Keeping your audience engaged when giving a presentation is no easy feat. Zoning out, napping in the back of the room, tech distractions – we’ve all been that audience member who isn’t giving 100% of their attention to what’s going on in front of them. We’ve also been that long-suffering presenter: fully aware that our audience is jaded or disengaged, but conscious that there’s still a good 30 minutes of content left to get through. Not fun!
But figuring out how to keep your audience engaged during a business presentation can literally be the difference between success and critical errors. Not just because an engaged audience means we’ve conveyed our message effectively, but because fractured attention leads to multitasking, and multitasking is bad for business.
Avoid the dangers of disengagement by committing to these 6 presentation resolutions, outlined by Arwen Heredia, Senior Content Marketing Manager at Prezi.
Step 1) Don’t start from scratch – visualise your story
Believe it or not, a staggering 90% of the content we internalise is absorbed through our eyes. Our brains can process diagrams in a quarter of a second, but need 6 whole seconds to internalise 20-25 words. Furthermore, two-thirds of the conversations we have involve people telling stories. It makes sense, then, to lay out content as a visual story – maximising the potential for a message to be internalised.
But you don’t need to completely start over. It’s a common practice to jot down notes and ideas for a presentation before you build it, whether or not you have existing content to work with. And, if you’re not doing that, make like the experts and create a mind map (more on that below). Or, if you have an old presentation you need to update, focus on amping up the visualisation, rather than simply replacing text — or adding more.
Step 2) Choose a meaningful metaphor – but keep it universal
Creating a metaphor that your audience can connect with is a sure way to increase engagement. A metaphor does two things: First, it provides a roadmap for your story, allowing an engaged audience to connect the dots before you’ve spelt out the conclusion. Second, it allows you to be creative and give more context to what you’re saying. It can also help make visualisation a lot easier since you’re using an existing framework that people are familiar with. Just be sure to consider the audience you’re presenting to before you make any decisions about the metaphor you use. The more specific the metaphor, the less effective it will be for a broad or diverse audience, resulting in the opposite of engagement. That said, if you’re presenting to a group of football players, a sports metaphor makes a lot of sense, enables an instant connection with your content, and helps your listeners understand it more fully. But if your audience is a motley crew of business professionals, not so much.
If you’re struggling to come up with the right metaphor, you can always hunt around for presentations on similar topics for inspiration. There are plenty of templates out there, too, that you can use as a resource to make your presentation as engaging as possible.
Step 3) Creating a blueprint or mindmap
Planning out your presentation is key, but it doesn’t have to be painful and time-consuming. Mind maps help you format your presentation and determine a good flow for information.
Top tip: Use a pencil and paper for this before you start creating your presentation. We’re all for clever tech that helps maximise efficiency, and there are a few web apps that can certainly be used to do this. Yet, at this stage of planning, we find it most effective to be a little old school, and scribble down concepts on good old-fashioned paper.
Step 4) Bringing your content to life
Brand and product consistency is vital when creating dynamic presentations, and attention to detail is crucial for this. Experts never miss an opportunity to reinforce brand identity and create seamless visual experiences.
If there is a cornerstone image for your brand – perhaps one which easily identifies your product – it should consistently appear in your content. This way, your audience will connect your presentations to your product or company much faster
To keep the audience engaged you also need to be consistent with images, fonts and animations. A haphazard mixture of fonts and colours can undermine your presentation, distract the audience from your key messages, and — even worse — make you (and the brand you represent) look sloppy.
Step 5) Don’t dumb down your data! Visualise it
Data can be dull, especially when it’s delivered in a presentation. It can be complicated to explain and hard for the audience to grasp in a snapshot. Creating graphs, charts, and infographics with data visualisation software will make complex information tangible for your audience – if done right. Utilising animation is also key, as it will allow important information to be dissected, and points broken down if necessary. Remember, rows of numbers aren’t engaging, and simply adding a visual or two isn’t the way to go. Try using colour coded charts instead. In this way, your audience will understand the data faster and stay engaged with your presentation — even when you start speaking in numbers.
Step 6) Share the work (as well as the love)
Rule #1 for all content creators: Always ask your colleagues for a second opinion. Feedback is vital in creating a successful presentation; any content can become devoid of meaning for the original creator once they’ve worked on it for a long time. Having fresh eyes to review your work is the best way to tie up loose ends, surface any issues that you may not be able to see, and add an additional layer of memorability to your presentation. We know that letting your colleagues in on your knock-out animations and juicy metaphors seem like a tactical ‘don’t’, but sharing is, after all, caring – and when it comes to business, it’s just smart.