Keynote presentations can be terrifying for some of us. We fear messing up, looking bad on camera, forgetting our notes… The list of nightmares just doesn’t end.
While it’s not possible to have an entirely foolproof plan, we can minimize the number of ways where things can go wrong. So if you have an important keynote presentation coming up, here are some of our tips to help you out.
How to Ace Your Keynote Presentation
We’ll give you a concise guide on what you should be doing, from the time you start planning to the time you conclude your speech. Take these 15 quick tips and master them so you can deliver a stunning keynote presentation in no time!
1. Know Your Purpose
Before you start creating the layout of your slides or typing out the content of your speech, take some time to ask yourself — what is the purpose of your keynote presentation? What is the takeaway that you want the audience to have after your presentation? Essentially, you need to ask yourself, “What is my message?”. While it feels like time is ticking away, rushing into your slides will backfire in the long run. You need to ensure that the intention behind this presentation is clear and focused, as that would help you in creating a keynote presentation with clarity and confidence.
2. Be Confident
A genuine smile makes you look at ease and approachable
Ever heard of the phrase, ‘fake it till you make it’? Now’s a great time to take that advice! A significant factor in determining the success of your keynote presentation is your audience’s trust in you, and to gain their trust, you need to be confident in yourself first. Confidence in presentations comes from two sources: your posture, and your mastery of the content you are presenting. For posture, remember not to fidget and stand in a relaxed position. Stretch for a couple of minutes before presenting to loosen yourself up. As for your content, be sure to know the subject of your presentation like the back of your hand; read up as much as possible and do not start on it last minute.
3. Give Your Credentials
When introducing yourself, simply sharing your organization and position is not enough; if your audience wants to know where you’re from, all they need is a quick search online. What they do want to know however, is why you are the best person to deliver this presentation, and what you have to offer them. By sharing this, your audience will know that you’re knowledgeable in the field you’re presenting on, and that you have the solution to their needs or problems. Doing this will not only make your audience lean a little closer, but will also give you a great segue to move them into the next part of your presentation.
4. Deliver Your Hook
Research shows that the audience will stop listening to a presentation within 10 minutes if they are not persuaded that there is something in it for them. It is therefore important that you “hook” your audience by convincing them that they can benefit from your keynote presentation. You can do this by showing your audience that the key idea behind your presentation has the ability to make them feel happy or successful.
5. Introduce Your Agenda
At the start of your speech, be sure to let your audience know what the takeaway of your message is. Dedicate a slide to show your audience the agenda, and when presenting, remember not to read from the slides! Instead, offer a brief and general summary of your presentation. Give your audience the direction of your presentation, as this will allow them to follow your content better.
6. Ensure Smooth Transitions
Transitions are like sign posts that guide your audience throughout your speech, so they must be easy to follow, the last thing you need is a confused audience! Unclear transitions can be a nightmare as it may potentially distort the content of your presentation. In the end, the audience grasps only bits and pieces of your message, or worse, gives up on following your presentation. This applies not just to the visual effects that PowerPoint has, but also to the words you use. When transitioning from point to point, use words such as ‘next’, ‘then’, and ‘after’, and number your points using words like ‘firstly’, ‘secondly’, and ‘thirdly’. This will help the audience understand when you’re moving on to another idea or part of your presentation.
7. Give a Credible Statement
If you wish to gain your audience’s trust and establish a professional relationship with them, you need to get them to buy into your presentation. One way would be through giving credible statements that support your message. This can come in the form of data, or in the form of professional advice from experts in the field of your presentation. For example, make use of graphs and statistics to show the importance of a certain situation, and share quotes from someone with authority in a similar (if not the same) industry to backup your statements.
8. Use Images for Maximum Impact
The beauty of well-selected images lies in their ability to communicate a message without throwing dozens of words at an audience, so use them to your advantage! Select photos that encapsulate the message of your keynote presentation, or to highlight a specific idea that you’re sharing. Images that look simple can deliver the most powerful messages, and do what words sometimes cannot achieve — stir emotions in an audience. However, while images are a great tool, moderation is key. Stay away from photos that have been used too often (icebergs, anyone?), and use them sparingly throughout the presentation, as too many may reduce their impact.
9. Present data simply
Data is important in any credible presentation, and like we mentioned earlier, can help to establish your audience’s trust. However, it is crucial that the data be presented in a simple and uncomplicated manner. Too many numbers or graphs can be distracting for the audience, and may obscure the real intention of presenting the data. If you have large chunks of statistics, ask yourself: What is the key idea of the message you’re sharing? Which figures will back your statements up? From there, choose the appropriate data and highlight them accordingly.
10. One slide – one theme
Like transitions, each slide can be used as markers of the various points you aim to cover. Not only does this make your presentation easy for the audience to follow, it also makes it easy for you to remember your points as they are neatly categorised in each slide. It may seem tempting to squeeze all your information into few slides, but remember, moderation is key!
11. Be minimalistic
For a keynote presentation, simplicity is important when designing and organising your deck. You do not want the pattern or design to distract your audience from the real content and message. Again, it is also important that you do not overload the slides with words, so keep the sentences and points in your slides short. Let your speech expand on the ideas that you want the audience to take with them. Your communication and connection with them is more impactful in sending your message across than words on the slides.
