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How to Avoid Rambling in Presentations

Presentations don’t happen in a perfectly controlled environment. An audience member gets into a coughing fit. A baby starts to wail. A phone goes off, and a trail of conversations from afar can be heard. Each distraction comes with a perfectly choreographed moment of silence. And each second lost to distraction is a second gone to waste.

Some of the scenarios above do happen, but there is a preventable kind of distraction that often goes unnoticed. The unexpected sources of distraction are none other than the speakers themselves.

Who rambles?

1. Rambling as the Last Resort

The most obvious sign of rambling comes from unprepared speakers. Unprepared speakers struggle to deliver the message of their presentation. Their speech slows down, uh’s and um’s dot their speech patterns, and they disrupt themselves. There aren’t enough tips to help out unprepared speakers.

Core topics can’t be made up on the spot and there are a few options available to save the presentation and the speaker. Damage control needs to be done. Rambling only worsens an ill-prepared presentation. So stay on topic as much as possible. Relax for a few seconds and don’t show any more signs of panic.

When you’re in a state of anxiety, simply pause and take a breath.

2. Rambling Creates a Wall

A prepared, but anxious speaker shows the same signs of nervousness as the unprepared speaker. Take the same steps to calm down and relax. There’s no need to be nervous if the deck is crafted carefully and communicates clearly.

Rambling as a result of anxiety can be avoided by reframing a nerve-wracking experience in a positive light. So instead of fearing judgement from the audience, think of the positive reaction you’ll gain. And instead of worrying about the presentation, be proud from its inception to its completion.

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3. Rambling as the Unintended Effect

On the other end of the spectrum, we have the overly prepared speaker. You might exhaust all talking points and start talking about something completely unrelated. Eventually, you could have gone too far ahead to get back to your original point. As a result, you might ramble some more, creating a vicious cycle.

An unprepared speaker fills the air with silence while an overzealous one fills the air with too much information. According to career consultant, Lea McLeod, you should learn how to regulate rapid speech by having a measured pace. The average person talks at a rate of about 125-175 words per minute while we can listen at a rate of up to 450 words per minute.

Also consider the amount of attention and focus listening requires. Then factor in the other thoughts that could be distracting the audience. Combined, those 450 words that we can supposedly process can end up much less in reality. Control your pace and stay focused on your topic by slowing down.

Re-focus

Which one are you among the three? All these candidates can take steps to minimize winding along in their presentations. Preparation is the most important step in creating a deck. Confidence is the most important factor in delivering a speech.

For the benefit of the audience, don’t speak too fast or too slow, and remember to relax and just breathe.

 

References

McLeod, Lea. “3 Smart Ways to Keep Yourself from Rambling.” 3 Smart Ways to Keep Yourself from Rambling. Accessed October 5, 2015. www.themuse.com
“Speech Rate – Is Your Speaking Rate Too Fast, Too Slow, or Just Right?” Write Out Loud. Accessed October 5, 2015. www.write-out-loud.com

 

Featured Image: SD Zoo” by Stephen Kruso from flickr.com

Presentation Tips: 5 Quick Steps to Audience Engagement

When it comes to delivering presentations, nothing is more important than connecting with your audience.

It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to close in on a deal or proposing a new project to the higher-ups. You can’t say that your ideas have been well-received if the audience can’t engage with your pitch. It’s not enough to pique their interest with a few video clips or anecdotes.

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Before you focus on the spectacle, you need to make sure your presentation is perfectly executed. What’s really essential to audience engagement is your ability to present with clarity and certainty.

Here are quick presentation tips to make sure your audience has an engaging experience:

Learn your presentation inside and out

I’m sure you’ve sat through a presentation where the speaker constantly stammered through their speech, trying hard to remember what to say next. No matter how interesting their material was, the uncertainty in their delivery probably proved to be distracting. If you want to avoid being in a similar situation, it’s important to learn every detail of your presentation.

