How to Give an Engaging Presentation
By Tayyaba Syed
Public-speaking can be a scary thing. I know it is for me. I went into writing thinking that I could hide behind my words and not really have to show my face or speak in front of audiences. It’s much easier to not have to see your audience’s reactions to your words. However, the more I write, the more I’m asked to speak in public.
This year alone, I’ve had to do many speaking engagements in front of a spectrum of audiences and ages groups. I had to step out of my comfort zone and really contemplate on the importance of public-speaking. I finally realized that a true writer should be able to speak her words. We need to go out and share our narratives and put a face to our names, as scary as it may be. Our words matter. Our faces matter. We matter. So, in order to bring light to what our capabilities are, we need to be willing to put our fears aside and represent our voices, loud and proud.
To do this effectively, you need to know how to give an engaging presentation. Whether you are presenting a paper, story, poem or just some useful notes, you need to be able to hook your audience and keep them listening to you all the way to the end. I use a few methods to engage audiences that you may find helpful. Here’s how:
- Look presentable. It doesn’t matter if you are speaking in front of kids or adults, make an effort to look your best and dress formally. Many times, people pay more attention to what you are wearing rather than what you are saying. However, if you look good, they’ll remember your words too. It seems silly, but it’s true.
- Make eye contact. If you practice or memorize your talk ahead of time, you won’t need to refer to your notes as much while speaking. Move your eyes around the room at different members of the audience to keep them interested.
- Be interactive. Throughout your presentation, ask rhetorical or quick-answer questions to change up the style and keep the audience awake. You can also try giving take-home points to help them retain your words more efficiently. Acronyms, mnemonics and numbered lists work great to reiterate your main points and make the audience feel involved in your presentation.
- Use various tones. Go from different tones in your voice and be expressive, even animated at times. It helps to bring out your personality to really connect with your listeners.
- Use your hands. Don’t hesitate to use your hands while you speak. You don’t have to be excessive about it, but it’s a nice way to be more visually appealing while speaking.
- Use visual aids. People love to follow along with visual tools like PowerPoint slides, picture books, photos, graphics, notes pre-typed or written while talking or even puppets. This also is a great way to get attention off of oneself for those of us who are shy or nervous to speak in public and keep the flow of your talk going with cues and bullet points.
- Remove awkwardness with humor. Nothing lightens the mood more than humor. Share personal stories or be willing to laugh at yourself. It takes the tension away easily and makes you more personable.
- Be okay with imperfection. It’s okay to have mess-ups or slip-ups. Laugh it off or brush it off and keep going. None of us are perfect, so there’s no point in trying to present yourself in such a way. Stay focused and leave all your insecurities at the door.
- Believe in yourself. You are up there for a reason. Someone, somewhere believes in you and what you have to say, so have confidence in your capabilities. If you can write, you can speak. Know that your words matter and are worth sharing.
- Feel your audience. Stay attuned to people’s expressions, gestures, attentiveness, small motions and body language to gage their moods. If you notice people losing interest or focus, change up the tone or style of your talk to bring them back. Be ready to share impromptu words or go off tangent slightly to keep your audience engaged. If you run out of time, don’t worry about it. As long as you had their attention, you were able to get your main points across.