12. Be consistent
Consistency is essential, especially when it comes to your presentation. Avoid using different backgrounds in every slide, and ensure that the design is reasonably similar throughout, unless you wish to use differences to distinguish individual points in your message. This makes the transitions in your presentation smooth, and thus it makes the story that you are telling easy for the audience to follow.
13. Practice, Practice, Practice
Rome was not build in a day, and similarly, a perfect presentation will not happen instantaneously! Rehearse your presentation a couple of times before the actual one, as this will help you in two ways. Firstly, you will gain familiarity with the content, which will definitely increase your confidence in delivering the presentation. Secondly, going through the deck aloud will allow you to listen to your speech from the audience’s perspective. This will aid you in tweaking and adjusting the content and structure of your presentation, to best fit the needs of the audience.
14. Analyse your audience
On the day of your presentation, analyse the audience. Get a general feel of the crowd. Are they excited? Are they bored? Are they tired? By doing this, you will be able to tweak the content of your presentation to fit the needs of your audience. If they are bored, you may wish to start with an interesting story related to your message. If they are tired, you could give them some time to get refreshed, either through a 5 minutes break or a quick activity to keep them alert. This way, you can ensure that you have a receptive audience ready to listen to what you have to say.
15. Q&A session
It is absolutely important that you leave some time at the end of your keynote presentation for a short “question and answer” session. Since the presentation was done from your perspective, the audience may have missed some important links and connections in your ideas. Therefore, a Q&A session is great in resolving any potential confusion that the audience may have.
There you have it, 15 simple tips to ace your keynote presentation! Just remember:
Know Your Purpose
Give Your Credentials
Deliver Your Hook
Introduce Your Agenda
Ensure Smooth Transitions
Give a Credible Statement
Use Images for Maximum Impact
Present data simply
One slide – one theme
Practice, Practice, Practice
Analyse your audience
Now you’re good to go, all the best for your keynote presentation!
With over 30 million PowerPoint presentations made each day, this indispensable software has long been integrated into our everyday lives, whether for educational purposes or work. We often turn to this handy software when we need to introduce certain ideas to a group of people, as a thousand-word report can easily be condensed into a visual presentation. The experience a good PowerPoint deck provides can effectively engage the audience; aiding them in quickly understanding the material being conveyed, and easing what would have otherwise been a tedious process for both speaker and audience.
Presentations can also act as notes or reminders for the speaker, and the natural confidence that comes from knowing the script paves the way for a captivating performance. But here’s the thing — most of us know the benefits of having great presentations, the only question is how. How do we make a good PowerPoint deck that is effective, without sacrificing too much of our time?
How To Make a Good PowerPoint Presentation
Trust us, it’s easier than it sounds. We’re giving you 9 hacks to help you get started.
1. It’s All About the Design
Fancy fonts and flashy animations? Pretty cool, but if you’re keeping it professional and stylish, leave that behind for now. Avoid cheesy effects and focus on simple designs as a deck with minimal clutter and distractions work best in capturing your audience’s attention. This is particularly important when what they have to pay attention to, is distinctive. Keep three things in mind:
Use only fonts that are easy to read. Sans serif fonts like Arial, Helvetica, or Calibri are the easiest to read on screens. If you want to spice things up, use decorative fonts for slide headers, but make sure they’re legible, even from afar.
Use dark text on a light background. Research has proven that dark text on a light background is the best combination as white stimulates focus in the eye, and allows smoother absorption of information.
Align text left or right. Aligning all text to a baseline makes it easier for the audience to follow, gives the presentation a neater look overall.
2. Customize Your Theme
There is a reason why we get bored when we see the standard templates from PowerPoint — they’ve been used far too many times. A slide deck that is visually similar to what an audience has seen repeatedly will not appear fresh or interesting, making information retention and engagement that much harder to achieve. To avoid a cookie-cutter and forgettable presentation, you can either create your own template, purchase professional ones online, or download free ones from the internet (psst, we help companies create templates too!).
Avoid overwhelming the audience with too many things all at once. A good PowerPoint presentation has both visual and verbal brevity, allowing the audience to remain focused on one point at a time. Instead of packing all the information into one slide, spread them evenly across a few slides to avoid distracting or confusing the audience. If you have a lot of information and data that needs to be shared with the audience, prepare a separate set of documents for them to review, or send out the slides with greater detail after the presentation.
4. More Images, Less Text
If someone tells you about a giant chicken crossing a road, in your head, would you think of an animal walking against traffic, or the words itself? Chances are, you’ll conjure an image in your head, as ridiculous as it sounds.
There’s a reason for that. As humans, we generally prefer visuals over text — in fact, the combination of a great visual accompanied by a short list of brief bullet points increases the chances of information making it to long-term memory. Be sure to use only high-quality images as they are the ones that will help you make an impression on the audience. Either resize or replace images that are too small or they might become overly stretched-out.
5. Use the Great Alignment Feature
Properly aligning your images, texts, and anything else that is on your slide instantly makes it look neater and more professional. While manually aligning everything is an option, our aim here is to get the deck done in the shortest amount of time. Here’s where PowerPoint helps you out; there is an amazing feature that effortlessly makes the magic happen.
To align multiple objects:
Select all objects by holding down ‘Shift’ and clicking on all of them.
Select ‘Arrange’ in the top options bar, then choose ‘Align or Distribute’.
Choose whichever alignment works best for you.
That wasn’t hard, was it? Keep this little trick with you, especially if you can’t stand having slide elements just slightly off-centre.
