Do you find yourself having to present lots of data to people who don’t have the same level of knowledge or expertise as you do?
Presenting complex information can be a significant challenge for even the most seasoned presenter.
Regardless of the topic, all presenters share the common goal of ensuring that they keep their audience interested and engaged. Exceptional presenters aim for much more; they want their audience to feel connected to them and their message. They want their listeners to remember their key message and then act on it.
Angelika Dimoka, director of the Center for Neural Decision Making at Temple University tells us that as people reach information overload: “They start making stupid mistakes and bad choices because the brain region responsible for smart decision making has essentially left the premises.”
That’s all well and good but when you’re tasked with sharing complex information, keeping it simple doesn’t appear so easy for most professionals
Many years of experience and coaching has taught us that it can, however, be far simpler than you think.
Here are 10 simple tips on how to keep your audience’s attention when presenting more challenging information:
- Be a tour guide
A great tour guide will:
– Never let you get lost
– Make sure you can hear them at the back
– Bring the facts to life
– Tell you stories
– Make sure you enjoy yourself
If you deliver your presentation as if you were a tour guide you will make sure that your audience follow you every step of the way and are never left trying to work things out for themselves.
- Show them what to look at
Direct your audience’s attention to where you want them to focus. If you want their eyes on you then hit the ‘B’ key on the lap top and blank out the screen.
If you want them to focus on something specific on the screen reach up and touch it.
You are asking for trouble and doing your audience a great disservice if you have too much information up on the screen. Make certain you only show what you want them to pay attention to and remember. If you want them to look at it, make it big and bold; don’t leave it buried in a plethora of numbers.
- Remember the 3 little pigs, the 3 blind mice, the 3 Musketeers?
People remember things in “3s”. We have done since we were small children and we still do today, so whatever you’re trying to say keep it to 3 points or less.
It worked for Steve Jobs when he introduced the iPad 2 in 2011 as “thinner, lighter, and faster.”
- Paint a picture, its ‘worth a thousand words’
Use carefully chosen and compelling images to stimulate visual learning, keep your audience’s attention and add impact to your words. There is a reason that old saying has stood the test of time, it’s because it is so true.
If you see a ton of numbers or text on a screen and see a powerful image with one big bold number on it which one do you think you will remember?
Use them but do so wisely, creatively and powerfully.
- Q. How do you eat an elephant?
A:‘One bite at a time’. In other words, don’t overwhelm them.
When it comes to presenting, less is always more, both in terms of what you say and what you show.
Reveal one idea or concept at a time; don’t cram everything onto one slide.
- Tell them the story
Tell them the story behind the data, why it matters and the relevance it has to them.
It’s really difficult to decipher long lists of data whilst listening to a speaker so extract the key data and keep it simple and bold. You really don’t have to show them everything, just what they need to see.
Data without a story is arguably dull!
- You are the presentation: not your slides
PowerPoint slides were designed to be nothing more than visual aids.
Don’t make the mistake many presenters still do today and let their visuals become their message instead of themselves.
Used mindfully ,visual aids can be extremely valuable if you always keep in mind their purpose. They were created in the first place to help you to support your message, breathe a little life into it and enhance the impact your message has on your audience.
If your projector or laptop stopped working or you left all of your notes on the train, you should still be able to speak when you stand to present. The question is, what will you say?
That’s your presentation, not your slides.
- Ask a 12 year old
One of the many things I love about our business is that every industry we work with seems to have its own lexicon. Unless your audience are extremely familiar with your industries language lose the jargon.
If you’re in any doubt just ask a 12 year old.
If they get it, then so will your audience.
- Keep it tidy
In other words declutter your slides:
– Use as few numbers as possible
– Stick to one point per slide
– Split data across multiple slides
Many professionals have been told that its wrong to have too many slides and that you should use as few as possible. That is the reason why the few slides they do have are far too busy.
You can use as many slides as you like provided they each serve a clear, relevant and powerful purpose and are not simply there as part of your script.
- Think Billboard
We often see complex data accompanied by boring titles like, ‘sales performance’ or ‘quarterly update’.
Such titles are then followed by a deluge of numbers which means the audience don’t have a clue where to begin looking.
Help them out.
In the same way you only have a few seconds to read a billboard when you’re driving to get the gist of the message, your slides should do the same.
‘Product X outperformed by 28%’
‘How we hit this quarter’s target’
Complex information and data presented in the wrong way is like slowly suffocating your audience. Sometimes the information is genuinely complex because that’s just the nature of the topic and other times it’s the presenter’s way of trying to impress their audience.
Either way, they won’t thank you for making them work too hard and they’ll forget most of what you said the moment they walk out of the door. It’s every presenter’s job to convey complex information in a way that is concise, meaningful and engaging.
Know what drives your audience, make it personal for them and most importantly focus on impressing them by making a difference not blinding them with data.
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