An effective presentation requires specific focus on three main areas: voice; body language and content.
In the first article we considered the importance of voice and in the second of body language, in delivering an effective presentation both online and in-person.
In this article we will focus on presentation content, as the content of an online presentation is more important to effective delivery, than when a presentation is given in person. We will also provide insights and advice on how to optimise your content for effective online presentation delivery.
The focus on presentation content skyrockets, from being just 7% in-person to 40% online, as body language all but falls away when in presentation mode. Audiences are no longer distracted by your appearance or mannerisms or what a colleague sitting next to them, is watching on their mobile phone under the desk. All they can effectively see is your content and hear your voice as you guide them through it.
That being said, attention span varies greatly, depending on the situation:
- From the incredibly disconcerting, 8 second average user attention span: Link
- To 10 – 15 minutes in lectures: Link
- To 20 minutes in presentations: Link
With modern distractions at an unparalleled, never before seen level in human history, our attention span or ability to focus on one thing at a time is shrinking. With that shrinkage, presenters are challenged to create content that will engage, enthral and hold audience attention long enough to be able to get their message across.
Remember that when presenting in-person, it is easy to see when your audience is distracted, whereas online you can only guess. Though they are no longer distracted by your appearance and body language, or by other attendees, that does not mean that they are no longer tempted. Distractions may include using the time to respond to emails or check social media or even to get a cup of coffee, are all very real possibilities, even as you are blissfully ‘carrying on regardless’.
This means that you need to ‘step-up’ your content to retain their attention and, if your content is to have any chance at being effective, it needs to consider the following:
- 1 topic per presentation – A presentation should be about 1 main topic and one only. Do not muddy it with multiple topics, as this will cause confusion, distraction and will probably even lead to little or nothing being achieved.
- 1 thought per slide – Besides your title, agenda and end slides, your introduction / background, and conclusion and / or next steps slides…you will need a ‘body’ (main content) of 3-5 slides. Use each of these slides to address the main / most important issues your audience should know about your 1 topic. We all want to be transparent and share EVERYTHING. Experience has taught, however, that giving an audience everything can be counter-productive. You will end up with a bored and confused audience, who left with nothing constructive in the jumble of information you dumped on them. So, instead, focus only on what they need to know in order to succeed and keep the rest ready in your pocket to pull out should they ask a question about it.
- Maximum of 5 bullets per slide – If the 3-5 body slides addresses just the most important issues around the topic, don’t share that information as an essay. Limit yourself to between 3 and 5 bullet points per slide, as your audience will not remember or process more than that.
- Maximum of 7 keywords per bullet – People, especially in business, will not read long sentences. Limit onscreen text to short headlines. The headlines give you a cue on where to provide more information, as you talk them through it, even as your audience focuses on just the slide headlines.
- Benefit to them – Everyone wants to know: ‘What is in it for me?’; ‘How will this help me?’; and, ‘Why is this important / relevant to me?’ Provide that information early on to keep your audience listening and paying attention to the end.
- Pose questions – To keep your audience engaged and listening, ask them questions. Get your audience to share their insights, opinions, etc., whenever you feel they may be drifting off into distraction.
- Tell a story – People are 22x more likely to remember a story than information or facts, so wherever possible share an actual incident that happened to illustrate the point you are making. If you are presenting a new project, you could share an anecdote about complaints they had regarding how things used to work, before noting how the project you are presenting would change all that and benefit them.
- Use appropriate visuals – Words / text can be boring, whereas human brains are naturally wired to make sense of patterns and pictures, so a well-placed chart or graphic with colours will always revitalise your presentation and your audience along with it.
- Be on brand (colours, logo, font type, message and tone) – If your company logo is black, white and blue, do not use green and yellow on your presentation slides, except perhaps as an accent colour.
- Q&A – Always allow time for a Question and Answer segment in your presentations. This permits your audience to ask for more information or to get clarity on areas of uncertainty. Use that input to improve your presentation content for next time, as a good presentation answers all audience questions before they ask them.
- Feedback – Asking for feedback can be nerve wracking for any presenter but it may be very important, especially if you are giving a training presentation. Ask targeted questions to gauge if they need further information, clarification or more training. It is also a good time to get ideas on how to improve your presentation content and delivery, so that you can improve for the next group.
- Change focus – ‘Change is as good as a holiday’ and in content that means that every few slides you need to bring in something different. Add a slide with some relevant statistics to engage their minds and thoughts on the topic. Include a 5 second video, or dramatic sound effects before revealing an important chart. An effective teacher trick is to bring in a question and go around the group to get their responses or you could target different individuals at a time. It engages / brings them into the conversation and at the same time makes them aware that if they do not concentrate, they may be caught napping.
In conclusion, your content and how you structure your online presentation, is vital to its success. Use the above focus areas and suggestions to create inspiring content that will keep your audience coming back for more. If you are uncertain of how to structure your presentation, ask for help from a Business English Tutor or a trusted colleague who is more experienced at presenting. To be fully prepared for your next presentation, test the quality of your content, practice your delivery (how you present) and memorise a list of responses to potential questions.
For even more detailed information and advice on how to create and give the perfect Business Presentation, see my YouTube videos playlist entitled: ‘Business Presentations’ by clicking on the below image.
Remember to also read these two related articles:
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