How to make an audience listen to your presentation

It’s that time of the semester again. Presentations have to be held. Besides making sure the content is valid students very often struggle with delivering captivating presentations. Here are a few tips that will hopefully help to get your presentation going towards the right direction.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” and yet everybody does it once in a while. That’s normal but it shouldn’t be overdone. We all know that if we gossip about people, they will gossip about us later on as well. So get rid of gossiping or bad mouthing on stage. Be nice and always back up what you say.

Judging is something very common for humans. In my “Cross Cultural Understanding” class we always find out that we judge and stereotype even if we don’t think we do. It’s important to understand that quick judgement however prevents us from having an open mind and therefore won’t allow open discussions. So don’t be to quick with your judgements. You wouldn’t want others to judge you anyways, right?

Nobody likes to always listen to negative comments or presentations. One of my former colleagues, whom I really appreciate as a scholar, used to have a hard time in class or at conferences because he always was quite negative about the topics that were discussed and people didn’t like this negative attitude. Being critical is of course totally ok and should even be nurtured but being to negative makes the audience lose interest.

Comes along with being to negative. Everybody dislikes people who always complain. It’s even worse if you have to listen to those people on stage. Again it’s important to understand that being open and honest is ok but complaining all the time is not. It leads to negative feelings and, as mentioned before, will make the audience lose interest in what you have to say.

Always try to somehow stay positive and don’t lose hope – helping people to think about possible solutions or approaches to the problems that you present.

I like to think about presentations as kind of a microcosm of real life. You should do on stage what you would expect your friends (actually everyone) to do in real life. You don’t want people in real life to find excuses for their mistakes, right? So don’t find excuses for yourself when you are presenting. Take responsibility and if you screw up or make a mistake stand up for it. Way more credible than looking for a cheap excuse.

These days people very often use words like ‘awesome’ or ‘amazing’ when describing average or ‘ok’ things. The question now is: What would you say if you would see something really amazing? Everybody knows that lying is bad but still we do this quite often when presenting. Don’t exaggerate too much, it will fire back and the audience won’t buy it if used to often anyways.

Presenting your own opinion as facts is something that can bring you a lot of problems. Especially when the audience realizes that you do that. Just imagine you would listen to someone who expresses his own opinion while you have a completely different opinion and know that the presenter is not presenting any facts. Would you like to listen to him or her?

A presentation is not a place to show off yourself or to portrait yourself as an awesome speaker or funny guy. The audience is the important part and should always be in the focus. Don’t waste the audience’s time by being all self-centered and trying to impress them. Don’t through a huge monologue, be brief, to the point, and finish on time.

Voice & Intonation
Quite often the way you say something is as important as what you say. Many times presentations fail because of the way the presenter speaks. Ways to improve speaking are training your register, timbre, prosody, pace, pitch or volume. Deeper voice for example are usually thought to deliver more power while high pitched voices deliver nervousness. Finally, before going on stage to present, it also makes sense to warm up your voice a bit – just as it would make sense to warm up before a sports competition in order to be at your best.

Hope this helps a bit. If you have anything to add or any questions, shout out in the comments.