10 Presentation Tips for Better Audience Engagement

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This is a three part series in fundamental presentation tips and techniques. The term user experience is often strictly related to digital experiences, however, every experience is a touch point with a brand and can and should be crafted in a personal and intelligent manor.

This is a guide to preparing for a presentation with a small group (2-10 people). Whether you’re presenting your company, a proposal, a design, or a product, the following tips set you up for being persuasive and allowing your audience to connect with your point of view.

  1. Know your audience 

    Always ask who will be in the meeting. It will shape your language, tone or demeanor while presenting. The points you’re trying to make will be the same, but the delivery can be altered to have a stronger impact based on the attendees. And don’t be surprised if someone you didn’t expect drops in to listen. Someone that may have not close connection to the project may stop in, so be aware of who it may be and always pause and offer a 10 second recap of the presentation.
  2. No, really know your audience
    Use corporate bios and LinkedIn to find out work history, affiliations, groups and schools they attended. Include the Linkedin profiles on the meeting calendar so your entire team can read up on the people across the table. It’s a small world and you may find a common thread that you didn’t expect. Caution: Depending on your settings in LinkedIn, be aware that the other member can see that you’ve been researching them.
  3. Break the ice

    If you’re doing the presentation over WebEx or GoTo Meeting, make sure to engage the first attendees in a conversation. There’s nothing more awkward than a long painful silence before a presentation. It’s an opportunity to learn more personal information about your audience. If your meeting is in person, collect business cards from each attendee and set them out in order of where they’re sitting across the table.
  4. Use drama

    Presenting just the facts is boring. Telling a dramatic story is engaging. Craft a story, but make the characters familiar to your audience. If you’re presenting something for a product or a service, identify the critical use cases and solve the problem with the views you’re presenting.
  5. Share knowledge, but don’t name drop
    Find ways to connect to each person in a unique and authenticate way. It sets aside the business and allows for a personal connection and a way to build trust without being overt. Recently, I was in a presentation and because I knew the president of the company had attended the School of Law at the University of San Diego (see tip #2), I was able to bring up that we performed usability studies and UI design for that same school which allowed us to show more depth in our capabilities that wasn’t in the main presentation.
  6. Interaction through dialog
    It’s painful to have a one-sided conversation, so it’s important to engage your audience with scenario questions and validate your points with conversation. If you followed Tip #3, then you can look across the table and reference attendees by name and in context to the point you’re making. Ex. “Image that John is visits the website and wants to buy X product. Do you think this design is effective?”. You can save time for a formal Q&A at the end, but you can eliminate day dreaming and yawns if you ask your audience questions and encourage them to provide contextual input.
  7. Be passionate
    If you lack conviction for what you’re talking about, there’s no reason for your audience to care, which creates doubt for your point of view. Presentations are intended to inspire your audience to take action. If you genuinely convey passion about your subject, your audience will lean in, listen more attentively and follow your ideas.
  8. “Am I clear?”

    Before moving on to a new point, ask if If you’ve been heard. It’s a great way to take pause and ensure your audience is still listening. At this point, they should be bought into your views and ready to move ahead. Ask the simple question, “Did I answer your question?” or “Do you agree?”. Be ready for an objection, but that’s fine since you’re the expert and you have conviction.
  9. Wrap up on a high note
    Leave your audience on higher level and they will leave the presentation committed to taking positive action.
  10. Stay engaged
    If you’re presenting a project, it’s often the role of the PM to send a brief thank you email to all the attendees. If you’re the lead presenter, you should also send a personal note to the group and let them know you’re available if there’s any other questions. It shows you’re engaging and you care about the outcome of the presentation.

Be prepared and talk intelligently to your audience and you’ll persuade and transform them into believers.

Stay tuned for upcoming articles about:

  • How to Structure a Presentation
  • Adding drama to your next presentation

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