An audience can be as difficult to win, and just as easy to lose. It all depends on those first minutes of your presentation.
Here are ten sentences that should never be pronounced:
- “I am totally jet-lagged, tired and exhausted”
Go figure why, but one out of five conferences starts with sentences such as: “ I was only told yesterday I had to prepare today’s presentation”; “My trip exhausted me”; Try avoiding excuses that your public really doesn’t want to hear about.
- « Can you hear me? Oh great, it works! »
This is probably the most popular sentence you have heard before any presentation.
The speaker taps on the microphone and shouts “Can you hear me in the back?” and apologizes when realizes everyone can hear him crystal clear.
Remember that it isn’t your job to handle technical aspects such as quality of sound! Professionals are normally in charge. If this isn’t so, try testing before your audience enters the room.
Nevertheless, if when using the microphone you are under the impression that it isn’t functioning properly, relax and retry. If the problem remains move toward the front of the stage and ask for a technician’s help.
Keep smiling and stay cool all along!
- « I can’t see you because of the light»
Clearly when you are on stage, lights will be shining on you. Powerful projectors apart from making you warm can also prevent you from distinguishing your audience in the room. Nevertheless, no need to share this irrelevant fact with all.
Make yourself feel comfortable by finding your focus point (even in the dark). If you really need to see your public don’t hesitate moving toward the front of the stage or even walking around the public’s alleys.
No matter what, do not cover your eyes trying to observe your audience, rather ask technicians to turn on the lights in the room.
- « I will get back to this later»
If by chance you have a public that is interested in knowing more about your subject, take your chances! So if someone asks about something don’t just schedule answering later in the presentation, seize this opportunity.
When people are courageous enough to raise their hand to ask a question, congratulate them and invite the rest of your audience to do the same.
- « Are you able to read this? »
The general rule concerning your presentation’s font size: it should be twice as big as your audience’s average age. So if you average public is expected to be 40-years-old, go for an 80-size font.
This will also enable you to limit the amount of text on your slides, which is a good thing!
- « I will read this passage aloud»
Never, ever, ever put too much text on your presentation slides, and if you do so, never, ever, ever read out loud what people are able to read.
The best way to lose an audience is by handing too much text. As soon as you get as much as four words aligned on a slide, people start reading. What happens when people read? They stop listening.
Use short titles, key expressions or concepts that will stick to people’s minds. If you absolutely have to write down a three-line quote, ensure silence and give people the time to read it at ease.
- « Turn off your phones, computers and tablets! »
There was a time when all electronic devices had to be turned off during presentations. Those days are gone. Now people are either tweeting your words or taking notes on their tablet (or playing cards while checking their Facebook updates).
You can maybe ask people to be kind enough to mute their phones, but most importantly try getting people so interested in your presentation, that the idea of checking their device disappears.
Asking or attention doesn’t work. You have to earn it!
- « No need to take notes or pictures, the presentation will be available online »
It is very thoughtful of you putting your presentation online. But if your presentation doesn’t have too much text (which is supposed to be the case), it won’t be very useful to the public.
For most people writing is a great way to memorize what they hear. Bottom line, let people do what they feel like doing.
- « Let me answer that question! »
Obviously it is great if you can answer questions. But the questions asked by the guy in the front row might have seamed clear to you, but this isn’t necessarily the case for the rest of your audience.
When you are asked a question always start by saying, “I will repeat the question in such a way everyone can hear it”, and only then answer.
By the way, repeating the question is also a great way to give you more time to think about your answer.
- « I will be brief»
Usually when you hear this, you can be sure it will be the contrary. Nevertheless many presentations start or end this way
Inspiring speakers aren’t expected to be brief, rather fascinating. Try starting with something like “This presentation will change your life” or “This presentation is 30 minutes long, but let’s try to get it done in 25 so we can share a coffee together later”.
The most important is to stick to what you say. So if you say you’ll be brief, be brief!
- BONUS « What!? My time is up! I still have 23 slides to go through! »
If you arrive feeling unprepared and needing more time to prepare, you have failed!
You must practice, practice and practice.
You could also finish your speak five minutes earlier and take the time to answer questions, and if no one raises their hand in the audience, invite them to meet around a cup of coffee. Finishing a bit early will enable you to gain the public’s gratitude.
Conclusion: arrive prepared, be yourself as well as professional. The public will appreciate clarity, seriousness and not having wasted their time.