Yes, be kind. Perhaps it’s not their fault. Maybe the subject matter they have to work with is just dull anyway and too difficult to bring to life. Maybe there really is nothing new or interesting to say that we didn’t already know. Or maybe some kind person told them that their presentation style is just great the way it is and they should stick with it.
OK, that’s about as much goodwill as I can manage for now. Because the reality is that any subject can be presented in an interesting and engaging way, if you take the trouble. Yes, I really mean that – any subject!
The first step is to put yourself in your audience’s shoes. What do they already know and what is going to be really relevant and important to them. Then, just be imaginative. There must be an image you can use or a way of emphasizing the information you want to get across that is more arresting than a list of bullet points.
Then think about your delivery. Are you using strategic pauses? Do you speak to the back of the room in a measured way with a range of intonation? Or can you really not help talking at the lectern, reading out your slides in a dull monotone?
Your audience will let you know, if you care to look. You probably won’t get told directly – we all like to be polite. And you probably won’t get too much from evaluation forms. Again, people won’t want to upset you, and filling in an evaluation is the last thing they do before leaving.
But look at the faces of your audience. Are they nodding in the right places, or just nodding off? Is their body language positive, showing that they are engaged with your message? Look at their eyes and what do you see: thoughtful engagement or somebody planning their shopping list?
The signs are always there. Connecting with your audience is essential and if you really want to know the truth about the effectiveness of your presentation style, that’s where you’ll find it.
What if we’re in the Audience?
If you’re subjected to a dull presentation what should you do? Is it really being kind to tell someone their presentation was fascinating when it was as exciting as Cleethorpes on a wet bank holiday? Perhaps you should get up and walk out? Not very British, I know, but even the thickest-skinned presenter would probably get the message. In reality, of course, most of us would do none of these things. We just sit there and pray for the hands on our watch to turn quicker.
So if you’re not practiced at reading an audience, and you can’t rely on honest feedback, what can you do? This is where the advice of an experienced presentation coach can be a great investment. Not only will they be completely honest, telling you what you need to know rather than what you want to hear; they’ll also be constructive, giving you practical advice on how to become a more convincing presenter.
I’m the Director of The Bid Coach and I’ve helped hundreds of people become more confident and engaging presenters. Call 01963 240555 to see what I can do for you.