Should I Change My Presentation Style While Presenting? Audience Interaction Tips
Picture this. You are immersed in your presentation, delivering every line of your script with precision and accuracy, when you notice someone in the front row yawning. You spot another member of the audience lazily scrolling through his phone as you go through your presentation. The nerves start to set in as you ask yourself – how do I re-capture their attention?
We will share the good news first. You don’t need to aim to secure a 100% attention rate through every single second of your presentation. Your audience members will likely, at times, be distracted by various factors (e.g. an urgent phone call) in any case. The challenge instead is to be aware of these changes in your audience’s focus and use the information to manage your presentation style throughout the presentation itself.
To help you along, let us share three techniques on how you can become that active presenter and build a dynamic and engaging style!
Technique #1: Audience Analysis – Information Gathering
Before placing yourself in the situation of having to adjust your presentation style during the presentation itself, one efficient method is to conduct an Audience Analysis before your presentation itself. Find out the background, taste or interest of your audience members to tailor your presentation content. While your audience is unlikely to consist of one homogenous group, you may still want to ensure that your presentation content is relevant to them.
Audience Analysis may not necessarily have to involve checking in with your audience directly before the presentation (e.g. through a survey or e-mail). Instead, the exercise can be achieved by putting yourself in the shoes of your audience members and tailoring your content accordingly. Ask yourself a fundamental starting question – what would I want to listen to if I am part of this audience? By starting with this mindset, you will ensure that you will have your audience’s interest in mind!
Technique #2: Audience Interaction – Keep Gathering!
The information-gathering process does not stop once your presentation starts. Instead, the Audience Analysis phase continues well into your presentation, as your audience reacts to your presentation content and delivery. While pre-emptive analysis is always preferred, it is never too late to salvage your presentation and tailor it based on your audience reaction. We shall refer to this as the Audience Interaction phase.
Audience Interaction is often talked about from the angle of its body language / engaging effects. Most communicators neglect the information-gathering aspect of audience interaction. By interacting with and being aware of your audience, you will continue to keep them as the centre of your attention (instead of a selfish fixation on your content or your presentation!). Some methods of Audience Interaction include conducting check-in points (e.g. asking questions to see if your audience is following you) or including discussion elements that would allow you to move around and interact directly with individual members of the audience.
Technique #3: Fluid Flow – How do I Change?
How should I change then? What if the audience notices? The general principle for changing your presentation style to suit your audience is to go for subtle, limited changes that do not affect the smoothness of your presentation. Instead of skipping multiple slides at one go (“I shall skip the next few slides since all of you are experts in this field”), you can summarise and reduce the time allocated for those slides. Instead of giving an extended, convoluted definition of a complex topic, give a one-line summary to an audience who already know the topic.
For presentation delivery, the same principle applies. Having a more engaging, energetic and exciting presentation style may work to energise your audience members. On the other hand, a controlled, professional delivery style may be used where appropriate (e.g. in a formal setting). It is crucial regardless to maintain flexibility in your delivery, to manoeuvre between different audience types.
Preparation is Persistent
The ability to take in information from the audience and adjust your presentation accordingly is an active and tiring process. It underlies one of the difficulties a communicator is likely to face. More than just picking up speaking techniques and tips, this involves a shift in your mindset – especially towards your audience. Our final advice to you is to always look out for change opportunities – prepare yourself to adjust your presentation content or style based on your audience members. They will definitely appreciate your efforts to place them at the centre of your attention!
Need a refresher? WATCH: “Here’s Why Being Interesting is NOT Enough for Your Audience | #SpeakingTips 004”
By the way…
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