6. Know the Power of Colors
Colors are amazing, and they can do wonders to a presentation. Studies have shown that colors can not only increase interest, but also improve learning comprehension and retention rate. Cool colors (such as blue and green) are better suited to be used for the background as they have the illusion of fading away from us, whereas warm colors (such as orange and red) are better used for objects in the foreground as they appear to be coming toward us. Good PowerPoint presentations make use of colors effectively to achieve various outcomes, such as highlighting messages or ideas that the audience needs to focus on, or pushing less relevant data into the background.
While it is exciting to play with different combinations of colors on a slide, for simplicity, keep it to a maximum of three colors; one for your background, one for your text, and one to highlight any important information.
7. Remember the 2/4/8 Rule
If you’re worried about content and how it should be placed or split up, a simple way to remember is the 2/4/8 rule from Hugh Culver:
No more than one slide every 2 minutes
No more than 4 bullets per slide
No more than 8 words per bullet
This is not a rigid system; if your presentation is only 5 minutes, having only one slide every 2 minutes might not be enough. You’ll need to trust your instincts and modify accordingly, keeping in mind that brevity is key.
8. Use Charts
Data is beautiful, but not when it’s squeezed into a slide that forces your audience to rack their brains in an attempt to comprehend it. If data is a necessity in your presentation, extract only the necessary information and display these numbers in graphic form instead. It is essential to choose the right kind of charts for your data, as different charts bring across different messages.
Look, data can be beautiful too! =)
Pie Charts. They are mainly used to present percentages. Contrast the most important slice either with a conflicting colour or by separating it from the rest of the slices.
Vertical Bar Charts. They can effectively reflect changes in quantity of two groups (or more) over time, but it is ideal to limit the bars to not more than 8.
Horizontal Bar Charts. They are best used for comparison between different groups.
Line Charts. They are used to reflect actual trends, or predict possible trends.
9. Organize Your Slides
The slide sorter function often goes ignored, but in fact, it is extremely useful in organizing the entire flow of your presentation and helping you look out for any extraneous information that might be removed to improve the overall clarity. Take a step back and run through your slides as you would from someone who is seeing it all for the first time. Process all the content being fed as your harshest critic—focus on coming up with the best and most logical flow and remove anything that might prove distracting or unnecessary in helping you understand a certain point.
In a generation so highly dependent on the use of technology, it is crucial that we understand the rules of the playing field and are able to manipulate technology well enough to suit our needs. These simple hacks are what you need to create a powerful presentation quickly and effectively. Just remember:
It’s All About the Design
Customize Your Theme
Conciseness is Key
More Images, Less Text
Use the Great Alignment Feature
Know the Power of Colors
Remember the 2/4/8 Rule
Organize Your Slides
With all these in mind, you’re good to go. Have fun creating your slides!
Imagine this: you have just picked up your morning coffee from your favourite barista, secured yourself the best spot in the parking lot and head into the office for a seemingly average Tuesday morning until— bam. You step in the elevator and come face-to-face with the CEO of your dream company or the client you’ve been dying to land.
It’s the perfect opportunity to communicate with her who you are, what you do, and what you want. With nothing prepared, you find yourself stammering from the moment she says, “Good Morning.” By the time you reach the 15th floor, you’ve lost the moment. You have nothing to show for yourself aside from your utter embarrassment. If you had prepared your elevator pitch beforehand, this would not have happened.
Elevator Pitch Definition: The appropriately named “elevator pitch” or “elevator speech” is a compact and compelling introduction that can be communicated from the time someone takes an elevator ride up. An elevator pitch does not need to literally occur in an elevator. It can be applied anywhere especially, when you meet someone new to introduce yourself.
Whether you’re a startup founder putting together your investor pitch, or an executive looking to boost your chances at an upcoming promotion exercise, you can benefit from learning how to deliver a concise elevator pitch. The skills required to master an elevator pitch are equally as beneficial at a networking event, sales meeting, or job interview.
A well thought-out and rehearsed elevator pitch is also a great way to introduce yourself, both professionally and confidently.
Ready to avoid the cringe-worthy scenario we described?
Here’s 5 Tips On How to Ace Your Elevator Pitch:
1. Keep it short (30 seconds or less)
Like the name might suggest, an elevator pitch needs to be succinct. It’s important to keep in mind that people are busy, so it is crucial to be able to communicate who you are and what you do in the time frame that you have your listener’s attention. Ideally, your elevator pitch should be approximately 30 seconds in length. This might seem daunting, but limiting your speech to its main talking points should deter you from rambling on about irrelevant information. Leave out your entire work history and long-term objectives. If your listener wants to learn more information, they’ll ask.
2. Practice in front of a mirror
The old saying, “practice makes perfect,” could not make more sense than when referring to an elevator pitch. Not only will practicing help you memorize your elevator pitch, but the more you practice it, the more confident you will become. The best way to get comfortable with an elevator speech is to practice it until the speed and “pitch” come naturally without you sounding robotic, so your confidence will be apparent to your listener.
Rehearsing your speech in front of a mirror allows you to become aware of your body language and movements. For example, using too many hand gestures can be distracting to a listener and can quickly detract from the speech you’ve spent hours crafting. If you’re really looking for a challenge, practice your speech in front of a non-biased listener (friends and family can be overly conscientious of your feelings) and ask for a bit of constructive criticism.
