As a leader, you are expected to be adept at getting the attention of your audience, whether you are speaking to staff, stakeholders, or customers. But how do you hold their attention when everyone, including you, is time-poor and distracted?
If you’re anything like most leaders I know, you complete pitches and presentations after hours when the kids are running around, demanding your attention. Bottom line: you’re not alone — I know what it feels like to be time-poor and distracted. The result? A failed pitch or a poor presentation and an audience scrolling through their phones.
The internet is full of practical suggestions to help you land your message. In this article, I want to share the top strategies that have worked for me and will save you time. This way, you can ensure that work gets your undivided attention and your family too.
The good news is there’s no need to resort to fireworks or shock tactics to get all eyes on you. Simply follow these three steps to ensure your pitch or presentation gets off to a flying start — and your message always lands.
I know this first step sounds obvious, but you’ll be surprised about the number of leaders I know who simply start typing away at their computers without planning their content. This approach takes much longer and often leads to a pitch or presentation with no clear message.
So, before you put your fingers on the keyboard, put pen to paper and plan what you want to say. Sticky notes are great for this exercise, as they force you to get to the heart of the message. Use them to answer the following questions:
- WHO is your audience: Are they a narrow or a broad group?
- WHAT is in it for them: How can you create context for them and why should they care?
- WHERE do you want them to go: What are the next steps?
- HOW will they get there: What are the mechanisms to complete the action?
Think about the last presentation you heard that really moved you or made you want to act. I bet you’re struggling to remember one that stands out. The reason for this is that many presenters don’t consider their audience. Instead, they only think of themselves.
To connect with your audience, avoid trying to sound too smart. This will only ensure that your message goes over their heads. If you confuse them, you lose them. Remember, your audience is not you — they don’t know what you know. Here are two sure-fire ways to connect with your audience:
- Tell stories: The brain is literally wired for stories. We love them, and they disarm our suspicious nature, drawing us into the speaker’s world. Think about how you can weave a story into your presentation.
- Use graphics: The brain also loves images. It’s one of the reasons we’re seeing such a massive increase in data visualisations, infographics, and videos. Images are fuel for the brain, allowing us to engage more rapidly with the information shared with us.
People who watch a presentation remember 65% of it the next day if it was image-drive versus only 25% if it was text-driven.
3. Be concise
Most people struggle to be concise, but this is vital if you want to deliver a powerful message. Have you ever listened to a presentation only to find yourself halfway through it wondering: what is this guy talking about again? A two-hour-long presentation might sound impressive, but you’ll lose your audience (remember — they are time-poor and distracted).
Even if you share the deck afterwards, no one will read it. Instead, it will be filed under ‘Important’ and left unopened. Here’s what you must do to kick ass at being succinct:
- Structure your content: Think beginning, middle, and end — and structure your deck like a good story. Grab their attention from the start by setting the scene. Keep them glued by adding substance to the middle of the story. Finally, take them to a gripping conclusion that will leave them thinking, ‘I want more of that!’
- Set rules: Try the 6 x 6 rule (6 words per line and 6 lines per slide) or the 10, 20, 30 rule (10 slides, 20 minutes, and 30-point type).
Getting presentations right is hard. It’s even trickier if your business is in the financial or technology industry, as your message is often complex. But there is a way out!
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We are experts at simplifying complex messages into engaging content. For the past 19 years, we’ve helped over 4 000 salespeople and marketers to land their message effectively. So, if your next presentation is giving you sleepless nights, get in touch.
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