The characteristics of an engaging presentation
In preparing your presentation, you’ll want to develop your ideas and design your visual materials.
Now, how are you going to engage your audience? To really stimulate the emotions, your presentation needs:
- Interaction: You need to speak with your audience, not at them.
- Physical movement: Standing still just won’t cut the mustard.
- Vocal movement: Make sure your voice changes pitch, pace and volume at various points during your presentation.
- Suitable eye contact and congruent gestures: For example, appropriate hand gestures, at just the right moment.
You can do it!
If it doesn’t come naturally to you, presenting can feel intimidating and nerve wracking.
It’s natural to compare yourself to others more skilled, but don’t be too harsh on yourself. Everyone has to start somewhere. You can learn these skills too.
In my experience, if you don’t think that’s true, it’s often because you don’t believe you can change or because you’ve done training in the past without seeing any discernible difference to your presentations skills (reinforcing your lack of belief in your ability to change).
Want more articles like this? Check out the presentation skills section.
Rest assured that in my work I’ve seen people just like you who thought they could never do it make dramatic improvements in their presenting skills in just moments.
Bearing in mind that not all the communication you do on stage will be verbal, start with the tips below.
The Greco-Romans designed presentations spatially. Each thread of information was a room and each room was furnished. Thinking in this way helps you remember where you are in your presentation and all the points you’d like to make. It also helps the audience to follow your moves and anchor information.
Keep your breath flowing
Working with the air in your voice is a primal exchange that creates a sense of respect and trust. Traditionally Maoris greet each other by touching nose-to-nose, but more importantly, they inhale and share each other’s breath – this is called hongi (the Hawaiian word for ‘kiss’). Foreigners, not knowing the local customs, don’t practice hongi and so have been described as ‘breathless’.
The implication here is that not only are foreigners aloof and ignorant of local ways, but also they literally have no spirit or life within.
We have lost this knowledge today and need to get back in touch with air-flow and escaping air. In your presentation, you need to keep your breath flowing, and even let the air escape to show you care. What could you convey with a big, sighing whoosh after a critical point in your speech?
Breathe for energy
We often focus on taking a deep breath when we want to relax. But you can also work on giving breath to be energised. For many people focusing on ‘giving breath’ rather than ‘taking a breath’ helps unlock the diaphragm and helps to energise the lower body. The result is a different feeling to being relaxed, but just as effective.
Do you have any additional tips to share about creating emotionally engaging presentations? We’d love to hear them. Come on, speak up!