How Can I Make My Presentation More Interesting and Interactive
It’s no secret that meetings and presentations can suck—and they can be almost as painful for the presenter as they are for the audience. The audience is tasked with remaining attentive and engaged, but the speaker has the greater challenge of keeping the audience’s attention. It’s no wonder that some studies estimate 70% of the population fears public speaking.
While you’re up on stage or at the front of the boardroom giving your presentation, your audience can easily become distracted. In fact, in-depth analysis of hundreds of public talks reveals that most audience members lose focus around 10 minutes into a presentation, and over half of audience members admit to doing something else (such as sending an email, checking text messages, or sleeping) during a coworkers presentation.
If you deliver a lackluster presentation that doesn’t involve the audience, they’ll start squirming, checking their phones, and spacing out. You, in turn, will notice that they’d rather be elsewhere, feed off the energy of your audience—and begin rushing through or cutting parts of your presentation to get through it more quickly. It’s a vicious cycle that can only be broken by an engrossing presentation that involves your audience.
How Can I Make My Presentation More Interesting and Interactive?
There’s no one set way to create an interactive presentation, but there are some common (and easy) tips and strategies you can use to boost the interactivity.
- Ask questions
- Plan for breaks
- Pause and make eye contact
- Poll the audience
- Break up your talk with videos, slides or other multimedia content
Whatever methods you choose, the good news is that, simply by making your presentations more interactive, you can reduce your own nervousness while creating a more dynamic experience for the audience. When your audience is more directly engaged and is able to interact with your presentation, your job becomes easier. Here’s how to do it:
1. Plan With the Audience in Mind
The first step to making sure your presentation resonates with your audience is to plan your content with them in mind. Before you begin gathering data for your presentation or putting together the first slide, you should be gathering as much information as possible about your audience.
Who are they? What do they already know about your topic? What kind of information is most likely to be interesting and valuable to them? If they walk away from your presentation knowing one thing, what would it be?
Answering questions like these before you dive into creating your content will help you focus on the details that will be most useful to your audience and keep you from rehashing things they already know. Because no matter how slick or polished your presentation is, your audience will lose interest quickly if you aren’t providing anything new.
2. Practice Confident Body Language and Eye Contact
Before you give your presentation, be sure to practice your body language. It may be uncomfortable at first, but many experts recommend practicing in front of the mirror a couple of times. That way, you can see if you’re pointing a foot in or cocking a hip out rather than standing straight. Or if you have a nervous physical tic like shrugging your shoulders or licking your lips.
Your audience will take its cues from you. If you seem low-energy, nervous, or less-than-thrilled to be there, your audience will quickly disengage as well. To avoid this problem, use strong, assertive body language such as open, welcoming gestures, deliberate hand movements when highlighting key points, and good posture (no crossed arms or legs!) You should also plan to make eye contact at least once with each section of your audience, if you’re addressing a larger group, or for smaller presentations, with each individual audience member.
3. Use a Clear, Understandable Structure and Engage The Audience Early
The two most important parts of your presentation are the beginning and the end—these are the parts of the presentation that audience members will remember most.
Because of this fact, it’s a good idea to open with a clear overview of what you’re about to discuss, highlighting all the key points upfront. Don’t leave your audience guessing about what you’re going to say or what the main purpose of the presentation is. Get it out there early. Similarly, you should end the presentation by recapping the main points and giving the audience a few takeaways. Using this kind of structure also puts your audience at ease early by giving them confidence that you have a plan for their time.
In addition to previewing your presentation in your opening, it’s important to begin interacting and breaking the ice with your audience. Ask questions, tell a funny story that relates to your topic, use an illustration, open with a brief video introduction, or use another tactic that works for your talk. The key is to be creative in how you warm up your audience—without allowing that creativity to get in the way of overall goal and structure.
4. Use Video, Digital Storytelling, or Non-Linear Presentations
People like videos and stories, so it makes sense to combine the two into digital storytelling. Consider beginning your presentation with a brief, impactful video about the issue or concern you plan to address to capture the audience’s attention before moving into your presentation overview. Or, use video to dig deeper into the topic you’re covering or to provide a mental break for your audience.
Another effective strategy is to create a non-linear presentation. Gone are the days of clicking through a poorly-designed Powerpoint. New business presentation software operates much more like a choose-your-own-adventure novel. Create a presentation that could take multiple paths, gauge audience understanding and interest, and click through to the parts of your presentation that are the most relevant on your interactive display.
5. Ask Questions
One of the most tried-and-true ways to get your audience involved in your presentation is to ask questions—and allow them time to ask you questions as well. That’s why so many presentations end with a Q&A session. However, we’d recommend that presenters carefully consider where to place their questions. If you schedule a Q&A as the very last part of your presentation, you could lose the opportunity to deliver a powerful closing statement to your audience. If you ask too many questions too early, your audience may not be warmed up yet or know how to respond.
One effective strategy for longer presentations is to build in some Q&A time right around the 10-minute mark when audience attention tends to drift. This breaks up the presentation and, in effect, creates two separate blocks of time. Another strategy is to use a question-asking software such as sli.do and allow participants to connect to your interactive panel through their own laptops and tablets via a wireless screen sharing software like Collage or collaborate on files real-time using Chorus. Participants can submit their questions at any point during the presentation for you to pull up and answer during the scheduled block. This strategy helps keep audience members engaged while eliminating the problem of nagging questions taking up mental space.
6. Use Live Quizzes and Polls
A final effective strategy is live quizzes and polls. There’s something fun and dynamic about gathering audience data on the spot. This practice piques your audience’s curiosity and creates a mental break for the audience that refocuses their attention on the content. It also makes everyone feel involved, fostering a sense of community and camaraderie among your audience members.
Unlike rhetorical questions or old-school techniques like asking the audience to respond by nodding or shaking their heads, live quizzes and polls engage the brain and provide instant gratification. The audience must think about their response and enter it manually. Aggregating the data and seeing the results live on a large, interactive display is a powerful, rewarding experience for the audience.
There are dozens of additional ways to invite your audience into your presentation and make the final result more interactive. Think about your audience and experiment with a few ideas that you think will work for them the next time you’re called upon to present. With next-generation technology available, like interactive displays and collaborative business software, it’s easier than ever for you to be more dynamic in your presentations.