I looked at the clock and did a double take. Had it really only been two minutes since this guy started presenting? Oh, I was SO bored. I couldn't believe it.
I was interested in the topic. I knew the speaker had experience and intelligence and was certain I could learn something from him. But, his presentation seemed designed to ensure that we would leave with no memory whatsoever of anything he actually said.
Here are three sure-fire ways to keep the group's attention during your next presentation. I'm assuming that what you say is important and relevant. If it's not, please save us all the headache and cancel the meeting.
1. Know the point.
I'm amazed at how many speakers can't tell me the point of their presentation in a sentence. I would suggest that if you can't boil it down to a sentence, you're not ready to present.
"But, it's more complicated than that," you might say. Yes, of course it's complicated. That's why you need the entire presentation. But, I should be able to leave the room understanding the single main idea. If your presentation is important, others will ask me, "What was Bob's presentation about?" They're looking for a one or two sentence answer not a 10 minute explanation. If I can't sum it up in a sentence the answer will almost certainly be, "I'm not sure."
2. Tell me why I should care.
I, and every other listener in the room, arrived at your presentation with a hundred thoughts in our heads that having nothing to do with what you're going to talk about. Indeed, it seems to us that every one of those thoughts is more important than whatever it is you're saying. I need your help to shift my focus from what seems urgent in my head to the important things you're sharing with me.
"This is important because ..."
"The consequences if we get this wrong will be ..."
"Here's what's at stake ..."
Don't assume I will connect the dots. Give me a reason to invest on the front end and then help me travel the path with you to the conclusion.
3. Put the cookies within reach.
Once you've convinced me I should care about what you're saying, don't lose me in the facts and figures. I want the "cookies", the information that supports your main idea. I'm interested, but if you put the information on a shelf that's too low (condescendingly explaining things as if I were a four year-old) or on a shelf that's too high (blowing past me with data, acronyms, and statistics that only you can understand) my eyes will glaze over and I'll take the quickest route to my happy place.
Make sure everything you're saying relates to the main point. And make sure everything you say relates to your audience. "Now this is interesting ..." is the worst way to begin a sentence, because it's almost never interesting to anyone else in the group and almost always unrelated to your main point.
Any presentation can be better by keeping these key communication tips in mind. And here's a bonus fourth tip: Never read the PowerPoint! Apply these keys and I'll bet they even stop passing out pillows at the beginning of every meeting.