5 Presentation tips to connect with the toughest audience


grey rocks

It’s not often you read articles offering presentation tips on how to manage a tough audience and so I thought I’d change that.

Have you ever prepared for an important presentation feeling anxious that:

– Your audience may have more experience than you do of the topic you are about to speak on

– There are a number of dissenters in the room

– There may be a negative emotional charge in the room

– You may be asked difficult or even hostile questions

If you have, then you’ll know that it’s not only really daunting but it can leave you feeling quite vulnerable.

The following presentation tips will help you to prepare in advance, giving you the confidence to not only manage but to connect with the toughest audience.

Every audience, regardless of their age, intellect, status or experience needs 5 things from a presenter.  At mindful presenter we would argue that what follows are far more than presentation tips, they are necessities. Unless we give them all 5, we are unlikely to make a genuine and lasting connection.

 1. Focus

Of all the best presentation tips in the world, by far the most important is to focus exclusively on your audience. Here’s what you need to focus on long before you begin crafting your presentation:

– Building empathy: What do you have in common, what do they care about, what’s it like to be in their shoes, what do they need from you?

– Putting them at ease: This comes from you demonstrating that you know what it is you are talking about.

– The facts: Give them the facts and do so quickly and clearly.

– Your message: Craft a compelling message which will make their lives better, easier, happier or positively different.

– Clarity: Cut out the jargon and long winded explanations. Make sure everything you say is completely relevant to them.

– Questions: Anticipate the challenging questions; especially the ones you dread.

– Making a difference: Don’t set out to impress or be perfect; focus only on helping your audience.

– The evidence: Anticpate their doubts, concerns and grievances by demonstrating you’ve thought about it all and have answers.

 2. Feelings

Sadly, you don’t hear too many presentation tips revolving around the most important thing in the world; people’s feeling.

Whether your message is designed to inform, educate, entertain or inspire them, your number one priority once you have your facts straight is to help them feel something.

That means connecting with them on an emotional level.

Feelings are evoked by:

– Sharing true, relevant and powerful stories.

– Powerful anecdotes and metaphors.

– Thought provoking questions.

– Humour, surprise and even a little drama or suspense.

– Energy, enthusiasm and excitement.

– Compelling content.

– Using emotional language

– Helping your audience to use their imaginations

Don’t let them just passively listen and acknowledge your words, help them to feel something too.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  Maya Angelou

 3. Vision

Over 30 years ago, a former boss and mentor of mine once told me something I have not only never forgotten but have used to extraordinary effect over the years,

“The only people who need to be motivated are the people who can’t see a future.”

I didn’t fully appreciate it in the moment but they have probably been the most impactful words ever shared with me in business.

As far as presentation tips go, I believe that those words are critically important for every presenter. It’s every presenters job to help their audience to see the future. The clearer the image is of the future, the less fear, doubt and confusion there is for the audience.

We need to share a compelling vision. That means giving our audience the big picture of how our message will really help them. What difference it will make to their personal or professional lives.

If your presentation isn’t designed to make a difference then you shouldn’t be wasting their time. Simply send them the information or idea in an email or document and ask them to call you if they have any questions.

4. Brevity

Many business presentations are regarded as boring because they are simply far too long. We’ve all sat through business presentations which are overloaded with information which is often unecessary and irrelevant.

One of my favourite presentation tips is, ‘less is more’.

– Edit, edit, edit: If it doesn’t completely support your message or is totally relevant, cut it out of your presentation.

– Short and simple: Don’t use 20 words if you can say it in 6. Ditch the jargon, acronyms and cliches.

– Give your audience only what they need, no more.

– Think like Twitter: focus on your point with laser like clarity.

There are a number of other helpful presentation tips on brevity in a previous article I wrote called: ‘The A to Z of mindful presenting: B – brevity’.

5. Questions

If some of your audience do know more than you do, it is quite likely that someone may ask a question you don’t know the answer to. That of course can happen even if they know a lot less too. When it does happen, don’t do what many presenters do, which is to take a step backwards, drop their eyes and shrug their shoulders.

This is your moment to shine rather than retreat:

– Step forward and lean into the question.

– Take a breath, pause for  moment and make eye contact.

– Don’t just make eye contact with the person who asked the question, share it with everyone.

– As you do, be very honest that you don’t know the answer but make a commitment to find out.

– Given the level of experience in the room, have the courage to acknowledge that and ask if anyone else knows the answer.

– If you don’t know the answer but do have a thought or opinion on the question, make it clear that you don’t know the answer and then share your thought.

Hostile questions

These are quite rare of course but every now and then you will find a ‘sniper’ in the room.

If you find yourself answering a question which the questioner wants to make a big issue of and draw you into an argument, don’t succumb to it. If you are satisfied that you answered their question to the best of your ability and there is nothing more you can add try this instead:

–  Listen very closely and carefully to the point they are trying to make.

– No matter how small it may be, find something in their words you can sincerely agree with. In other words, you may not like it but you know something makes sense.

– Agree with that small point that you acknowledge makes sense and that you can at least agree with.

– Shut up and don’t say another word

If you need help presenting to a difficult audience:

– Book yourself onto a powerful public speaking course.

– Invest in some really good one to one public speaking coaching.

– Get yourself some excellent presentation training

If you need help presenting:

– Book yourself onto a powerful public speaking course.

– Invest in some really good one to one public speaking coaching.

– Get yourself some excellent presentation training

I really hope you enjoyed this post. If you did, please feel free to share it through your preferred social media channels below and subscribe to our mailing list so you won’t miss any future posts.

If this article has inspired you to learn a little more about how effective your presentation skills are you may want to take a look at our presentation training and public speaking coaching pages to see how we may be able to help you. You will also find a great deal of really helpful ‘free’ information in our Learning Centre.

Image: Courtesy of pixabay.com



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