7 ways to keep your audience awake through your PowerPoint presentation

The best way to adjudge your PowerPoint presentation is to ask yourself “Is this the kind of presentation I would like to sit through?” and you’ll then step into the shoes of your audience. To keep the audience awake, it’s important to know their minds and expectations.

Let’s take a look at what’s in the audience’s minds:

Sell your idea: Marketer and author of thirteen best selling books, Seth Godin, says “the purpose of a presentation is to change minds. That’s the only reason I can think of to spend the time and resources.” Your audience feels the same way. So if you have a strong point to make, do it and persuade your audience as they sit through your presentation for an idea that could change their minds.

Set your focus right from the start: Start the presentation by introducing your topic and what you’ll talk throughout the presentation.

It’s also necessary to introduce yourself, this will break the ice and build a reputation with the audience.

Don’t choke with your slides: Using bulky bullet points, distracting color contrast, overpowering animations on the slides can choke your viewer’s mind. Keep your slides simple and clearly readable with one or two lines and larger font size. Support your text with visually appealing images. Dr. John Medina, in his comment on presentation slides, says a brain interprets every letter as a picture so wordy slides literally choke your brain. He has also written a best selling book Brain Rules and is a molecular biologist with a lifelong fascination of how the mind reacts to and organizes information.

Take as an example Steve Jobs presentations which are simple, clear and highly visual. Communications expert, Carmine Gallo has studied and analyzed Jobs’s best performances in his book The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to Be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience. Steve Jobs presentations had elements of a great theatrical production- a great script, heroes and villains, stage props and breathtaking visuals. That’s what you too need to have in your presentation slides.  

Tell an interesting story: Everybody loves stories. An idea introduced through a story is more impressionable than simply showing text and reading out. Begin your slides in a conversational manner, create the setting of a story, start with a sequence of actions, fill in suspense and conflict. Let your listeners feel that they will find something really interesting towards the end i.e a destination to reach.

Reinforce your focus: A good story should always have an anecdote and a moment of reflection interwoven together. When you’ve engaged your audience with a story, give them time to reflect back and think about the importance of all this. Here, connect the crux of the story with your key message. Giving audience time to reflect back helps you not to loose focus on your subject and your presentation stays on track.

Highlight the key points with facts: Drive home the message by laying stress on your key points and supporting them with facts and figures. The facts and figures add authenticity, credibility and reliability to your points. Just like presentations of the veteran Dr. Hans Rosling, professor at Karolinska Institute, who is famous for his TED Talks.

Summarize in the end: Make the audience walk through the main topic and your conclusion by summarizing the subject towards the end of the presentation.

You can even create a feedback cycle where audience can interact with you. If the presentation is informational, give a handout with all important notes. If it’s for a project approval or selling a product, you can hand people a form for their approval or comments. 

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