9 easy presentation tips to influence any audience

Photo: Christopher Polk/ Getty Images.

Life itself is full of presentation tips when you take a moment to reflect. When I was a small boy my parents invested enormous energy trying hard to influence so much of my behaviour, beliefs, emotional development, character and even aspirations.

As they worked on me at home, at school it seemed my teachers roles seem to extend way beyond my academic development as they too had an agenda to influence many of the same elements my parents were working on. I grew up believing there was a universal conspiracy to influence so many aspects of my life because even my friends and strangers seemed to have their own agendas of influence.

Then I went to work and everywhere I went the saga continued; my boss, colleagues, customers and clients all working so hard to have some effect on my thoughts, feelings and behaviour.

In fact, I’m not even sure that I can recall a single conversation or meeting at work where someone wasn’t trying to influence me in some way.

It didn’t stop there

Every time I picked up a newspaper, turned the TV on or opened an email it was the same thing; the whole world had colluded to have their impact.

Today as the founder of what I consider to be a revolutionary presentation skills training business I believe I now understand the power of influence and more importantly how to use it.

Every presentation offers an opportunity to alter perceptions, beliefs, feelings or behaviours and it’s all due to influence.

The following 9 tips will help you to connect with your audience and have the impact you want.

1. Ask them

My mother-in-law’s favourite saying is that “common sense isn’t very common anymore”. When I manage to get past any personal reference I understand what she means and when it comes to presenting it seems very clear to me.

What better way could there be to influence your audience by asking them directly what it would take to do so. It’s a simple idea within every presenter’s gift but how many of us have the level of mindfulness or courage to actually do it.

Try it for yourself and experience the effect on the way you craft and deliver your message.

2. Use ‘because’

Dr. Ellen Langer, the social psychologist and authority on mindfulness suggested back in the late 1970’s that the human brain is conditioned to respond when it hears the word “because”. Dr Langer together with fellow researchers organised an experiment using different ways of making a request to make photocopies.

Asking people to let the researcher jump the queue for the photocopier without giving a reason was successful 60% of the time. However when they added a reason using the word “because” it jumped to over 90%.

Of course you don’t have to rely on such a dated piece of research to believe its efficacy; next time you present an idea try asking your audience to do something without giving them a good reason.

3. ‘Birds of a feather flock together’

That’s an old saying we have all heard countless times before and for good reason; it’s true.

People who are alike and share common ground generally enjoy each other’s company more and are likely to respond more positively to requests.

There is a simple yet extremely powerful truth in that for presenters in helping us to be very mindful about exactly who our audience are and the similarities we share.

4. Don’t make them work

Today’s audiences are highly intelligent and discerning people who expect a great deal from anyone taking up their valuable time. The one thing that isn’t negotiable is ambiguity. Many presenters make their audience’s work much too hard to think about what they are saying and the absence of clarity and certainty is very frustrating. One of the best ways to influence your audience is by demonstrating that you know what you are talking about and have got your facts straight.

5. Help them to see the future

In an article I wrote for Smartblog on Leadership called ‘The 4 presentation attributes every leader needs’ I wrote:

‘When I first stepped on to the “corporate ladder” some 30 years ago, a former boss of mine shared a powerful truth with me. He said, “The only people who need to be motivated are the people who can’t see a future.”’

It’s my belief today that is the key to our audience’s hearts and minds when we are presenting to them; we need to help them to see the future.

6. Give them something of value

Remember that Christmas when a friend you didn’t expect a Christmas present from surprised you with a gift. If you do you will probably also remember that immediate urge you felt to want to return the favour and feeling of frustration that you couldn’t immediately do so.

I don’t like the idea of giving with the sole expectation of receiving something in return but I do relish the idea of giving my audience something of value.

It could be my passion, energy and commitment or it could be a powerful message or compelling information. Sometimes it’s simply a smile and my undivided presence and occasionally I hand them physical gifts too.

7. Look in the mirror

The most effective presenters know how to influence and inspire their audience to action through having a high level of self-awareness. In other words they understand their dominant communication style, consider its potential impact on their audience and adapt as appropriate.

What is your default communication style when you are presenting to an audience and do you apply the same approach each time?

If you’re not entirely sure the exercise in our learning centre, “What type of presenter are you?” may help you.

8. Make it personal

At Mindful Presenter every one of our presentation training courses and coaching sessions is completely different. We don’t believe in “one size fits all” and neither should you in any presentation you craft. There is nothing worse than sitting through 30 minutes of a generic presentation knowing that most of it isn’t relevant to you.

Another major influencer is making sure that everything you say is of personal relevance to your audience.

9. Be prepared to be a little vulnerable

At Mindful Presenter we believe that it’s a myth that your audience wants to see a “slick” and highly polished presenter. In our experience providing you’ve crafted your presentation around the other 8 tips in this article the person they want to hear deliver it is you. They don’t want the corporate spokesperson that they hear in most meetings most days.

That means that to be authentic you have to be prepared to leave yourself just a little exposed and vulnerable so that they can get to see that you are just like they are.

Presenting and speaking in public isn’t simply about imparting knowledge and information, that’s the easy part. It is about connecting with others and influencing them in some way to think, feel and do something that you passionately believe will make a tangible difference to their professional or personal lives.

This post originally appeared on the Mindful Presenter blog. Maurice De Castro is a former corporate executive of some of the UK’s best loved brands. He’s a highly experienced leader and presentation skills coach with over 20 years of experience. Maurice is director of Mindful Presenter — a team of business professionals who design and deliver bespoke presentation skills training courses. You’ll also find Maurice on Twitter and LinkedIn.