At one point or another, we have all been tasked with giving a presentation that wasn’t filled with the most thrilling content. This might be an in-person presentation or even an online presentation. Sometimes it feels impossible to liven up information when there really isn’t anything but strict, dull facts. I’m not implying that the information isn’t important because you are clearly there to learn (or teach), however; just because you want to learn about conflict management or annual budgets doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be sitting on the edge of your seat through all of the information being thrown at you. Furthermore, if you are required to attend a presentation on a subject that isn’t all that enticing, it makes it that much more difficult to (let’s be honest here) stay awake. So, anytime you are putting together a presentation, just think back to the absolute most boring presentation you have ever attended and work on being the polar opposite of that.
In this article I want to focus on in-person presentations. Picture yourself standing in front of a hotel conference room: you’ve been working on this presentation for weeks, you could recite it in your sleep. It’s 7:50AM, your Powerpoint is finished and ready to go, people are still trickling in with their morning coffee looking a little sluggish. Then it hits you “How am I going to keep them awake and engaged as I go over Traffic Maintenance Strategies?”. We can all agree that’s a terrifying moment. So with the help of these simple tips, you can make a not-so-fun topic seem less boring when giving a presentation.
Yep, it’s that simple! Your voice can really liven up a boring presentation. To do this, make sure you have varying pitches throughout; no one wants to hear Monotone Mary speak for an hour. Always be sure you aren’t reading your audience to sleep. To prepare for this there are a few things you can do: go over your presentation alone and get a feel of it for yourself, go over your presentation with others and have them give you feedback before your actual presentation, and finally (which I think is the most effective) record yourself reciting your presentation and listen to it! There is a night and day difference between what you think you sound like and what people actually hear.
You’ve got it- flaunt it! Now wait, I don’t mean that how you probably just took it. What I mean is that you have a body, so use it! You aren’t stuck behind a camera, and you aren’t bolted down in one place. Be mobile; move about the room or stage. I’m not saying that you should run around and be a distraction, but you definitely shouldn’t be a sitting duck. Be purposeful with your movements, otherwise it can appear as though you are wandering aimlessly or nervously moving about. Neil deGrasse Tyson was the keynote speaker at DevLearn 2014, and he was an amazing presenter. Granted, he spoke on an amazing topic and I -like everyone else there- was sitting on the edge of my seat to hear his every word. But a large amount of my interest was due to the fact that he was a great presenter. He moves about the stage very subtly, but not in a distracting way. Even when speaking to a specific audience member he didn’t just stand at attention ignoring everyone else in the room. Mr. Tyson is a very comfortable presenter. His body language tells me that he is knowledgable, not afraid of the audience, and not bored by the information. If you think it’s impossible to gather that from someone’s body language just pay attention to the next presentation you attend; you’ll pick up on things you never realized. Better yet, check out one of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s speeches and you’ll grasp this very important concept with ease.
So, along with your body itself not being stagnant while giving a presentation, your arms shouldn’t be either. Gesture with your arms, your hands, even your eyes. If you are behind a podium and maybe you are stuck there and can’t move about, use your arms to make up for not being able to move. Be confident in your gestures. Practice them so they seem natural and comfortable – especially if you aren’t typically someone who speaks with their hands. I am a hand talker and I blame that on being a forecaster, so it’s natural looking for me to speak and gesture with my hands. However, this doesn’t come easy to everyone. If that’s you, start doing gestures in your day to day conversations and it will begin to feel less awkward. Be animated, but know your limit. Not all of us can naturally be an animated talker and even those of us that are accustomed to it still want to avoid being overly animated. If you try but then realize this just isn’t going to work for you, find a table or something you can gently touch with your fingertips. You could do this with a table, chair, or podium, just something so you aren’t standing there wide eyed and hands at your side. At all costs, you want to avoid being seen as a “talking head”.
Positive Affirmation is key here. Being excited about your own content will get your audience more excited about the content. If you are on stage reading slides and showing no interest or excitement about the topic, that is going to affect your audience immensely. Get up there and be pumped about Management Change! Be Management Change’s cheerleader! Now with that being said, don’t go over the top. You realize the information is slightly dreadful to cover but you can still be excited to present that information. More importantly, you can be excited for people to learn that information!
Have confidence in yourself and your information. If I am sitting through a dull content-filled presentation and I can tell that you don’t believe your own information or don’t believe in yourself, your credibility is tossed out the window. At that point, it is also hard to concentrate on you or your content. Practice before your presentation. Always have confidence in yourself and always have confidence in your content. If either is questionable, just keep working on it until you have the confidence to emit to others.
Include the Audience
Yes, people are there to learn and listen to what you have to say. But by including your audience, you are not only keeping them on their toes, but more importantly you are keeping them engaged and active. Ask questions to have the audience answer. This could be asking a general question to the whole group, or maybe singling someone out and having them speak with you out loud. Or perhaps it is just a mental thought question to help them relate to what you are about to say next. Figure out which tactic works best for you and put that into your presentations. Keeping the audience included will keep them engaged, which will inevitably help them retain the information you are presenting.
Making a boring presentation less boring when that’s all you really have to work with is no easy task. Truthfully you can only do so much to liven up the content, but you can make a huge difference by being a better, more engaging presenter.
If you have anything you do or anything you have seen during a presentation that helped liven things up let us know in the comments below!