Have you ever reached the 5 minute mark during a presentation, turned to the person next to you and inquired “What on earth is he on about?” I’m sure you have. Me too. There can be several reasons for this confusion. Let’s look at them, or more importantly, what you should rather be doing:
1. First Impression. The first sentence you utter had better be powerful, because the audience will judge you more during that sentence than in any other sentence that follows it. As you open your mouth they begin to form an opinion. 30 seconds later they’ve made it. Thereafter you merely enhance, recover or bomb completely.
2. Structure. There are several ways to start a presentation, You can tell people what you’re going to talk about – never a bad idea. You can tell a story to set up your topic. If you’re a funny person, then make it funny – provided you’ve tested it out on a safe audience before had. But under no circumstances waste time with nonsense and padding at the beginning. That’s the “first impression” moment. If you blow that, the marathon is uphill from that point onwards.
3. Objective. Clearly you will have a topic – surely! But what is the point? In other words, what should they do afterwards? That’s what your introduction is for, to set up the topic with your end in mind. If after the opening 10% the audience have no clue where you’re going, they are not likely to find out, because you will have lost them.
4. Momentum. Like a great story, a riveting presentation has a thread that runs through it. If you jump around all over the place you break the thread, people lose their way and become more easily distracted. Like a good sports performance, victory goes to the player or team with the momentum.
5. Too many messages. The main message is the point of the presentation and carries the thread. So inserting too many messages breaks that thread. You don’t need half a dozen examples to make the same point – usually just one will do. So decide on your central message and stick with that. Your main message may have sub-points, but they should tie in to the central message.
6. Talk to them, not at them. Generally, experience is the tonic that, taken regularly, teaches presenters that getting through your content is not what it’s about. This is so important, that if you only manage to get through 40% of your content but really manage to engage your audience – you have a much better chance of getting your central message across successfully and attaining your desired result. You need to make eye contact with your audience and speak to them as if you’re having a one-on-one conversation. That’s much more important than getting all your stuff in.
If you were in your audience, would you know where things were going after 5 minutes? If not, you have a few adjustments to make to your presentation..
Make it worth your audience’s time. Let them know what it’s all about at the start. That way, they’ll be with you all the way. That will ensure that it’s worth your time too.