3. Be clear, eliminate flowery speech and industry jargon
When reciting your speech, you want it to be as to the point and unambiguous as possible. Sure, delving into your SAT-approved vocabulary might demonstrate your intelligence, but it can easily shift focus away from what you’re actually pitching. A more conversational tone is easy to understand in a short time frame and also portrays you as being more personable. Always assume that your listener has no understanding of your industry, the services you provide, or the products you sell. This way, you can utilize your elevator pitch in front of anyone, and be confident that your argument has been made by the time you’ve finished, no matter which industry you’re operating in or who you’re speaking to.
4. Communicate Your USP
The USP, or “Unique Selling Proposition,” is perhaps the most important element of your elevator pitch. A USP is a statement that concisely outlines how you, your business, or your product is different from that of your competition— or “the kicker” in any good sales pitch, as we like to think of it. It identifies what makes you the better choice than any other individual your listener may also encounter in that elevator. This is your chance to brag a bit— avoid sounding boastful but do share what you bring to the table. Even though an elevator pitch is short in length, it should be enough time to persuade your listener on your USP and spark enough interest to put a follow-up meeting on your calendar.
5. Anticipate follow up questions
Nothing is worse than delivering a killer elevator pitch, but then becoming completely flustered as soon as your listener decides to ask a few follow up questions. Keep in mind that an effective elevator speech should inspire some curiosity from your listener. Be prepared to further explain your business goals and objectives. When in doubt, always carry a business card. That way, any query you may struggle to answer on the spot can be discussed further over a cup of coffee. Offering your business card at the end of your conversation is a great way to continue the dialogue at a later date.
Example of an ideal elevator pitch
“Hi, my name is Sara and I create illustrations for websites and brands. My passion is coming up with creative ways to express a message and drawing illustrations that people share on social media.”
Not only is this pitch example short and easy to understand, but it also can be recited to a number of different listeners. Sara introduces herself first and then quickly explains what she does in the first sentence. Then she describes more about her passion in the second sentence. Her pitch can be utilized in a variety of situations and still leaves room for interest and follow up questions.
In summary, you’ll want to make sure these points are done to perfect your elevator pitch:
Keep It Short
Practice In Front Of The Mirror
Be Clear and Eliminate Jargon
Communicate Your USP
Anticipate Follow-up Questions
With these, you’ll be well on your way to delivering short, succinct pitches that get you closer to what you want.
Our final piece of advice? Set aside some time to create your perfect elevator pitch (or revamp the one you’ve used before). You never know who you might find in tomorrow morning’s elevator ride.
I was privileged to be a close combat instructor of the Singapore military during my national service stint. Over the two years, I’ve received interesting different responses from varied crowds hailing from different demographics. I’ve instructed both elite infantry units and recruits to even officers during my time in the Singapore military.
When you’re expected to command an audience of diverse backgrounds that respond to different forms of communication week in and out, you’ll have to be highly adaptable. Here are 5 ways to command an audience:
1) Be Authoritative
If you’re standing in front of an audience to impart lessons on a subject, you’re expected to be authoritative or at least competent about your subject matter. They aren’t there to listen to something they’ve already heard umpteen times before, but a unique perspective on your topic of discussion.
Likened to a teacher who is unsure about a subject that he or she is teaching, you’ll very quickly lose the audience’s respect and ultimately their attention.
On the flip side, there are teachers that walk into the room and immediately commands your attention, almost effortlessly earning the respect of those listening. It’s slightly different from ‘knowing’ your stuff, but more so exuding an aura of authority. How can you be authoritative then?
Three of the simplest ways be more authoritative are:
Strong Eye Contact
You need to be able to hold strong, regular eye contact with your crowd. There are no two ways about it. In my experience as a military instructor, I regularly have more than a hundred grown men looking up to me, waiting for instructions. Looking down to the floor with shifty eyes and uncertainty is one of the fastest ways to lose their attention and respect.
Strong Body Language
Secondly, is your body language.
When humans get scared, we close up our postures similar to how animals go into a submissive position or posture. It’s so rampant (especially in public figures), that we’ve given it a name: the ‘Fig-Leaf Presenting Position‘. Presenters that are nervous or afraid tend to default into this defensive stance to protect their more sensitive parts of the body.
Ever heard of ‘Fake it, till you make it’? To appear more confident via more effective body language, try to consciously maintain a good, comfortable posture. Walk with large purposeful strides, with your feet, shoulder-width apart.
Commanding Vocal Tonality
Lastly, it’s your vocal tonality. I’ve seen huge, bulky military men crumble into nervous wrecks when put infront of an audience in a public-speaking situation. They tend to talk much faster to get through the experience much quicker. This comes at the expense of the audience and their presence.
Instead, to truly command attention, you’ll do well to talk more slowly.
As TED Speaker, Amy Cuddy, Author of ‘Presence’ aptly put:
“Powerful people initiate speech more often, talk more overall, and make more eye contact while they’re speaking than powerless people do. When we feel powerful, we speak more slowly and take more time. We don’t rush. We’re not afraid to pause. We feel entitled to the time we’re using.”
One of the best ways to get good these three areas are to study the speeches of powerful politicians and businessman. Take Lee Kuan Yew’s Speech for example:
2) Demonstrate Instead of Simply Telling
Instead of telling them what you can do. Show them what you can do. If you’re lucky enough to have access to visual aids, you can show pictures or multimedia. In situations where you don’t have access to technology, it always helps to demonstrate live.
