Your presentations should be comprised of the following parts:
- An opening that draws in the listener;
- A preview of what’s to come (“Tell them what you’re going to tell them”);
- The body of the presentation (“Tell them”);
- Interaction with the audience;
- A summary of what the audience should have learned (“Tell them what you told them”); and
- A closing that leaves the audience inspired and wanting more, and that includes a call to action.
Your opening sets the stage for your entire presentation, so it is imperative that you start strong. Tell a heartwarming or motivational tale, a funny story, a shocking statistic, or a jarring fact. Or begin with an activity that includes some or all of your audience, like having everyone respond to several questions that will elicit responses to lead you into your presentation. Your audience should immediately feel happy that they came and ready to learn more. You are setting the tone for the rest of your presentation, so be sure to command the room! Your opening should also include the following: 1) a greeting to the audience; 2) a self-introduction, and 3) an introduction to your topic.
Briefly explain your agenda so that your audience knows what to expect. Also, give important instructions, for example, if interaction is encouraged, and what behavior should be avoided, like cell phone use. Set the stage, and take the lead!
The body is the meat of your presentation and should be the lengthiest portion. Demonstrate your expertise. Include everything of value, everything that the audience should consider, and everything of which you want your audience to be convinced.
It is important to interact with your audience, rather than to simply lecture at them. (“Talking heads” are déclassé.) That is how your audience will get the most out of your presentation, and it will keep them interested, especially in lengthier presentations. Interact with them as much as possible during all phases.
Beware of hecklers who want to trip you up for their own entertainment. Shut them down as quickly and as politely as possible.
Before even going on stage, interact positively with as much of your audience as possible. Say “hello,” shake hands, and make small talk. The more people with whom you interact positively, the more people who will want you to do well during your presentation. I’ll never forget one of my favorite professors in college who started the first day by sitting at a desk as though he was a student, interacting with as many real students as possible. When the bell rang, he stood up and began teaching, and we were all shocked that this young man was our professor. He made a great impression early on, and that very quickly set the mood for the entire semester.
Briefly recap your entire presentation. Highlight the most important concepts. As you go, ask your audience if they have questions. Continue to interact with them.
Just as you began, end on a strong note. Tie your conclusion to your introduction. As you are writing your opening, plan your closing. You want your audience walking away feeling that the time they spent with you was valuable. Be memorable and compelling.
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