The ability to connect with an audience is critical in getting your key message and the content of your presentation across. It is so important that it must be considered a make or break factor. If you hook the audience from the start, you’ve immediately increased your chances of keeping them engaged.
- Start strong. An interesting headline opening statement is one way of doing this. You may also introduce an appropriate or humorous anecdote. If delivered well you will grab their attention right at the beginning while you are establishing context.
- Be happy. The smile on your face will tell the audience that you are relaxed, believe passionately in your content and have something exciting to share with them. Your smile makes you more charismatic. It’s infectious.
- Research what is of interest to your audience in the context of your material and link their needs to the crux of your presentation. A good presentation which is misdirected becomes a poor presentation.
- Include a story or two or three depending on available time. People young and old love stories. That’s why they watch movies, read newspapers, books and magazines. They’re addicted to stories from childhood – so adding a good yarn can add tremendous impetus to your delivery.
- Be light hearted. If you can insert a well rehearsed joke which fits perfectly into the context of your presentation, by all means be my guest. But you don’t have to be an expert joke teller to be light hearted and humorous. Humour relaxes you – and ensures the audience has a good time listening to you. It also makes the presentation run more smoothly.
- Invite participation. Again, as the context permits, the more participation you can get the better your presentation may go. It doesn’t always go exactly as planned, but most of the time it will. If you plan to encourage participation it’s also important to allow time for this – so cut out a little content so that you’re not rushed to get finished on time.
- Be energetic. Energy creates the excitement factor in a presentation, and shows the audience that you’re confident. They’ll find it hard to swim against the current of your positive energy flow.
For more on “Connecting” see Chapter 6, pages 53-69 of “The Exceptional Speaker” (Stevens & du Toit)