For many, public speaking is one of the most feared aspects of business. And for some people who don’t like to stand up and deliver presentations, that fear extends to speaking in front of virtual audiences.
In a recent webinar, ‘Presenting with Style and Confidence’, Lynne Copp, director of The Worklife Company shared her top tips and techniques for effective presentations, both face-to-face and virtual.
Here are Lynne’s responses to three of the questions asked during the webinar.
“Any advice or tips on how to engage the audience in the presentation?”(Kranjac S.)
Firstly you need to build a strong connection with your audience, and one way to do that is sharing powerful, visual slides. To engage your audience, you need to start with a bang – something really interesting that grabs their attention. For example, I often start a presentation by showing an image of a tombstone and saying, “More people die on a Monday than any other day of the week – FACT.” Your opening could be a fact, a story, a quote, or even a statistic – just something that will make the audience sit up and listen.
The importance of content and structure
Secondly you need to think about your content and structure. What do you want your audience to take away and do as a result of your presentation? What specific points do you want to highlight? Have those in mind when preparing your presentation, and make sure you provide your audience with something of value.
Engage using the tools you have
Thirdly you need to use whatever tools you have available to you to get the audience involved. If you’re speaking in person, ask a question and get the group to answer by a show of hands. In an online environment, run a poll and share the results so people can see how their peers voted. And ask your audience to respond to a question in the chat panel.
Think about how you present
Speak with confidence and energy and make sure that you vary your tone. Your enthusiasm will inspire your audience and make them want to pay attention.
“How do you deal with a negative and antagonistic audience member?” (Mary W)
Start off your presentation by letting the audience know that you will take questions at the end. This should help to avoid interruptions.
However if you still get someone asking you a question during the middle of your presentation, there are a couple of ways to deal with a negative or antagonistic audience member.
1. If you’re presenting in person, rest your hands on the desk to create a triangle, which shows that you’re in control. Alternatively stand up so that you are taller than your audience. Standing on higher ground will give you added confidence and a sense of seniority.
2. Respond with a reassuring phrase such as, “I can see that this doesn’t sit well with you, but if you allow me to continue my presentation, I will sit down with you afterwards and go through this with you”.
And finally, try to prevent interruptions by thinking of your content in terms of impact. Start with the bottom line. You could open with a bold statement such as, “I’m going to reduce the cost of sale in this business by 25 percent.” Start with your main point and then backfill with detail. This is a good way to stop questions throughout the presentation as you’ve already grabbed their attention and introduced intrigue.
“How do you handle a question that you are unable to answer?” (Mohammad A)
When I receive a question that I cannot answer, I like to respond honestly: “I don’t know the answer to that, but I will find out and as part of the review I will come back to you with an answer, is that ok?”
It’s important to be authentic, and it’s ok to say, “I don’t know” and offer to look into the question after the presentation. It certainly gives you more credibility.
And if you have any tips for dealing with presentation nerves, or any tricks you use to deliver a convincing presentation, please post them here!