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Wow Your Audience With Your Next Presentation

I consider myself to be a seasoned presenter. I’ve given dozens of talks to audiences ranging from 5 to 5,000 people. In fact, I’m going to be giving a talk at the League of California Cities annual conference next week. But it doesn’t matter how seasoned a speaker you are, everyone can do something to improve their effectiveness. Drs. Susan and Peter Glaser’s presentation on persuasion and influence gave some pretty insightful tips on how you can up your presentation game.

What makes a presentation dynamic?

It’s all about creating an experience that your audience will remember. The Glasers explained that creating an appetite for the topic is your first challenge, and this is generally done in one of three ways: tell a story, give a statistic, or ask a question.  Although all three of these are effective, including a memorable example is the most impactful way to get your audience interested in what you have to say.

According to the Glasers, a memorable example needs to have a plot, characters, and the audience needs to care what happens in the story.  When you are telling the story, try to change your voice to be in the voice of the characters to help the audience get into the story. At the end of your example, take a sentence or two to wrap it up so the audience knows what to take away from it.  

How do I stop getting anxious when I have to speak?

The short answer is: you don’t. The trick is to embrace anxiety and use it to give you the energy needed to make your presentation entertaining.  The Glasers referred to this as “the juice.” If you label the anxiety you are feeling as negative, that is what you will experience.  However, if you label it as positive, you can experience it as a necessary component of making your presentation dynamic.

When I informed the Glasers that although I'm good at viewing my anxiety as positive, I still get super hot, I was reassured that even after all the presentations they have done, they run into the same issues. "Wear layers so you can take them off" Susan Glaser advised me. "Even if you have to wear something sleeveless underneath." 

How do I create buy-in for my ideas?

The Glasers included several ways to create buy-in from your audience. First and foremost, you need to let your audience know that you are human. As they put it: “People don’t care what you know until they know you care.” This means that you have to take yourself out of “speech mode” and be yourself.  Make sure that you present in a way that lets your personality shine through.

Another way to create buy-in is to pay special attention to the organization of your presentation. Some people like to start their presentation by dealing with concerns that you believe the audience has about the topic. The Glasers point out that this is a mistake. Starting by pointing out the audience’s concerns will have one of two effects:

  1. You will start the audience thinking negatively about the topic, and it will be difficult for them to listen to what you have to say after that. Even if you present a good argument that should allay their concerns, they will likely still be thinking about it throughout your presentation.
  2. What you thought was a concern for the audience may only have been a concern of a small number of people, but bringing it up in the beginning of the presentation alerts the result of the audience to it, which results in the problem of above.   

Overall, the session was super engaging and I am excited to use some of what I learned in my upcoming presentations!

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