Audience engagement rests in your ability to command attention. You can’t do that if you’re reading from your slides or fidgeting with note cards. The audience needs to see that you know what you’re saying. Take the time to rehearse your presentation as much as you can. You can also try the memory palace technique to memorize your key points.

Condense your PowerPoint deck

By now, we’re all familiar with the concept of “death by PowerPoint.” There’s no easier way to disengage an audience than by presenting them with slides that are loaded with too much information. If your slides are full with indecipherable charts and text, take a step back and start focusing on your visuals.

Instead of filling your PowerPoint deck with bullet points and text, try to illustrate your points instead. Use images and other multimedia elements to articulate your ideas.

If you’re dealing with data, you need to decide which ones are the most relevant to your core message. There are several online tools that can help you with data visualization.

Tailor your presentation for the audience

Very few presenters consider the perspective of their audience.Their presentations often sound like generic spiels because of this.

How do you connect with something you’ve heard a million times before?  If you want to stand out, you need to remember that the audience isn’t a homogeneous group. The people sitting in your audience are individuals with their own unique perspectives and opinions. In other words, audience engagement relies on your ability to personalize your message.

To get inside their heads, you need to ponder on four important questions. Answering these will give you the necessary context to create a presentation that will pull your audience in:

  • Who are they?
  • Why are they coming?
  • What action do you want them to take?
  •  Why might they resist your message?

Keep everyone interested by creating soft breaks

Audience engagement will be much easier if it wasn’t for our short attention spans. With so much tasks begging for attention these days, it’s no surprise the average adult attention span is only a few minutes short.

As hard as you try to simplify your message and learn more about the audience, it’s hard to contend with everyone’s shifting attention.

That’s why presentation expert Carmine Gallo emphasized the importance of the 10-minute rule. If you lose the attention of your audience, you can re-engage them by creating “soft breaks” after every 10 minutes or so. Give them a chance to pause and digest new information by incorporating videos, demonstrations, and other activities.

Try to create an interactive environment by posing questions that they can answer through polls or a show of hands. If you want to, you can also call up other people from your team to share a new perspective with the audience.

Deliver your presentation with passion and enthusiasm

Finally, lead by example. If your presentation delivery falls flat, your audience will easily pick up on that. You can’t expect them to feel enthusiastic about the ideas you’re sharing if you’re mumbling through your presentation.

You need to show how passionate you are about your subject matter. That’s the only way you can deliver a message that will make others feel the same way.

It isn’t hard to deliver a presentation that can engage and connect with an audience. In five easy steps, you can easily make sure that your message sticks and stays with everybody.

 

Featured Image: Steven Lilley via Flickr

Maintaining Audience Attention in Your Presentations

The British bank Lloyds TSB conducted a study on the cause of careless household accidents, and the results they gathered have some pretty broad implications. As quoted by Fortune.com, the average adult attention span has plunged from 12 minutes in 1998 to 5 minutes in 2008. Participants attributed their short attention span to stress and decision overload, both unavoidable in our fast-paced lifestyles.

With the advent of technology and the distraction of multiple screens — from our work laptops to our smartphones — holding one’s attention for longer than the usual is nearly impossible. That is, if you’re bored by the topic.

Considering this information, it seems that presenting to a huge audience has never been more difficult. Five minutes is barely enough time to make a positive impression. This is a huge challenge that presenters need to over come. Here are 3 key strategies to keep in mind:

Condense your slides

Try to present more information orally to reduce overloading your slides with too much text and data. The people in your audience can read much faster than they can listen to you talking. As we’ve discussed time and again, an effective PowerPoint deck acts as a visual aid. It doesn’t contain every sentence you want to share. Instead, it perfectly illustrates your main points through the use of images and other multimedia elements. Instead of packing your slides with a bunch of facts and figures, spend more time illustrating and articulating your points.

An emotional and physical connection might be more effective in capturing the audience’s imagination. This bond calls the attention of people whose minds were wandering off in the crowd, and engages those who are beginning to invest in what you’re saying.

