happy presentation audience members

Nothing says “naptime” like a speaker who presents information in a dull, uninteresting way. I can assure you that the most watched TED Talks were not given by presenters who stood there, just clicking through slides. Rather, the best speakers—at TED or in a meeting room—are entertaining and interactive. They understand that the delivery of their message needs contrast in order to be more than a boring slideshow.

Below are three of the most common mistakes speakers make when giving a presentation:

Mistake: Forgetting we live in a media-saturated society

The constant bombardment of media has transformed us into an impatient culture. The entertainment industry continues to churn out new, innovative ways to engross our minds tug at our heartstrings, and provide us with various avenues of escape. Audiences have become accustomed to quick action, rapid scene changes, and soundtracks that make the heart race. These advances in entertainment have set high expectations for visual and visceral stimulation and have undermined our ability to sit attentively for an hour while a speaker drones on. Most squirm within ten minutes, wishing they had a remote control to flip to something more interesting. The key to getting and holding attention is to always have something new happening.

Mistake: Just standing there

It’s time to start changing up delivery methods. Do anything other than stand in front of the room, and you’ll create an element of surprise that will keep your audience interested. Changing delivery modes can include physical movement on the stage, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Use alternate media, multiple presenters, and interaction to keep your talk alive. Below are several ways to transform your traditional presentation into something captures your audience’s attention.

presentations: don't be boring

Our natural survival instincts compel us to watch changing visual events with close attention. Changes in media, alternating presenters, or even something as simple as a dramatic gesture creates variety for the audience and holds their interest. By using both traditional and nontraditional delivery methods, you build contrast into your presentation.

Mistake: Depending on presentation slides to communicate

The cultural norm is for presenters to hide behind slides as though that’s a form of skilled communication. Many presenters are conditioned to put meaningless words together, project them on a screen, and talk about them like an automaton.

Your slides simply cannot be the sole form of communication in your presentation. To avoid death-glares—or worse yet, snoring sounds—from your audience, you must bring a sense of human interaction. Make it personal; make it surprising; make it real. You may be comfortable with your wall of jargon (a.k.a. lifeless words on slides), but what people are really looking for is some kind of human connection. Overusing slides diminishes the power of this connection.

An audience will deem a presentation a success if they feel they connected with you. And decreasing your dependency on slides helps facilitate this sense of connectedness. Replace some of your emphasis on slides with any of the “non-traditional” options from the list above, and watch the eyes of your audience light up with interest.

Keep them on their toes by mixing up the status quo, and you’ll have an engaged audience that actually enjoys listening to you.

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