome will be a far more successful presentation for the audience, the organisers, and those speaking.