Follow an intriguing narrative structure

Structure your presentation in a way that will surely engage your audience. There’s a reason why we can sit motionless in a movie theater for two hours, completely enamored by what we’re watching. Movies follow a great story arc that build suspense and intrigue. Effective storytellers know how to create anticipation that keeps viewers looking forward to what happens next. Following their example, your presentation can also work the same way.

Craft your presentation in a way that presents a problem (“what is), and slowly build your way towards a solution (“what could be”). The problem-tension-solution pattern roughly mimics the structure of classical Greek dramas, which research has found to be effective in eliciting powerful emotional response.

Create “soft breaks” 

According to presentation expert Carmine Gallo, the best way to re-engage the short attention spans of your audience is by creating “soft breaks” within your presentation. After every 10 minutes or so, give your audience some moments to pause by incorporating videos, activities, and demonstrations. You can also encourage audience participation by posing a question they can answer through a show of hands. If your presentation allows it, you can also call up other speakers from your team to offer the audience a fresh new perspective.

The Final Word

Capturing people’s attention can be a bit of a challenge, especially during a time when attention spans are beginning to drop, and people are constantly busy. But that doesn’t mean you have to make a plain, uninteresting presentation.

Engage people’s senses by keeping your pitch short and sweet, weaving a narrative around your presentation, and giving soft breaks in between. Follow these tips and you might just win new business!

 

Featured Image: Oliver Tacke via Flickr

4 Questions to Ask Yourself About Audience Participation

Presenters spend a lot of time preparing what they have to say. They also take careful steps to ensure that they have a presentable and engaging PowerPoint deck. Despite all this, they often forget one crucial element. Most of the time, presenters tend to overlook the fact that their job is to be an effective communicator. And like all forms of communication, presentations are a two-way street.

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This doesn’t mean you have to converse with everyone in your audience. The important thing is to consider their viewpoints when preparing for your presentation. Audience participation can take your presentations to a whole new level. To get to that point, you need to make a connection and sustain it throughout your delivery. So, how do you do that?

These 4 questions are based on a portion of keynote speaker Nancy Duarte’s Slide:ologywhich aims to help presenters think of ways to increase audience participation. Use them as a guide in preparing your presentation.

Answer these questions to create an audience-centered presentation:

 

1. Who are they?

You don’t have to memorize their names, but you need to get to know your audience. Basic things like demographics can help you determine how you’ll frame your presentation. If you’re presenting to a younger set, you might want to add a bit more multimedia elements in your PowerPoint deck. Your audience will participate if your presentation can somehow match their personalities and interests.

2. Why are they coming?

If you have presentation goals to achieve, the people in your audience also have their reasons for coming in to hear you speak. Try to reflect on what they might get out of your presentation. Are they coming to hear a solution to a specific problem? If so, what could that problem be?

On the other hand, you might also find yourself addressing attendees that were required to hear your presentation. If so, try to think about what you can do to make them more interested. Why was their attendance mandatory? Are you delivering crucial updates about a project? Why is it important that they learn about it?

3. What action do you want them to take?

“So, what?” This is the question you never want to hear at the end of your presentation. You want to see your abstract statements turn into positive action. For that to happen, you need to give a clear call to action. Make sure you’re specific about what the main takeaway is. Most importantly, make sure your plans are feasible for the people you’re addressing.

4. Why might they resist your message?

You want everything to go smoothly during your presentation, but you can’t control every outcome. There are some things that might prevent you from reaching out to the people you want to address. If your audience resists your message, you won’t be able to achieve the goals you’ve set for yourself.

To avoid this situation, think about the reasons why people might be indifferent to the topic you’re presenting. Is it a controversial new plan for your company? Whatever the reason, figure out a way to present it in a new light. Address their concerns. Show them that your solution is better for them by giving them anecdotes or testimonials to relate to.

Work on a presentation that will encourage audience participation. Centering your discussion around the people who came to listen will help you in numerous ways.

By being relatable and accessible, you can easily urge them to take action. Let these four questions guide you during a crucial presentation.

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Featured Image: Kmeron/LEWEB PHOTOS via Flickr