One of my favorite demonstrations as an instructor was when we needed to teach the basics of self-defense. The approach was to find the heaviest soldier from the crowd as a volunteer and execute a simple, but effective technique that would sweep him off his feet, resulting in the soldier falling on his back.
As I have a smaller frame (at 1.67M and 65KG) than many of the recruits, the demonstration held even more power. Demonstrating that a much smaller soldier could easily takedown someone two times larger left a deep impression in many of my recruits – not to mention it also helped to cement a positive impression of my capabilities in their minds for the months to follow.
3) Be Passionate
Thirdly, passion goes a long way to command an audience.
“If you organize your life around your passion, you can turn your passion into your story and then turn your story into something bigger―something that matters.” ―Blake Mycoskie
In every class I instruct, there will often be a small minority who isn’t a 100% interested in the class material. They’d much prefer to slack off, not pay attention or cause some disruption to classes with their unruliness. However, over time, I observed that tweaking certain aspects of my delivery became useful in winning over these non-enthusiasts.
Accentuate the Details
You know someone is passionate about that particular expertise when he’s able to pick out the tiny details that 99% of people miss. Identify certain nuances in your field that the majority hardly talks about. Include them in your presentation and delivery to watch your audiences appreciate the effort.
For example, in the arena of public speaking, effective speakers typically pay attention to vocal tonality, the speed of delivery, pauses, vocal inflections when on stage. These are details that most people miss, but differentiate the good speakers from the great ones.
Find Your ‘Flow’
The psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi introduced a concept named ‘flow’. When you’re doing something you’re passionate about, you find yourself losing track of time and your surroundings. That is an example of having found ‘flow’.
Ever observed a street performer so immersed in his performance that you can’t help but steal a closer look? That’s a great example of commanding an audience through flow. The key is to be present at the moment without having your mind wander off and getting distracted by other thoughts.
Mindfulness training and actively focusing on that specific moment you’re delivering your speech can do wonders for your delivery.
4) Work with your Audience
Find Common Ground
If you’re working with an audience, you need to garner their trust, respect, and likeability, fast. As an instructor, it’s a tough line to toe. Overly nice treatment gets you perceived as a pushover and being too strict can sow discord. The most effective takeaway I got from these occasions is that the audience needs to perceive you as being ‘one of them’. As Cialdini stated in his book, Influence, people tend to like people that are like them.
If my men perceive me to be a dictator figure hell-bent on my own agendas, nobody is going to listen to me, much less follow my instructions. Introducing parts of your personality or background that aligns with that of audience members is a quick way to build instant rapport and familiarity.
Speak Their Language
Through the years as an instructor, I found that if you speaking to your audience’s hopes, dreams, and fears, you can get them to listen to you more attentively. You can garner their trust, respect and become more likable.
For example, most people aren’t interested in ‘financial literacy’. However, a lot of them are worried about housing loans, car loans or salary increases. Use layman language and avoid speaking at a high-level to connect with your audience members on a personal level.
5) Hold to your Highest Purpose
Lastly, you cannot command an audience when speaking in front of them if you do not hold to your highest purpose. Have you ever wondered how Gandhi, Martin Luther King gave speeches that changed the world?
Yes. That’s because they are holding to their highest purpose. They are delivering those speeches from a point that’s deeply rooted in their purpose. For the greater good.
You may not be Winston Churchill beckoning troops to fight on the beaches, however, you can also hold to your highest purpose when speaking to a crowd.
Contribute to Something Meaningful
The highest purpose of my role as a SAF self-defense instructor was to impart self-defense instruction in an effective manner to Singapore military troops to enable them to defend themselves in an unarmed combat situation. In my heart and in my bones, I was aligned with that purpose and the reason that we’re conducting the presentation in the first place.
The session did not feel forced. Being able to defend yourself in dangerous situations as a soldier can mean the difference between life and death. I was glad to avail time to spend with these young men hailing from different families and backgrounds to enable them to serve their nation. Likewise, your speech should be something that you believe in.
If you communicate to your audience in a ‘just had to be done’ manner, the devil-may-care attitude towards the topic might backfire. Audiences can feel the lack of sincerity and tune out immediately.
However, gearing your energy and presentation towards your noble agenda or purpose can help you become more charismatic and persuasive.
Through the years as a self-defense instructor for the Singapore military, I found that being authoritative, demonstrating instead of simply telling, being passionate about your subject, working with your audience and holding to your highest purposes are 5 timeless principles to command an audience.
Ever wondered why it is so hard to keep your audience engaged? Well, here’s the answer. According to research, the average attention span of a human is eight seconds. And what this means is that your audience are likely to lose their attention during your presentation, and you wouldn’t want that to happen would you?
Delivering a presentation isn’t as easy as it seems, and on top of that, the thought of your audience not listening to you can haunts you throughout your presentation. In this article, we have prepared 15 tips to help you keep your audience engaged during your presentation.
1. Tell stories
“Sometimes reality is too complex. Stories give it form.” – Jean Luc Godard
Ever heard of Shark Tank? Entrepreneurs take part in the show to seek funds from a group of sharks in return for equity for a new product that they have just launched. The way they would pitch about their product is to start with a story that focusses on the problem followed by a demonstration of the product that help provide a solution to it.
So why do they use stories to communicate the problem? Isn’t it easier if they just stated it and moved on from there? Why put in the effort to come up with a story?
Thus, storytelling can play a huge part in helping the audience better understand your point.
