Presentations and conferences are usually planned well in advance. Use this time to get to know your audience, organizers, co-presenters — basically anyone who has anything to do with your presentation. As sales trainer Paul Castain advises: “Build your army before you need it.”
By getting to know your audience in advance of your presentation, you’ll have the time and the insights needed to tailor your presentation to meet the needs and expectations of your audience. You’ll also generate at least a few advocates who may post tweetworthy quotes during your presentation, or who may be willing to provide you with testimonials after your event.
Getting to know your audience breaks down the psychological barriers between presenter and attendee. It puts the listeners at ease and may also help them to remember you and your core messages long after the presentation has ended.
Peruse any attendee lists you have access to and use this information as a way to find and connect with audience members through Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. Position your requests to connect as a means to involve your audience as much as possible in your presentation.
On the day of your presentation, arrive early and introduce yourself to audience members as they convene in common areas before your presentation. You’re introductions and conversations don’t even need to be about your forthcoming presentation. In fact, you can use these conversations to pick up last-minute anecdotes or local information that you can use to personalize your presentation even more.
2. Ditch PowerPoint
Well, let’s rephrase that — you don’t necessarily need to ditch PowerPoint altogether, you just need to ditch bad PowerPoint presentations! You know what we’re talking about. The presenter who is constantly looking at his or her text heavy presentation slides, reading every word, or worse — expecting the audience to read the 5 point, red, illegible text. Are you still awake?
Or perhaps you’ve encountered the presenter who attempts to wow the audience with flashy transitions between every slide or between every piece of new information that appears on-screen.
These presentation failures really having nothing to do with PowerPoint, or any specific presentation tool at all. The failures described above are due to the presenter and his or her inability to present information in a way that the target audience cares about or can understand. We now live in a world where grabbing someone’s attention — and keeping it — is a highly skilled blend of art and science. Text or statistic heavy slides which fail to instill any emotional response in your audience are things of the past, or at least they should be!
Instead, use PowerPoint (or any presentation tool) as a means to support your ideas. For example, a slide that fills the screen with a majestic image of an eagle conveys more about the concept of freedom than a set of bullet points ever could. Your presentation shouldn’t be about the tools or the medium. It’s about the impression that you instill and the knowledge you impart on your audience.
3. Follow-up, Follow-up, Follow-up
So, you’ve applied the suggestions above. You’ve gotten to know your audience before your presentation. You’ve used the appropriate tools to creatively support your ideas, and you’ve conducted an awesome presentation on stage. Now is when the rubber really meets the road when it comes to gauging and leveraging its success.
If everything went well, your audience is feeling inspired by your ideas. They’re thinking about ways to put the content of your presentation into action. Take this golden opportunity to follow-up with as many people as possible, as soon as possible, following your event.
If you’re at a conference and there’s time between other presentations or events, get on your laptop, your tablet or your smartphone and start connecting with the audience. See if they’ve mentioned you on Facebook or used a hashtag on Twitter to comment on your presentation.
Ask your audience questions about the content of your presentation to help them consolidate their knowledge. Offer to answer their questions or provide assistance on your topic so that you remain in the minds of your audience for as long as possible. Where appropriate, ask for recommendations from audience members with whom you’ve developed a rapport. Now is the best time for these recommendations while the memory of your presentation is still fresh in their minds.
No matter how successful your presentation was, you’ll separate yourself from the crowd and gain even more attention and respect from your audience if you take the time to follow-up.
Do you do presentations or public speaking engagements? Have any effective presentation tips you’d like to share? Let us know in comments below.