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A Lesson from A Christmas Story: How to Build Your Credibility

Effectively gaining your audience’s trust is imperative in any presentation setting.  Building that sense of reliability can be fairly tricky but there are a few lessons we can takeaway from one of the greatest holiday movies and a certain little boy named Ralphie.

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If you aren’t familiar with Jean Shepard’s, A Christmas Story, it’s the classic story of a boy who will do anything to get what he wants for Christmas. In Ralphie’s case, he fantasizes about the, “official Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model BB rifle with a compass in the stock “, the one and only thing he wants for Christmas. Throughout the entire film, Ralphie is set on a determined quest to convince his “Old Man”, mother, teacher and Santa himself that he absolutely needs this gift, even though he could potentially “shoot his eye out with that thing”.

So what can we learn about a hopeful little boy who desperately wants a gun for Christmas? It’s simple, Ralphie was able to build credibility with his parents because in the end he got what he wanted when they surprised him with his beloved BB gun. Though his parents were well aware of the possible danger of shooting his eye out, Ralphie constantly assured them that he “would be careful”-  enabling their trust.

Here are a few suggestions to help you establish that credibility and trust from your audience when giving a PowerPoint presentation:

Ensure Strong Verbal Delivery and Body Language

Speak loud and clear: the more understandable you are to your audience, the more they can trust what you’re saying. Use effective body language as well: stand tall and don’t fidget nervously to assure them that you’re cool, calm and confident.

Teach More, Sell Less

The purpose of your presentation is to teach your audience your content- selling them goes simultaneously with this. The more your audience learns, the more they remember.

Engage Constantly

Ask questions and listen to their ideas. Effective communication goes along way with trust building: your audience can believe your ideas when you believe in their concerns.

Share Beneficial Content

Skip the fluff, even if your content is simplified—another important PowerPoint tip. Only provide your audience with information that is useful and relatable. Don’t project a ton of text and statistics that they will soon forget, less is more!

Design, Write and Look Professional

This is a three step process. You want your PowerPoint to look neat, clean and presentable so skip the over abundance of animation and bordered backgrounds. Grammar and spell check multiple times before presenting, even ask for a second pair of eyes for extra edits. And most importantly, look presentable! It’s better to be overdressed than under dressed.

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These four tips will help you build trustworthiness with any audience  base. Whether you are presenting to a conference room full of people, or even just one person, you are building a reputation for yourself within that time period. From start to finish your audience is meticulously judging your words, content and overall appearance of your professional presentation. Capture their attention in a good way and establish that trust from beginning to end.

Though Ralphie may not be a great example in this case, because in the end his parents ended up being right when he almost shot his eye out, he successfully built his own credibility by convincing his parents that they could trust him.  In your next professional presentation consider these tips in order to effectively gain your audience’s trust, I double dog dare you.

Keeping Your Audience in Mind : The 4 Essential Questions to Ask Yourself

“A good teacher, like a good entertainer who first must hold his audience’s attention, then he can teach his lesson” – John Henrik Clarke

If you ask any author what questions they ask themselves before drafting up their next bestseller, chances are they’ll tell you the first and most foremost step is targeting a specific audience. Presentations are all universally based around an audience because they are the reason why presenters, present. Before you start gathering content or building an outline for your next PowerPoint presentation, you should ask yourself these essential questions first.

Who Are They?

Your first step is knowing the basic knowledge and understanding of who your audience is. These include aspects such as their size, prior knowledge, and expectations. Are you presenting to a small or large group? What kind of production are they expecting? What kind of company culture do they share? Reaching out and personally connecting with them will make all the difference.

What Do They Know?

You don’t want to be going over concepts that the audience is already aware of. Understand what they have prior knowledge of and exclude sounding redundant in your presentation by not utilizing this information. This may require a substantial amount of research, but knowing this background information will put you a step ahead in the game.

What Interests Them?

Losing your audience’s interest is the ultimate presentation backfire, keep them entertained with personalized facts and ideas that are tailored to them exclusively. Do a substantial amount of research on their current projects and incorporate this knowledge within your powerpoint slides.

What Do You Want Them To Learn?

Your takeaway is the most essential feature of your entire presentation. The most vital question (before starting any presentation) is what do you want your audience to remember most? You are the teacher giving your audience a lesson- they should learn from you and your ideas. When crafting your presentation make sure to emphasize these themes or points regularly so your audience can remember the key points first.

 

Reference:

Sieber, Tina. “10 PowerPoint Tips for Preparing a Professional Presentation.Makeuseof.com. May 23, 2009.

How to Incorporate the Audience into Your Presentation

Whether it’s a dry, sedating lecture from our college days, a training seminar that seems to make time move backwards, or a local politician detailing every bit of a new mundane city ordinance, we’re all painfully familiar with just how stunningly boring some presentations can be. The fatal flaw many of these unexciting presentations make is that they forget to work their audience into the equation when planning and giving their presentation.

Consider your audience when planning your presentation, otherwise this may be the result.
Consider your audience when planning your presentation, otherwise this may be the result.

Breaking “the wall” between you and your audience is a great way to keep them engaged, entertained, and even on their toes throughout your presentation, ensuring that they absorb every bit of what you’re saying. Audience incorporation, when done right, can generate a lot of constructive energy in your presentation, and it can even help you relax and feel more at ease with the group you’re presenting to. Here’s a few tips to make sure you’re doing it correctly.

Don’t Start Off with Audience Participation

The beginning of a presentation, especially in front of a cold audience, is often the most difficult part. Here it is alluring to transfer some of the attention away from yourself to your audience by asking them to participate, but avoid this temptation. At the beginning of your presentation, the audience is also the most unfamiliar with you, so you need to “warm them up” first. Allow them to grow comfortable in their chairs and develop some sense of trust–or at least familiarity–with you. However, don’t let them grow too comfortable. Many communications experts will argue that audience members switch to “TV mode” after about five minutes, where they will switch to a passive mindset and just become an observer.

Craft Constructive Questions

While audience participation can add a lot to a presentation, when done wrong, it can be awkward and alienating for the audience. For instance, singling out an audience member at random with a surprise question will usually catch them off guard, causing them to illicit a short, unhelpful response and disrupt the flow of your presentation.

There are a few ways this can be avoided, and to incorporate your audience in a natural, low-pressure way. First, if you’re going to be asking audience members questions directly, plan carefully and tread lightly. I’ve found that the best way is to give your audience ample time to formulate a response and let them be the ones to volunteer if they want to answer.

In an attempt to avoid putting people on the spot, some presenters will ask the audience a broad question and hope someone volunteers a response, but most people are usually reticent to offer up a response in a cold audience.

A middle ground is to divide the audience up into groups or pairs, have them discuss your  question or topic, and then ask for volunteers to offer their response. This will allow them to formulate a response and grow more comfortable with the audience before being asked to speak.

Formulating Questions

When asking the audience questions, it’s important for the questions benefit your presentation without derailing it. Know the exact response you want, and direct your presentation accordingly. Don’t make it too complex where your audience is stumped, but don’t make it so dumbed down to be mundane.

It’s often difficult to predict how an audience will react until you try the questions out, so test the questions out on friends and colleagues to gauge their effectiveness.

Lastly, be creative. There’s no scientific formula for engaging your audience. Don’t force anything, pay close attention to the energy of the audience, and think outside the box; you’ll do just fine.