Here’s a video of Andy Harrington speaking about the number one way to engage your audience:
2. Eye contact
Most of us have been a victim of painful presentations. Some contain really heavy content, some are filled with numbers and facts, and some are just… boring. One of the ways to keep the audience engaged is to maintain eye contact with them. When you look them in the eye, they are more likely to back at look at you. This way, they get less distracted by other things such as games on their phones and become more focused on you and your content.
3. Start by telling your audience what they’ll take away from your presentation
Imagine listening to a presentation hoping to gain knowledge about a particular something, and the next thing you know, the session is over – turns out, nothing memorable was mentioned, no valuable insight or takeaway from the session.
It would be a plus to inform your audience at the start of your presentation about your agenda or goals so that they know to expect from it. This way, they are more likely to listen attentively and anticipate the information that you’ll be speaking about, which will engage them in your presentation.
4. Emphasise key words
Make it clear to your audience what they really need to pay attention to by changing your tone when it comes to the important information. You can also speak a little softer when you’re emphasising a key point to make the audience focus on you more.
You must be wondering then, why softer and not louder? This is because when you speak softly, people tend to associate it with important things like secrets – which makes them all the more interested in what you have to say.
With that being said, there’s nothing wrong with speaking louder too, though it depends on what the message is and how you would want to convey it to the audience.
You can also consider using the following techniques to emphasize the important points:
Inform your audience that you are about to say something important.
Make the most important point the climax of a story
5. Use silence effectively
Imagine explaining an extremely complex situation or problem to someone. Do you instantly move on to the next point or do you wait for them to process the information before moving on?
This is the same with presentations. When you make a statement, it’s important to wait in silence to observe how people receive the message. Give the audience some time to receive and digest the information. Don’t flood the them with too much information or you’ll end up overwhelming them, which is a sure fire way to lose their interest.
6. Incorporate humour into your presentation
When you have a creative presentation lined up for the audience, you’ve won half the battle. Creative presentation will help to differentiate you from other presenters. What’s left is to maintain their attention towards you throughout the presentation.
Life is too short to be serious about everything. Lighten the mood by incorporating some humor into your presentation to keep the audience engaged. Leo Rosten, an American Humorist, once said “Humour is the affectionate communication of insight.” I’m sure the audience will be happy to listen to a joke or two during a presentation, especially those with heavy content.
7. Encourage interaction
Ever wondered why speakers say things like “Raise your hands if you agree” or “Raise your hands if you have done this before”?
Doing this helps stimulate engagement amongst the audience. Not only that, speakers are also able to find out if you have been listening through your response.
Here’s a tip: make use of online quizzes such as Kahoot during your presentation Kahoot is a customisable online poll to help kickstart a discussion with your audience. They can take part in the quiz using their electronic devices.
This helps find out if they have been listening to you through their participation and also keep them engaged.
8. Be enthusiastic
Don’t expect your audience to be excited about your presentation when you yourself are not. Be enthusiastic and spread the positive vibes to your audience. Remember, you only have 7 seconds to either make it or break it when it comes to creating a lasting impression on your audience. So start off strong with lots of energy to create a lasting first impression. That way, they are more likely to listen to your presentation as they may find you fun and interesting.
9. Pause periodically
Pauses allows your audience to interrupt your presentation with their burning questions. This way, there will be more interaction between you and your audience, thus they’ll be engaged and involved throughout the presentation. You can also switch the presentation up by asking your audience questions once in a while instead of letting them do all the asking. This also helps them to ponder over the issue that you’ve brought up.
10. Alternate your pacing
Would you rather listen to a presentation at the same pace or would you rather have variations? Imagine listening to the presentation outline for a minute when it can actually be done in a shorter amount of time. As a presenter, incorporate some variations into your presentation to spice things up.
For example, when you’re speaking about the presentation outline and background information, you can pick up the pace as it is less important as compared to your main points. And when you’re at your main points, you can speak slower to be more elaborate and to allow your audience to fully absorb the information.
11. Go off script
It would be good to practice the delivery of your presentation in advance so as to look well-prepared and professional. When you look more confident and professional, your audience is more likely to buy your message. After a few rounds of practicing, you should be very familiar with the flow of your presentation and can make do without the cue cards.
However, there is no point memorising and knowing your content at the back of your head if you sound robotic, rigid and rehearsed. The moment you do, chances are, your audience would know and they won’t be able to feel your sincerity when you’re speaking.
So don’t think about how you should act, speak or behave. Let all these expectations go down the drain and speak like how you normally would with a friend or family member – Personal, warm and your walls down. Speak naturally, not word for word.
12. Use your voice
Imagine you’re listening to a monotonous person speak for several minutes. Wouldn’t you feel as though you are listening to a robot? If you’re the presenter, you wouldn’t want to speak in the same tone throughout your presentation as this would bore the audience.
One of the way to capture the attention of the audience is to add a personal and emotional touch to your presentation. If you have noticed, most speakers out there would constantly change their tone according to the context of their presentation. Let’s take Obama as an example. Have you ever heard him speak monotonously? You rarely right, this is because he uses his voice to keep his audience engaged by adding some tone into his speech.
13. Keep it short and sweet
The attention span that can be comfortably held by an interested human engaged in listening to a speaker is around 18 to 20 minutes. It’s the same for students in lectures. They can never listen to a 90-minute lecture without having to take a break – and even with breaks, they tend to lose focus after the first half of the lecture. I have been there and done that and I’m sure most of you have too.
