Effective Presentation Techniques: 8 Ways I Present My Ideas With Influence

Presenting without influence is pointless. If I, as a presenter, am not able to convince the audience to do anything, then what is the point of presenting in the first place?

By Navid  |   0  |  Published in Influence, Marketing,

Let’s be honest. Presenting without influence is like talking into the abyss. If I, as a presenter, am not able to convince the audience to do anything, then what is the point of presenting in the first place?

More important than any presentation tool, tactic, or technique, the presenter must keep one thing in mind at all times: one has to influence one’s audience and get them to do something(s). This isn’t easy. Simply put, no one likes to be told what to do, what to buy, or what to learn.

Presenter vs. Audience

Over the course of my 16-year career in marketing so far, I’ve had to present a lot.  I always assume that my audience isn’t exactly on my side. They certainly could be but again, I assume that they are not. All of them. In fact, I assume that they have three things against me: biases, barriers, and blocks.

Here are a few things I assume my audience is thinking before I begin to present:
“I don’t like this guy. So, I don’t care what he says, I am not buying.”
“This is boring. So, whatever!”
“I don’t have the budget for this right now.”
“Who is this guy telling me what to do?”
“I am in a bad mood so, blah, blah, blah…”
“I hate Thursdays so I don’t want to do anything today.”

Sounds rough, doesn’t it?  For me, this is a good place to start.

The Presenter’s Tools, Methods, and Words

It is important to note that the audience may simply be unaware of their biases or barriers. In fact, the audience may have many conscious or subconscious reasons to not want to listen to me or act on my commands. Far more important than my slides or what I am wearing is my ability to combat the audience’s (perceived) unwillingness to cooperate. For this, there exist many tools (e.g. Powerpoint – we’ll discuss this at another time), methods, and tactics.  Many books and articles have been written on the topic but I keep the following few points in mind every time that I present.

I must own the room. The audience is more likely to listen to a leader or an authority figure than someone who is not a leader. We are programmed that way.

Let’s dive in.

I Am The Leader In The Room

I must own the room. The audience is more likely to listen to a leader or an authority figure than someone who is not a leader. We are programmed that way. The Milgram Experiment (although demonstrating a darker version of this concept) is a good place to start exploring this idea. Here are a few simple things I do to appear more as an authority figure:

  • I stand tall: Leaders generally don’t hunch their backs, cross their arms, or sit down when they speak or trying to take control of a crowd. They stand tall and demand to be seen and noticed.
  • I don’t use weak words: if I am starting the presentation late, then I simply thank the audience for their patience. This is far more effective and authoritative than beginning a presentation with “sorry, I am late…”. By the way, if you think that it is simply polite to apologize, then you are right! However, I’d argue that since words matter, thanking people for their patience is just as polite without the need for me to make myself sound weak.
  • I make eye contact – with everyone: looking at the audience directly and making eye contact is a great way for me to establish a connection. It says “I am speaking to you”. I generally hold a gaze similar to the eye contact between two people chatting; not too long and not too short.
  • I use my body to talk: body language can be just as effective as spoken words.  I use my hands, I don’t walk all over the stage, and increase and decrease my voice throughout the presentation.

I Tell A Story

The audience is far more likely to remember a story than a bunch of unrelated facts and data points. Stories have continuity and therefore, the information presented is relational. I believe that effective communication is, in fact, nothing but great storytelling. Imagine the two sentences below:

“Our company began operations in 2011.”
“In 2011, right after the economic slowdown, our 3 founders decided to launch a company built around the principles of honesty and generosity, rather than the greed that got us into that mess, to begin with.”

Which one sounds more memorable?

I Begin With An Agenda

A good story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. The audience needs to know what is expected of them in terms of attention and duration. I can better encourage the audience to come along on a journey with me by telling them details of the journey: how long it will take, what it consists of, and most importantly, what the point of it all is.

20 Minutes of Attention (At A Time)

Staying focused for more than 20 minutes is generally difficult. If I’ve been allotted an hour to present, then I divide that down into 2-3 segments with reasonable breaks in between. Now, if I was a superb storyteller, who is to say that the audience isn’t still engaged an hour later? Aren’t movies roughly 2 hrs long? Those are stories too, right? The audience could effectively listen for longer than 20 minutes only and only if the presenter is telling a great story. I don’t want to risk it so I stick to 20-minute intervals.

I Repeat, Repeat, Repeat

Imagine one meets a total stranger and he has to make sure that this stranger remembers 3 digits. What would be the most effective way to do this? That’s right. Repeat, repeat, and repeat some more! In fact, very few people are able to remember facts or data by simply presenting it to them a single time. If I want the audience to remember 3 things throughout the entire presentation, then I make it a point to repeat those 3 things over and over.

I Present Social Proof (But Not Negative Social Proof)

Today, if you visit an e-commerce site, you are very likely to see testimonials. These testimonials are there to show the prospective buyer (you) the benefits others have gained by purchasing a product or service from that company. Social proof is a powerful tool. I generally present a case study as social proof.

Now, because of conformity bias, we are more likely to do what others are doing than to be on our own. Therefore, if a presenter highlights that for example, 70% of all people are doing something wrong (negative social proof), the audience, who could very well be in that 70% group, might actually hear the opposite intended message. I, as an audience member hearing this statistic might actually say to myself “oh, 70% of people are like me and therefore, I am fine and don’t need to change.” So, I am always mindful that if I am going to present a piece of social proof, that I am framing it positively.

I Highlight Scarcity And The Need To Act Now

Call now! Limited Supplies! Prices will go up soon!
These are some of the messages that we hear in ads all the time. An ad is considered a success if the Call-To-Action (CTA) is in fact followed by the intended audience. This principle can be used in presentations in similar ways. If I am selling something, then I may offer a one-time coupon code which expires in 48 hrs to my audience to thank them for their time. This is a great CTA which is scarce and has urgency. In fact, it has the concept of reciprocity as a well but I will talk about that another time.

I Sell A Vision or The Future

No one is going to buy the past from anyone! Sounds silly, doesn’t it? Presenting with influence is about selling a vision that the audience is likely to want to grab. This is why it is pivotal to talk about true Value Propositions (VP’s) as opposed to a bunch of features during a presentation. If I am selling a rice cooker, for example, the audience would be far more likely to purchase it if the audience can be shown how the rice cooker can save time as opposed to the temperature of the rice when ready!

Do you have techniques you’d like to share? Comment below.



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