Having trouble maintaining your audience’s attention? Try these ten creative presentation ideas to hold the yawns at bay…
Everybody loves a quiz – especially when there are prizes involved. And you’ll love the end result, since the promise of rewards for the most attentive participants will keep concentration levels high throughout your presentation. Begin the quiz just before your final Q&A session, and hand out the prizes – which should be relevant to your company’s product line, by the way – as part of a package containing your contact details and a booklet outlining the points your talk has raised.
One of the major keys to presentation success is making sure that your talk is memorable. Your discussion could be jam-packed with original and exciting concepts – but if its delivery is drab and lifeless, the audience will leave the room feeling anything but inspired.
One sure-fire way to keep your viewers on their toes is to use short bursts of poetry throughout your slides. Keep it light and humorous.
Here’s an example I composed earlier. This could be used as effective presentation poetry for a talk on worldwide cheese production; imagine that the speaker has now reached his section on actual types of cheeses and, quite unexpectedly, dives into a bout of verse…
There’s Stilton, Beaufort, Skyr and Brie,
And Tomme and Edam too,
Camembert de Normandie,
And Belgian Remoudou.
I love to get some nice Greek Fet’-
Great with a mug of char,
And don’t forget my favourite yet,
The Torta del Casar!
What can I say? If that doesn’t stir your audience, nothing will.
To give the audience a real sense of your corporate identity, try customising your slides in accordance with your trading model. If you’re presenting a comparison on London’s best new restaurants, for example, a menu-themed set of slides could suit you well. Just acquired a reputable electronics retailer to add to your firm? A series of slide backgrounds based on the iPad screen could be for you.
There’s no better way to get your audience in the mood for engagement than by offering up a selection of themed snacks during your opening sequence. Any reputable caterer, given enough notice, should be able to work to your specific requirements. If you’re presenting your new bingo website, for example, a selection of gourmet nibbles arranged to spell out your company slogan will likely raise the mood. Or if your talk is centred on contemporary art, why not re-create a famous portrait using nothing but sushi and oriental crackers?
If you’re strapped for cash or stuck for ideas, you can’t go wrong with a cake decorated with product line miniatures. This might not be the most original stratagem, but it will show how much effort you’ve put into your presentation, and give the impression that you’re genuinely passionate about your company. Whatever you choose, though, do make sure that a vegetarian option is available; you’ll not do yourself any favours by alienating those with special dietary needs.
Invite a Client
All successful private companies know the importance of customer perception. So, as long as your presentation won’t cover any confidential material, you might consider inviting a long-term client to your talk. Not only will this improve PR and help solidify your reputation as an open and consumer-friendly outfit, it will also provide an excellent insight into your corporate shortcomings. No company has a flawless sales process, and nobody knows your weak points better than your regular clients. If you’re failing to reach targets, you could rack your brain for months in a fruitless search for a solution – while the fix has been obvious to your average customer all along.
You just can’t buy this kind of marketing.
Bring in the Pros
Let’s face it – no one person can know everything; as knowledgeable as you might be, there are bound to be areas where your expertise falls short. And considering the number of presentations that ultimately fail because of the speaker’s inadequate performance during the Q&A session, you’d be wise to bring along a creditable subject matter specialist. If you’re the Head of Customer Services, for example, and expect to receive complex questions regarding the company’s advertising strategy, a Marketing manager would make an ideal sidekick. He or she will impress your viewers with convincing responses to every query, and come to the rescue whenever an obscure question catches you off-guard.
Talk is cheap; your audience knows it, and so do you. It’s easy to back up your points with an abundance of favourable statistics, but nothing will serve to convince your audience as effectively as a live-action demonstration. If you want to prove that your latest waterproof mobile phone series really is more reliable than your competitor’s model, bring along a bucket of water and put your money where your mouth is. Or if you’re determined to demonstrate the superior quality of your new memory-foam beanbags, turn up with a sample cushion and a hacksaw tucked under your arm.
Be advised, though, that any on-the-spot experiments should be carried out in compliance with health and safety regulations. Always take precautions, and conduct your handiwork a safe distance from the audience.
Use Tailored Animation
If you’re concerned that the complex information you’ll be discussing might be lost on some of your viewers, try commissioning a dedicated animation company to cartoonify your more complicated points. Many outfits, such as VIDOONS, specialise in the animation of presentation sketches, and can even implement a recording of your voice into the sequence to maintain that personal touch.
Not only will these fantastic-looking cartoons engross your listeners with their professional simplicity, they’ll also eliminate any language barriers and lend your presentation a comically charming touch.
The opportune use of props can help give your talk a new and captivating dimension, and draw your presentation above the industry standard of PowerPoint text and handouts. This isn’t to suggest that you thrust a bucket and mop into the hands of each audience member every time you give a talk on household maintenance. Rather, use your props intelligently to demonstrate concepts and ideas that words struggle to convey.
If you’re explaining the inner-workings of your amazing new line of hair-dryers, for example, a techno-savvy audience might appreciate a hands-on look at the internal circuit boards. Or, if you’re drawing light to your Customer Service department’s most common complaint, a genuine letter from an exasperated client will give your viewers some much-needed outside perspective.
Fact of Life: appearance matters. As sad as it is, your physical appearance will naturally play a part in moulding your listeners’ perception of you. With that in mind, the less time you spend hunched over your laptop or readjusting unruly wires, the better. To minimise your Igor time, invest in a sophisticated smartphone that’s compatible with presentation software and, ideally, can connect to your projector wirelessly. If you’d feel more comfortable sticking with the laptop, the least you can do is have an assistant on hand to change slides, operate the equipment and distribute handouts; this will relieve you of a certain amount of pressure and, more importantly, assert your position of authority in a subtle and appropriate manner.
Finally, bring along some decent-quality paper and enough ballpoints for the entire audience; you just know that some members will turn up ill-prepared – but you don’t have to.
If you’re having difficulty designing an important presentation at short notice, check out our Ten Tips for Great Presentation Design.
12 September 2011