My point is, try to keep your presentations short and sweet but not to the point where you leave out important information. Eliminate unnecessary and irrelevant topics in your presentation as this would also cause the audience to lose focus.
14. Break the ice
If you are speaking to an audience that you’ve just met for the first time, it is important to make them feel comfortable. Wouldn’t you feel much more comfortable when you’re listening to a friend as opposed to when you’re listening to a stranger? This is the same for your audience. They want to hear someone – a friend when you’re speaking. Not a stranger. So to do this, conduct simple ice breaker activities before properly starting your presentation to get them to warm up to you. Examples of ice breakers activities are: Live Polls, 2 truths 1 lie and the classic – Raise your hand if….
Only then when your audience is comfortable with your presence, will you notice that they will be more attentive, making it easier for you to engage them.
Here’s another tip: when you are conducting the activities, try being enthusiastic and personable. Don’t hesitate to go all out and don’t be afraid to embarrass yourself in front of the audience. Any hesitation or fear on your part will only make your audience doubt you in return.
15. Avoid providing handouts before or during a presentation
The main purpose of a presentation is to convey your message to the audience. Handouts are secondary.
Although handouts are great for the audience since they can refer to them for further detail and elaboration, distributing them –especially before or during the presentation– will only serve to distract them.
Not only that, they may end up reading the handout instead of focusing on your presentation.
Furthermore, if your handout contains sensitive information, there is no reason why the audience shouldn’t copy it or worse – give it to your competitors.
Thus, handouts can act as a double-edged sword. Useful for the audience, but risky for you. If you plan to make use of handouts, proceed with caution. Weigh the benefits and risks before continuing.
Wrapping it Up
And there you have it! 15 tips to help make your audience glued to their seats during a presentation. Give yourself a pat on the back for making it through this article. Do let us know in the comments if you’ve tried these methods and if it worked out for you!
Q&A is like unchartered territory – unpredictable and full of surprises. It’s a double edged sword, either reinforcing your message or undermining it. One wrong move and you may lose the credibility you’ve worked hard to build as a speaker.
Many speakers – even seasoned ones – are intimidated in this area but who wouldn’t be? You can’t know the questions that will be coming your way. It’s one thing to talk to a crowd but another when it’s a two-way dialogue taking place.
Q&A sessions are not just a matter of conveying the message – it’s also receiving on your end as well – which makes sense why so many can get stage fright, and possibly a break a cold sweat just thinking about it. Naturally, it happens to most people that may not have gone for presentation skills training, but it’s more common than you think.
Either way, whether you love or hate it, Q&A sessions are an essential tool. It makes your talk a subject of conversation and a way to connect with your audience. With a bit of preparation, research and determination, you can leverage on the Q&A session to help elevate your talk and reinforce your credibility as a speaker.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to help ensure your Q&A sessions are as smooth-sailing as possible:
1) Q&A Objectives
A good Q&A session is more than just an allocated time slot for your audience to ask random questions.
The purpose of a Q&A like any presentation, speech or pitch needs to have a clear objective that meets the goal at the end of the day. That means making it evident of the direction you want the session to go.
If you do make use of a moderator, a good one would already be guiding your session to the desired direction easily.
2) Hold a briefing session before the event
It is vital that you brief everyone before your presentation so they are prepared which in turn, can provide the best experience for your audience.
Clarify any issues, questions or instructions from the people working behind the scenes such as stage managers and moderators before running through the event program so everything is in place and running smoothly.
3) Dedicate enough time
This is something you should establish earlier on in the planning stages of your session. Timing for a Q&A session depends on your set up. If your Q&A session will be conducted after your presentation, then a good 15 minutes should be given. However, if it is a team presentation, then the time given should be extended to ensure each presenter gets a chance to answer the questions as well.
Speakers often focus their efforts into the presentation and leave the remaining time allocated to a Q&A session. This means the audience can only answer one or two questions at best. This compromises further engagement with the audience.
To further engage your audience and strengthen your credibility as a speaker, the Q&A session should match the length of the presentation. You can even consider switching it the other way round where your presentation is short and sweet followed by a longer Q&A
4) Prepare questions beforehand
“Over prepare then go with the flow” – Regina Brett
It doesn’t hurt to over prepare – after all it’s the backbone of success. To ensure you’re not caught off guard or flustered over the questions the audience may ask, think of a few to anticipate beforehand.
Make it a habit to write down these questions down especially the tough or controversial ones before rehearsing your answer. Run a mock session with your trusted and reliable colleagues, friends or family to ensure your answers are well thought of and don’t offend your audience. The evaluation and feedback given from the mock session is key to helping you improve as a speaker.
But, if there are a lack of questions asked during your presentation, don’t shy away from initiating first. Not only do you avoid awkward silences, it also helps to kick start the discussion and inspire more questions from the audience.
5) Engage a strong moderator
If you need someone to moderate your Q&A session, then it’s important to choose a good moderator as they can help boost the effectiveness of your Q&A. Ultimately, the role of the moderator is to bridge the gap between the audience and the speaker. Hence, they need to be someone who is comfortable with being on stage, able to handle pressure and facilitate the conversation – not join in or control it.
A good moderator ensures the purpose of the session is intact, is able to guide the questions back to the main topic of the session as well as prevent the session from being hijacked by a troublesome audience member. Make sure to take these considerations in mind when finding a good moderator.
