Presentation skills

8 presentation hacks for holding attention

Presenting is a difficult business and presenters face numerous challenges if they are to be engaging, memorable and influential – the three key objectives of presentations.

Of these challenges, none is more critical – or more tricky – than holding the attention of the audience.

If you Google ‘audience attention span’, you will find endless dispiriting graphs of average attention, like this one from the Netherlands-based Syncat Academy for scientific leaders of the future.

Image result for Syncat Academy audience attention graph

You can see that practically everyone is listening at the start, hoping against hope that the talk will be inspiring and entertaining.…

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End every presentation with a call to action

In my last blog I talked about the importance of making a powerful first impression when you present to an audience.

But endings are just as important as beginnings, and the professionals I coach seem to find them just as challenging.

Typically, they get to the end of their slide deck, summarise the data (although not invariably) and then end with a slide that reads ‘Thank you – any questions?’

The crucial step most, if not all, ignore is the ‘call to action’ – the compelling statement that tells your listeners how you want them to change their behaviour and/or their attitudes in the light of what you have said.…

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Presentations and the crucial importance of first impressions

Of all the suggestions I make to people on my presentation skills training courses, the one they find hardest to follow is to seize the audience’s attention from the get-go.

They usually pay lip service to the idea that first impressions are vital, and you don’t get a second chance to make one; but when given a chance to put theory into practice, they still revert to something like the following:

‘Good morning, my name is [title] from [Institute] in [country], and today I am going to talk to you about [topic].…

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The six worst forms of PowerPoint abuse

Is it the TV’s fault if a programme is boring? Surely not! Is a drill to blame for a poorly hung picture? Hardly! So why is it that PowerPoint is so often forced to take the rap for the dull, uninspiring and unmemorable presentations delivered daily in meeting rooms, conference halls and lecture theatres across the land?

I believe that PowerPoint is a useful and versatile tool when used as designed – as a visual aid for audiences. But it is a lethal weapon in the hands of its growing legions of abusers, which is why we now face an insidious epidemic of ‘death by PowerPoint’.…

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How to be persuasive in 3 simple steps

How to be persuasive in three simple steps

 Of all the forms of torture inflicted in corporate life, Death by PowerPoint is the most pervasive.

It’s not just because the software encourages a lazy approach to presenting, with the speaker usually playing a poor supporting role to slides loaded with text, dripping with bullet points and peppered with impossibly complex visuals.

It’s also because PowerPoint presentations tend to rely on factual information alone to convey their messages and move their audiences to action.…

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Persuasion: why facts don’t work

As a communication skills coach I work regularly with individuals and groups to identify, prioritise and illustrate the key facts that support the arguments they need to put forward in presentations, media interviews, negotiations and other critical meetings.

There is an assumption that facts are the ultimate, undeniable persuaders, in the face of which the strongest opposition has no choice but to melt away.

But in our ‘post-truth’- era, the power and the primacy of factual information is looking increasingly dubious as a tool for persuasion.…

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Ten ways to make your presentation memorable

How much of your presentation will your audience remember – and for how long?

Studies have drawn similarly discouraging conclusions. One, based on a 10-minute presentation, showed that people remembered just 50% of what was said immediately afterwards, dropping to 25% the next day and a mere 10% a week later.

Another, based on an online presentation of 20 slides, showed that people remembered just four out of 20 slides after 48 hours.

The good news is that there are plenty of things you can do to make your presentations more memorable overall and increase the chances that your audience will remember the most important bits.…

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Is your presentation architecturally sound?

If you want your presentations to have impact they need to be easy to listen to, easy to follow and easy to remember. You can achieve these goals through organisation.

A well-organised presentation has the following architectural features:

  • A logical structure, with a beginning, a middle and an end, much like a story;
  • A clearly stated purpose. Ideally this should be audience-focused. That means it’s not so much about what you want to say as about what your audience will gain by listening to you;
  • A route map, with signposts along the way so that the audience can see where they are going (what the presentation will cover), how far they’ve come and how close they are to the end of the journey;
  • A set of clear messages, ideas or themes in the body of the presentation, each supported by relevant evidence, statistics and examples.
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Planning a presentation? Don’t do another thing until you’ve answered these questions…

Presentation expert Ken Haemer famously said: ‘Designing a presentation without an audience in mind is like writing a love letter and addressing it: To Whom It May Concern’.

Presumably none but the most die-hard serial polygamists would dream of taking that approach to love letters; so why do so many presenters think it’s okay to work with a single generic slide deck that is wheeled out for every presentation?…

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