Imagine a world where the audience absorbs your every word during a corporate presentation. Without any questions or doubt. How easy would it be for you to share ideas and get buy-in?
Unfortunately this utopian view is far from the reality. Audience engagement is something we must earn.
Why? What’s in it for me?
More often than not, corporate audiences already have too much on their plate. This gives you a brief window to capture their attention. Within minutes (sometimes seconds) they will decide whether to tune into you, or deal with a pressing email, so nailing the opening is crucial to your presentation success.
Ripening your audience to absorb information is important. Think of it like getting petrol for your car. If you don’t open the lid and proceed to pour it straight on top, it will all go to waste. Don’t waste this opportunity, make sure you’re starting strong.
Spark their interest first, get an initial buy-in to your idea or create curiosity about your message… open the petrol cap lid. Nail the opening and your ability to engage them throughout will skyrocket.
In the video below I share more about the importance initial impact can have.
It doesn’t matter how senior your role is or how urgent your message may be. It is your responsibility to engage the audience quickly, a downturn of heads and the appearance of phones lets you know you are not succeeding.
But why do audiences resist new information?
These days entertainment is the expectation, they don’t want to do the work. Most people are too lazy, too tired or too overloaded to take on new information. It requires effort to learn something new and busy brains look for ways to save energy. With so much already occupying our minds, we tend to pick and choose what is necessary. In fact, all it can take is a few seconds for your audience to disengage.
To capture someone’s attention, you need to be able to cut through the noise. This happens when we break the pattern. Kicking off in a way no one could ignore…
Do the hard work for them with the power of storytelling
Try starting your presentation by sharing a story like Ric Elias did in this TED Talk above. When told well, narratives engage people with ease. Ric first asks you to “Imagine a big explosion as you climb 3,000ft ft. Imagine, a plane full of smoke.”, who can’t help but see themselves in this terrifying situation. This narrative is compelling and you hang on his words for the next sentence.
We don’t all have life and death stories like Ric’s, but if you can find a way to link a story to your key message and get your audience to visualise the scenario they will instantly be more connected to the topic. As Ric shows, stories can be gripping.
Wake them up with the facts
Sometimes a lot can be said with very little. You might not have a compelling story that relates to this quarters financials, but try opening with a big statistic or an unexpected fact.
Watch how Jamie Oliver commands the room in this TEDX video below using this technique.
Create a visual with a show of hands
Engagement isn’t always about listening. Having the opportunity to take part in the conversation can also help to spark interest.
Do this by posing a question to your audience, get a show of hands or invite them to shout out. Asking your audience a question creates an instant visual around a topic. It can also helps to create relevance.
Here Kelly McGonigal provides a simple example of how this works. By polling her audience on stress, she demonstrates how common it is. In less than 30 seconds she has proved the relevance of her topic and how it applies to everyone in the room.
With moments to grasp an audience when you present, how you open will determine your success. Put in place these simple techniques and your ability to engage an audience will enhance.Want to know what to avoid to ensure you deliver the best possible pitch? Download this free cheat sheet the 7 Deadly Sins Of Pitching for a handy guide on what not to do.
The Colin James Method® Facilitators train corporate executives to improve their professional communication skills with a proven methodology. Our highly trained Facilitators and Coaches are recognised for their experience in their fields and have worked with many individuals and organisations around the world to master the art of communication.