How to Deliver More Effective Interactive Presentations (Part I)

by Joe Tabers, CSP

You, or one of your company’s employees, has just completed the delivery of technical/financial presentation and the audience applauds … But you ask yourself: did they really get it? Are they really going to act on what they’ve heard, or are they politely just saying “thank you?”

All too often, technical/financial presentations and seminars end up being “ho-hum” for those attending. Many presenters/instructors and programs lean heavily on slick graphics and glossy participant materials to lessen the weight of content laden with statistics, principles and historical graphs. I have personally sat through several of these sessions myself, not remembering much afterward, yet alone enabling me to apply the material to my own situation. So in an effort to do battle with the “ho-hum”, what else can you do to make technical material alive, relevant, and memorable?

Two Tips to Success

Over nearly twenty years as a professional speaker and workshop leader I often have had people tell me during a break or after a program, “I thought this was going to be boring, but this is really great”. ” I’m learning a lot!” ” I will definitely use this!” “This is good stuff…very helpful!” Consistent audience responses like these are not just luck. I believe they are the result of four solid steps you can take with your presentations.

Presentation Tip #1. Plan for Success. Ask yourself these questions and write down your answers:

  • Who is my audience? The more you know about and anticipate their needs, the better you can help them.
  • What is (are) the realistic desired outcome(s) given the time frame? It is best to provide specific how-to steps in a few key areas rather than broad overviews in a lot of areas. This is especially true when you are limited on time.
  • What do I want the audience to be thinking or doing differently during and after my presentation?Avoid having a perceived hidden agenda by letting them know your presentation goal(s) up front, and then ask for their help in accomplishing those goals.
  • What tools can I use to help them get there? Be creative here. List possible examples, case studies, true stories or even props you might incorporate to help the audience “get it”.

Presentation Tip #2: Talk with – not at – your audience.

Take the pressure off yourself. View your presentation as an opportunity to share what you have learned with others who can benefit from your experiences, instead of considering your role to be that of a “presenter” or “performer”. Think of sharing with, not presenting to.

Focus on the needs of your audience. For example, imagine there is one person in the audience that has similar needs to a close friend or family member. Pretend you are talking directly with them on a one-to-one basis. What would you say that could help them be substantially better off if they acted upon the information you share?

How could you say it or show it…using a conversational delivery style that allows your beliefs and enthusiasm to show through? By talking with, and not at your audience, your sincerity and believability increases and therefore so does their attention and interest level.

One additional reminder: remember to look at and talk to them, not to your slides. The facial expressions of your audience can be a great source of feedback on how well they are processing your information or if and when you may need to clarify or reinforce one of your points.

To be continued in the next issue: Joe will share two more tips on how to involve and challenge your audience to make information come alive and to increase retention.

Joe Tabers, CSP, is a Certified Speaking Professional and management consultant based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He is the author of over twelve adult learning methodology workshops, including the highly successful “Effective Interactive Trainer” and “The Effective Interactive Presenter” programs. Joe can be reached at Productive Training Services at (800) 805-8780, or by email at jtabers@www.productivetraining.com.

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