There is a definite art to holding an audience’s attention during a presentation.
Many of us have sat through some pretty dreadful ones. Here are ten useful things to remember before you give your next presentation:
1. Avoid too much text
Blank space is your friend on presentation slides. Too many long sentences will have your audience confused as to whether they should be listening to you or reading from the screen. Use only 3-4 bullet-points per slide to keep your message brief and increase the pace of your presentation.
2. Small paragraphs
Statistically, our attention spans are decreasing every year, so smaller paragraphs are less likely to disengage your audience. They are also less intimidating – particularly for less confident or slower readers and allow for faster information consumption. If your reader makes it to the end of your slide, they are more likely to retain the information, so keep it brief.
Similarly, videos should be kept short (under three minutes as a general rule) and should only be included if absolutely necessary; this is where the audience is most likely to switch off because, like watching TV, this is a passive activity.
4. Not too distracting
Aesthetically pleasing slides will keep your audience visually engaged. However, a dozen animations, neon fonts and whacky text transitions will not. One or two appropriate animations is enough.
5. Lead them through the presentation
Minds will wander if you are not narrating what you are presenting to the audience. Rhetorical questions amidst the facts stimulate audience reaction, as does asking for a show of hands when asking a polling question.
Encourage questions and debates with your audience – if there is not a specific time limit for your presentation, relevant tangents of discussion can be useful and interesting and add variety to your topic.
7. The art of repetition
Repeat the main thread of your presentation enough for the audience to remember it, but not so much that it becomes tedious and frustrating. Reiterate why your point is important and why it should matter to your audience. If they can relate to it, they will remember it.
8. Eye contact
One of the basics we all know about but often forget – but it has been proven those who maintain good eye contact during presentations are deemed more authoritative by their audiences – which in turn made them pay closer attention and be more inclined to trust what the presenter was saying.
Obviously, you will need to read the room before you start cracking jokes, but a light-hearted quip can make you seem more engaging, approachable and likeable from the beginning, increasing your chances of success.
10. Give them a task
Having something to listen out for or retain for later will encourage an audience to pay attention. Group tasks can be useful if you have the time; if not, a sheet that asks for their opinion on something in your presentations generates personal interest, making them more likely to respond.