Audiences pay more attention when they feel part of what’s going on.
I’m sure you’ve sat through plenty of dull presentations. The presenter droned on about something that didn’t feel relevant. You checked your phone, people were talking, and others left the room. Nobody got any benefit.
Now, imagine you’re at a show. Many entertainers ask the audience questions at the start, such as “How are you this evening?” or “Can all the native Finns say ‘Terve’?” They might make a silly request like “Hands up if you’re wearing blue underpants.”
This simple interaction creates a connection between the person on the stage and the people watching. It grabs audience attention and draws them into the performance. People stick around, because they have become involved.
Your presentation is a performance. The main aim of a business presentation is not entertainment, but like any stage performer, you have to attract and maintain audience attention to be successful. So, learn from the professionals, and don’t be afraid to use their techniques.
Beginner presenters often forget to involve the audience. They are too caught up in the content of their presentations and trying to be less nervous. But presenters only get nervous because they are too focused on themselves. Move the focus away from you and your anxiety will decrease. Some interaction at the start makes your presentation more like a one-on-one interaction, with a little small talk to begin. It puts your focus on the audience, energizes the room and gets people ready to hear what you have to say.
The audience also comes in handy when you get difficult questions. At most of your presentations, there will be people in the room who know more than you about your topic. But don’t worry! Use their knowledge to your advantage. If you are unsure about how to answer a question, invite those present to offer their thoughts. People love to give their professional opinion and will usually jump at the chance to share their knowledge.
So, interact with the audience, but make your comments appropriate to the situation. In most business settings, asking about people’s underwear is frowned upon. The colour of their eyes is probably a better option!