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Want a Rapt, Non-Cell-Phone-Surfing Audience for Your Next Presentation? Here's How.

Want a Rapt, Non-Cell-Phone-Surfing Audience for Your Next Presentation? Here's How.

Whether you're a nervous speaker, a reticent speaker, or a big ol' ham like me, not having the audience's attention is unnerving. And let's face it, competing with cell phones is tough.

From texts with friends and loved ones to full access to sports, news, and The Real Housewives, plus our own minds that are always eager to bounce elsewhere - you've got some serious competition. So how to get and keep your audience's attention? Read on.

1) Turn your focus 180 degrees.

Sit yourself in their seat, then ask yourself, "What do I care about? What am I worried about? What do I really want?" Answering these questions will help you create a presentation that will speak directly to them.

If you're speaking to a sales team, you know they're competitive. If you're speaking to a finance team, you know they're detail-oriented, numbers-driven. If you're speaking to the board of directors, each of them has their own particular area of interest but each share the same goal - the health and growth of the organization.

If you're speaking to a prospect, they are thinking about what you're proposing through the lens of their expertise, as well. A CEO is seeing the big picture, while the COO may be looking at things from a more procedural point of view. Take the time to think about what's important to them, what matters to them, what red flags may be to them. (A CEO who loves to think big won't be scared off by a price tag; the CFO is a whole different story...)

Once you've sat in their seats, you can create a presentation that appeals to them. And if the audience is diverse, with diverse needs and hot buttons, you can address each of those, as well. Now you're ahead of the game!

[Related: Top Tips for Webinar Presenters]

2) Be a brutal editor.

Often, we think we need to prove our expertise. We know so much and we want to tell the audience all of it. Not a good idea. (See point #1: It's about their problems and goals, not about your knowing-it-all.)

Instead of throwing the kitchen sink at them, think in threes and fives. Three big buckets of information and no more than five benefits if your presentation is a persuasive one. Brainstorming is great, but don't confuse that with presentation creation.

If the content does not directly relate to your topic and is not critical to convincing your audience, it's gotta go. Remember, if you digress and they lose the thread, their cell phones are right there, begging for attention.

[Related: The Introvert's Guide to Public Speaking]

3) Make your visuals into aids for your audience.

This means no bullets, no complicated charts or graphs that come up all at once, no serif fonts, no wild animations, no pointless images or florescent colors. Please do not put up visual information all at once. If you have a line chart showing sales for the last five years, animate the years one year at a time. Tell us the story behind one year's rise, the next year's fall.

Your visuals should be a synergistic part of your presentation. They should help you explain things in ways that you alone cannot. Lines and lines of text render you redundant, as do slides that are self-explanatory - and redundancy will have your audience reaching for their you-know-whats. (Hint: It begins with "cell" and ends with "phones.")

Before your next presentation, take the time to turn your focus 180 degrees. Put yourself in your audience's seat. Determine what their wants, needs, goals, and problems are. Now you know the angle from which to come at your content.

Next, build your presentation with red pen in hand. If it doesn't directly address your point and their interests, out it goes.

And finally, create visuals that help you tell your story in a way that creates understanding, but requires you to explain. Now you've got an audience that's riveted. Now you're nailing it.

[Related: Making a Positive First Impression]

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Debbie Fay is the founder of Bespeak Presentation Solutions, LLC, providing one-on-one presentation coaching, presentation development, and communications training to businesses worldwide.


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