3 presentation hacks that will improve audience engagement

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Research suggests that the average professional spends 14 hours per week creating, delivering and attending presentations – many of which are vastly unproductive and amount to very little, if anything at all. For a small team of 15 people that equates to over 10,000 man-hours a year.

The challenge most CEOs and leaders face is pulling a presentation together often at the last hurried minute. Although there may be a dedicated person or team for a particular presentation, they are usually busy dealing with an increasing workload and competing deadlines.

So presentations are usually dug up from the archives, with numbers updated to make them seem current, which is totally uninspirational for the audience, let alone the person presenting.

Present one clear message

On average, research proves that only 10% of a presentation is remembered. This means most of what is said could be condensed or cut in half.

It’s impossible to find and communicate a clear message in slides that have been used time and again for varying, and often differing, reasons. When spoken out loud and communicated on screen, it ends up as waffle.

Any leader or CEO wanting to have an impact when they present must pick one clear message to structure their presentation around and then repeat that message throughout to make the message stick.

It is that one idea, purpose or point that is the glue that holds everything else together. Like the sermon given by Bishop Michael Curry at the recent Royal Wedding, for example.

While, the length of his presentation was questionable, he mentioned the word ‘love’ an astounding 65 times, leaving the audience in no doubt as to his message of ‘the power of love’.

Make it emotional

Any presentation needs to have creative visuals, a compelling script, music, rhythm and heroic characters. All these elements come together and make the audience feel something, an emotion – excited, sad, angry even apathy.

Yet, in business, it’s been taught that emotion is inappropriate. Problem-solving and decision making is said to rely on logic and analysis, right?

It has long been noted that rational decision making – for the most part – is largely a myth. This is because up to 90% of the thousands of decisions made each day fall beneath our level of awareness and are reinforced through feelings and emotions. In fact, studies have shown that 74% of participants have changed their decision after their emotion was changed.

Amy Cuddy’s Ted talk, ‘Your body language may shape who you are’, is a perfect example of how to balance facts with that emotional pull. View it and pay attention to her screen visuals, gestures and the emotion she uses to draw people in.

Return on your investment

It is only by communicating clearly articulated messages that stakeholders buy-in on a new vision, or a new client and multi-million dollar contract is won.

Leading academic Mary Barth from Stanford University recently found that good integrated reporting and presentations is positively associated with both stock liquidity and firm value. Clearly, this requires much more than just making presentation slides ‘look pretty’.

Leaders and CEOs must invest the time and energy into putting together a powerful presentation with one clear message, and an emotional draw, if they want their audience to invest the time and energy in them.

Emma Bannister is the founder and CEO of Presentation Studio, APAC’s largest presentation communication agency, and author of book ‘Visual Thinking: How to transform the way you think, communicate and influence with presentations.’

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