Engaging Presentations


6 Steps to engage with your audience when giving a presentation


You often hear the phrase “Death by PowerPoint”, it is generally the go-to tool whenever you are tasked with giving a presentation. The issue when the audience switches off to a presentation with lots of detail given by slides isn’t necessarily that the tool is being used in the first place – PowerPoint is a great starting place for planning a presentation – it’s just that the presenter becomes too reliant on that format and too predictable.


So your next presentation – you want the audience to be left in a state where they are wowed and included in equal measure then consider the following:


  1. Prepare quizzes or contests – there are some great tools out there, such Slido, that allows your audience to ask questions, respond to polls and interact using smartphones and tablets as you speak to them. If you can encourage them to use these tools then you can get them to participate without making a show of themselves and you can feed back the responses from the room in real time.


  1. Encourage audience movement – timings and room dynamics may restrict certain movement, but consider it and even a show of hands would be seen as a movement of sorts. If people are moving then they are engaged. Don’t over complicate this though – there needs to be a valid reason to move rather than you simply ticking this box.


  1. Ask for experiences – stories are the most compelling parts of presentations, stories from audience members even more so. Think about subjects where people can consider what they have done in these areas and then encourage them to share these with others. You may want to prime one or two people to get the conversation started, but generally engaged audience members will be keen to speak on points that are pertinent to them.


  1. Ask someone to read a slide out loud and elaborate – this may be a more direct and obvious technique, but getting someone to read a quote or statement on a screen then asking them about it is a simple way of gaining engagement. Make sure it’s relevant and the questions you may have lined up aren’t too challenging though because nobody likes to be made to look a fool. Closed questions will make it easier to get a response and open questions will make it easier for them to elaborate. Consider the situation when determining the question type.


  1. Include small group discussions – if you have the chance for audience members to get together and discuss a subject and then feed back to you then this is a great way to get them engaged. Using pens and flipchart paper can also be a great way to get them collaborating and producing something that can be shown to the rest of the group. Pick topics that will stir lively discussion and allow enough time to allow this to happen. Plan your presentation and check room layout and audience size before you deliver to ensure this format is appropriate.


  1. Don’t use slides as your script, use them as your signposts – Just using slides that people can read isn’t going to engage them, so consider using the visuals on a big screen as a prompt and talk around them. There is a concept in presenting called PechaKucha where you just use photographs as slides and talk around them using the other tools above to encourage engagement. This doesn’t have to be your holiday snaps, you can consider the points you are trying to get across and find visuals that help bring them to live or encourage curiosity from your audience.


These are just a few suggestions on how you can give dynamic presentations that really engage. If you remember that focusing on your audience and not your slides = an engaged audience then you shouldn’t go too far wrong.


At Maguire Training we run a number of courses that are designed to help you create stunning presentations. We also have a number of relevant e-learning modules including

Making Dynamic Presentations that can help you if you are due to speak in public in the future.

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