Whether 15 or 50 minutes, presentations are part and parcel of everyone’s working life. We give them at trade shows, investor gatherings and in sales situations. We hope they are going well, but then we catch audience members glancing at their phones or edging towards the exit. Panic sets in, but we stick doggedly to the slides, skipping as many as we dare.
This doesn’t need to happen. Imagine you’re trying to impress someone you’ve just met. You’re talking about last night’s football game and you find the other party is not interested. You won’t keep talking about football, will you? The same principle applies to a presentation too.
If one of your points is losing the audience, you need to move on to another that will interest them, otherwise you squander that precious opportunity and lose them altogether.
To do this you need to first of all remember that presentation deck is simply a structure to allow you to systematically cover all the points you think your audience will be interested in. There is absolutely no rule that says you should stick to the slides: in fact, the less you rely upon your slides the better.
Building flexibility into your presentation delivery will allow you to respond smoothly to the audience and keep their interest. An easy way to get started with this is to chunk your presentation into three or four logical sections (not more than four!). Practice delivering each of them separately. That way you will be able to skip to sections your audience wants to hear about – skip the situation analysis and get straight to your recommendations, for example.
It’s disconcerting at first but stick with it. You’ll find that your delivery gets tighter and more punchy, and you receive more audience attention. And best of all, those surreptitious e-mail checks and dashes to the exit decrease.