6) Collect Questions Ahead of the Event
Throughout the event, you can start collecting questions before and during your speech. This is helpful in several ways. You as the speaker will be able to plan how to address these questions. The moderator will be able to guide the session better.For the audience, they’re able to ask questions that truly matter instead of scrambling to think of one that may not be useful to them or you. It’s a win-win situation.
One of the ways to collect questions beforehand is using Mentimeter or Kahoot. Both are polling tools where you or your audience can set questions or provide input via a mobile phone or any other device connected to the Internet.
7) Use the right tools and equipment
Are you planning on having your audience ask their questions vocally or online? Either way, make sure that these tools are able to function with ease during the session itself.
If you’re making use of a microphone, ensure the volume of the microphone is loud enough that even the audience from the back are able to hear the questions asked loud and clear. If you’re facilitating the questions online, then make sure the Wi-Fi or internet is strong so you can receive their questions easily.
It’s not life or death situation if you need a moment to think before answering a question. Sometimes, answering too quickly may make you seem defensive to the audience so it’s okay to take a few seconds to indulge the question. Not only that, answering instantly may wind up making you stumble over your answers which in turn makes them doubt your credibility. Worse, you may even make the mistake of answering nothing related in your haste.
Although it may be awkward to pause due to the silence, your audience won’t think badly of it. In fact, they will appreciate that you took the time to process their questions. You’ll also look more genuine and authentic as a speaker – not a scripted, monotonous robot.
9) Reduce filler words
Although not everyone is graced with speaking fluently in front of an audience, constantly saying ‘um’, ‘well’, ‘you know’ and ‘uh’ will do little to establish your credibility as a speaker. These filler words will also annoy your audience when used repetitively.
But what you can do is reduce using these fillers when speaking. Make it a habit to pause so you can gather your thoughts before you speak. Better to take a few seconds to speak in a cohesive manner than instantly speaking, stumbling over your words.
10) Get straight to the point
Often times, speakers beat around the bush when answering questions during Q&A. It may or may not be intentional as there are other factors that can cause the speaker to answer the questions in a long-winded manner.
For instance, they may not have listened closely or they may not have not known how to answer the question and decided to change the topic. Either way, it doesn’t matter. Beating around the bush will only compromise your credibility as a speaker.
So before you answer a question, make sure to listen carefully. Then, make sure to give a short and straight forward answer.
This brings me to my next point.
11) Confirm that you’ve answered the question
After answering a question, always make sure you clarify if you have truly answered it. Throughout the Q&A session, make it a habit to ask if you’ve answered the question or if your answer was clear. It shows you care and that their needs are being met.
12) Don’t get thrown off by the awkward or random question
Elon Musk mentions that even the most well-prepared and organised presentation can go haywire if the speaker is confronted by irrelevant, random and awkward questions.
If you’re lucky, you won’t encounter this. Nonetheless, it’s still important to be prepared to face it and answer as professionally as possible before tying it back to the topic.
This may take a few tweaks here and there especially when It comes to mastering how to handle awkward questions. With that being said, even if the questions asked are not related, answer it honestly anyway. It may end up being the answer you are most remembered for.
One example is Former President Bill Clinton who encounters being asked a totally random question: “Boxers or Briefs?”. Although the question was puzzling and did not tie with his speech, he answered anyway.
Here’s a video of Elon Musk calmly tackling random and awkward questions after his presentation:
Notice how most of the audience members in the video ask long-winded questions. Elon Musk does not harshly tell them off but firmly says “No essays, only questions” to bring them back on track.
13) Learn How to Handle a Tough Audience
Of course most of the questions asked by the audience are sincere. Their intentions are never to hurt or bring malice upon the speaker.
But sometimes, we are faced with audience members who ask questions intended to make themselves look smarter, put the focus on them or, make the speaker look dumb and undermine their credibility
Whatever the purpose is, there many ways to come out unscathed when handling a tough crowd. Despite so, always make sure to be the bigger person. Answer all their questions with professionalism and keep your emotions in check.
Ending the Session
And we’re nearing the end! You’re almost done so make sure to end the session off strong.
Summarise in one or two short sentences encompassing the message of your talk and always make sure to thank the audience for their time and attention – even if they were a tough audience.
Always be humbled by the audience’s presence even if the talk did not go as plan. This sincerity in turn, may keep your audience coming back for more – or at least leave a long lasting impression on them.
Summing It Up
The best Q&A sessions are ones where you provide your audience with a voice and a safe space for interaction. Not just for the sake of having one.
It all boils down to one purpose: to enhance their learning experience after your presentation or speech.
With that being said, Q&A sessions are only one of the many factors that help you craft an impressive presentation. Make sure to put in the same amount of effort and dedication to planning and executing your presentation as well, and you’ll definitely have a presentation with that ‘wow’ factor.
Don’t forget to implement the 13 steps mentioned to help maximise your Q&A session’s potential and added value. Remember to:
Prepare yourself and others
Know your objective the the Q&A session
Brief others of your plan
Delegate enough time
Anticipate and prepare questions that may be asked
Ensure you have a strong moderator
Make use of the right tools to enhance your session
Pause to ensure your point sinks in
Do not rush and stumble on your words, reduce filler words
Don’t beat around the bush
Ensure if you’ve answered the questions properly
Don’t get thrown off by awkward questions
Learn to handle a tough crowd
Let us know and comment down below if it worked for you!