Last week, I attended a training seminar where the speaker stood by the side of a projection screen and behind a table where he had his laptop. He hardly moved from his position during the hour-long seminar. He was short and was barely visible from the back of the thirty-people room, as shown in the illustration. Despite his interesting content and compelling arguments, he was physically disconnected from his audience.
One of the common mistakes speakers make is that they regard their slides as the core of their presentation—they give their slides the center stage during their presentations. Sometimes they stand behind a podium or by the side of a projection screen and command very little attention from the audience.
Here are a few tips to help you engage your audience.
- Get a handheld or a clip-on microphone and a remote control to advance your PowerPoint or Keynote slides. Walk around the room and establish a positive rapport with your audience.
- Maintain a relaxed body language and tone, smile and engage the audience in discussions. A relaxed stance and engaging conversations quickly establish your authority over the subject matter and your credibility with the audience.
- Maintain eye contact with all the members of your audience. Observe their body language for non-verbal feedback to your presentation content.
- Have a friend or family member attend your presentation and request that he or she observe your non-verbal communication, viz., your appearance, enthusiasm, tone and volume, gestures, eye contact, audience engagement, pauses, and pace of delivery.
As you prepare for your next public speaking assignment or presentation, remember that your slides or handouts just augment your presentation and support your line of reasoning. You are the presentation; you should be the focus.