Whether you’re giving a project update to the management team, leading a seminar, or a pitching a new client, you’re likely going to have to give a handful of business presentations during your career.
Unfortunately, most of these presentations just don’t land. They’re boring; not engaging enough; too long.
In an age of constant distractions and shrinking attention spans, it seems that giving an engaging presentation is an art that few have been able to master successfully. However, with a combination of powerful data and the right messaging strategy, you can hold your audience’s attention.
Here’s how to keep all eyes and ears on you during your next presentation.
Tell a story.
Statistics and facts are important to any presentation, but without a good story behind them, your audience isn’t going to care about those charts and tables. An anecdote or story can provide context to your data and make listeners more receptive to it. But don’t tell stories just for the sake of telling them: Make sure they connect back to your main points.
Most importantly, don’t just read off of your slides. If your audience can get everything they need to know from the slideshow, you should have just emailed them your PowerPoint instead.
Be aware of your body language.
Few things can ruin a great presentation like a nervous speaker. Public speaking is a common and understandable phobia, but it’s imperative to remain calm and in control of your body movements and tone of voice if you want to come across as a strong presenter. Connect with your audience by looking them in the eye, smiling, and relaxing your body. Try not to be too stiff, fiddle with your notes, or cling to the podium.
They say that practice makes perfect, and this is especially true for presentations. Go over the data you’re presenting and the notes you’ve written. If possible, test out your technology to make sure it works. Rehearse your speech in front of a test audience, and ask for feedback. The more prepared you are, the more likely you are to gracefully handle any unexpected hiccups, tangents, or audience questions.
The most important thing you can do is stay true to yourself. Know your strengths as a presenter and stick with what comes naturally to you. Humor can be a great way to engage an audience, but don’t try to make jokes if that’s not who you are. Remember, your audience is there to listen to you for your expertise. Rather than try to be the person you think they want, just give them your truest, best self.
A version of this article appeared on Fox Business.
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