Looking for the perfect words to use in your presentation? Put the words aside for a minute and let’s create an avatar of a really persuasive presenter. It has three main characteristics:
- The audience likes the presenter. “I’d like to know him,” they’re thinking. “I trust her; she shares my values.” “He knows what he’s talking about.” It all starts with the speaker being liked. Once the speaker establishes an emotional bond with the audience, they’ll give him the benefit of the doubt on being trustworthy and knowledgeable about the subject.
- The speaker is generating a high level of energy and it’s energizing the audience. He’s holding their attention all the way to the end of the presentation.
- The audience buys what the speaker’s saying because they understand its payoff for them. An audience won’t do anything or believe anything unless there’s a what’s-in-it-for-me there.
The words the speaker uses are important, of course. You have to be clear, concise and use persuasive language. Too bad that it’s the aspect of the presentation that speakers spend most of their time planning. What you need is more attention to the characteristics that really count: like the avatar, you have to be liked, generate energy and provide a payoff. That will get you a standing ovation.
You can become likable with an audience the same way you would with an individual: Show you like them. Walk in with a smile and make a friendly gesture to the person who introduced you. Before you speak, stand there a few moments and take in the audience, showing a feeling of appreciation for having been invited to speak. Keep speaking with the attitude that it's your treat to be addressing the audience and not theirs to be listening.
Show the audience you're real -- that you have doubts, vulnerabilities and moods, just like they do. If you use humour (which is risky, anyway) be sure the joke's on you rather than someone else. Make strong and steady eye contact with the audience members. Look at one person for as long as it takes to say a phrase, then look at another audience member. Divide the audience into arbitrary blocks and be sure you make eye contact with someone in every block. There's an optical illusion here; everyone around the person you're addressing feels they're the ones being spoken to.
Show your enthusiasm for your message. They'll believe you only if you show you also believe. Be sure you speak to the audience's level of expertise. Speaking over their heads might signal that you don't care if they understand what you're saying. Making it too simple can imply disrespect for their knowledge. Every successful speaker analyses the audience carefully before planning a presentation.
You can't make an emotional connection with the audience if you speak using a script. A script will keep you from expressing your feelings, using movement to create energy and making eye contact with everyone there. The audience may even feel the words you're speaking aren't yours. For all these reasons, you should practice your presentation to the point where you can leave the script behind.
Is your talk intended to convey information? As you present the data, point out its usefulness and applicability.
These benefits may not be obvious to the audience if you focus on simply stating the facts. Is the talk intended to persuade the audience? For example, do you want them to support a new company policy or to make an extraordinary effort to meet a tough challenge? Point out the payoffs the audience will get from the plan you're announcing. This will give you better results than spending lots of effort describing the rationale behind the plan.
To develop the payoffs you must understand the issue from the audience's perspective. Be sure you learn the audience's attitudes about the issue and their level of knowledge. You can get this information from the person who invited you to speak. You also can learn a lot by getting to the meeting room early and talking informally with the audience members as they enter. Doing this will not only provide intelligence; it also will help you get an early start on making a personal connection with the audience.
Make the payoffs as understandable, tangible and immediate as possible. State your key points in different ways, using examples, analogies and stories. To make your message memorable you can use alliteration, rhymes or acronyms.
To make a great presentation you have to rehearse -- seriously Steve Jobs, one of the world's great speakers, spends hours rehearsing in the days leading to the presentation.
You should rehearse your body movement and voice changes as you rehearse the content of your presentation. Ask a friend or co-worker to observe your rehearsal and tell you how you're coming across. Have that person toss some tough questions at you during these sessions so you can also rehearse the Q&A.
Rehearsal pays huge dividends. According to an academic study conducted at Communispond, rehearsal increased effectiveness of presentations by 42%.
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