Nine Ways to Keep Your Audience Engaged During a PresentationWe recently talked about traits of great leaders and how they communicate in a variety of ways. Some people like charts, others like text, and some are visual.

Good leaders know there is more than one way to communicate and they incorporate all of these elements into presentations.

So how do they keep the audience listening, focused, and engaged?

Bruna Martinuzzi wrote an article on this very topic for Open Forum called “How to Keep Your Audience Focused on Your Presentation.”

The nine tips she offered to help deliver an engaging presentation are:

Remember the 10-minute Rule

Most presenters forget attention wanes after about 10 minutes. When creating your presentation, plan to have a strategic change every 10 minutes then use a different medium to present the next segment. Changes can be anything from showing a video clip, asking the audience a question, or telling a relevant story.

Don’t Forget Multimedia

Vision trumps all other senses. If we add a picture to a message, the message is loud and clear. Text-based slides are not effective in grabbing attention and maintaining it. You can get quality images from sites such as iStockphoto and Fotolia. You can also find a relevant video to help make your points. Multimedia will help break up your presentation into smaller chunks.

Put Bullets in Graphics

Back to the visual. Show some bullets on your slides in a visual way. Try and stand out from the crowd. Martinuzzi suggests using diagrams from sites such as DuarteSlideshop, or Prezi.

Honor the Audience

Switch the focus of attention from you to them. A few ways to do this are asking questions designed to get a verbal response, give them a game or exercise, encourage them to ask questions, or ask polling questions about their opinions. This will perk up the audience and get their attention.

Don’t Just Lecture

Instead of lecturing, Martinuzzi suggests presenting part of your presentation in the form of a mind map. Draw it on a flipchart, and as you speak animate the mind map in your slide.

There is also mind mapping software such as Matchware or Mindjet. Also, lighten up. Telling a few jokes. Being animated or just walking around the room will engage the audience and make them want to hear more.

Connect the Dots for the Audience

Help your audience understand where you’ve been and where you’re headed. If people can see the flow of your presentation, they will easily follow along. Using transitions such as “The first reason was… Now I’ll address the second reason” will help the flow of your presentation. Transitions such as “What does this mean for us?” or “The one thing to remember is…” will help the audience understand why they should care.

Have a Repertoire of Questions

Use questions to keep the conversation going. A few questions to use are “What led you to this conclusion?,” “How would you explain this?,” “How does this tie in with xyz,?” “Could you give me an example of what you mean?,” and “Tell me more.”

Slides are Not Your Speaking Notes

Remember, visual trumps auditory. A lot of speakers continue to use their slides, dense with text, and expect the audience to follow along as they speak.

Avoid Late Presentations

Presenting between 7 and 11 a.m. is the optimal time. If possible, avoid presenting right after lunch.

What tricks do you use during a presentation to keep your audience engaged?

Image: LeWEB12.

How to Give a Great PresentationThe best speeches include a clear, relevant message and a few great stories to illustrate it. Take for instance, Steve Jobs’ 2005 commencement address at Stanford University.

It has been viewed more than seven million times on YouTube and it’s still being shared and talked about 11 years later. It’s a powerful speech with a clear message: Stay hungry, stay foolish.

“Today I want to tell you three stories from my life,” says Jobs. “That’s it. No big deal. Just three stories.”

With that, the audience is hooked.

We all don’t have the same charisma Steve Jobs had, but there are a few things we can learn from his speech whether it’s his commencement speech or one of his many presentations for Apple.

Eric Holtzclaw, contributor to Inc. offered tips to deliver an impressive presentation.

Customize the Introduction

Great speakers give the same presentation over and over again, but their audiences don’t realize it. One part of a speech you should change is the beginning, so always customize your introductory remarks and talk about something interesting. Whether you’re showing pictures, giving statistics, asking questions, use a quote, make sure to avoid going straight into your presentation without a hook.

Sell Your Dream

Don’t sell products, services, or companies. Sell your dreams for a better future. This makes your audience think of what could be, not what is. You also need to establish why your audience should listen to you. Holtzclaw suggests:

Think Screenplay, Not Speech

Good content is the most important part of your presentation. Nancy Duarte of Duarte Design recommends thinking of a presentation as a screenplay with three acts: Act 1 sets up the story, Act 2 presents the drama, and Act 3 resolves the story and explain how to make it happen.

Organize and Use Drama

Your presentation needs a beginning, a body, and a conclusion. Use evocative pictures, powerful videos, and sizzling product demos to make your presentation exciting and support your points. You want to provide inspiring information that moves people to action. On a side note, slides of text don’t inspire people, so the few words the better. Also, Holtzclaw says if you plan to present more than five points, provide a leave-behind because the human brain remembers only five things, plus or minus two.

Warm Up the Audience

Get to the venue early if possible so you can circulate with the audience and welcome them. By doing this, you’ll increase your confidence and the interaction increases how much the audience supports you. Remember, you’re the host so before you start your presentation, focus on all the attention on you and truly be in charge.


If you think great presenters like Steve Jobs got on stage and winged it, you’re wrong. Practice your presentation until you’re sick of it.

Ask for Feedback

Offer a feedback form your audience can complete anonymously or ask for feedback from trusted audience members. Holtzclaw says not to take “nice job” or “good information” to mean your audience understood your presentation.

In the course of an organization’s lifecycle, its management and leaders will have to give presentations to potential employees, customers, investors, advisors, vendors, partners, journalists, regulators, and investment bankers. The key to a great presentation is a great cause.

What other tips would you add?

Image: James Mitchell via Flickr, CC 2.0

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