Many presentations have audiences who are unfamiliar with the subject matter. There may be a few scattered individuals who have some grasp on the basics of what’s being presented. But what happens when your audience is filled with experts?
Making a presentation to experts
It’s a challenging situation, to say the least. In many cases, it pays to take a step back and look at it from your audience’s point of view.
No matter who your audience is, you should never try to trick them with false knowledge. Experts will pick right up on this. But novices will eventually figure out what you told them is not right. Either way, you look bad. It’s best to admit to what you don’t know, irrespective of whom you are presenting to.
If you are presenting from an expert position yourself, this will certainly help. But it is not always necessary. When you don’t have the same higher credentials as your audience, you should act more like a moderator and let the experts do the heavy lifting. In fact, it may be worth it for you to reach out to a few renowned experts and give them the floor to the presentation.
The best approach is to contact experts in the beginning and ask if they are willing to present at your conference. Most want the exposure and will be happy to do it. Many may require payment and if you have the funds available you may consider it. Others simply want the exposure and the ability to express their positions to their peers. As the moderator, you will need to keep track of the time given to presentations, but you will need to be delicate about cutting experts off.
Never try to pretend you know more than the experts. That simply won’t fly. They will pick up on this quicker than you can flash a laser pointer. Have confidence in the knowledge you do possess. Instead of having others ask questions, you can position the presentation so that you ask questions of the experts. Make sure you have these prepared well in advance. Run those questions by an expert before asking them to make sure they fit in the context of the presentation.
It’s important to respect the expertise of the attendees. They have spent a good portion of their lives working up to that status and deserve the accolades associated with these accomplishments.
The qualities of top presenters
Think back to two business presentations you attended in the past. One where you couldn’t wait for it to end and the other where you couldn’t believe it was over already. That first instance is an example of a presenter that was either inexperienced or is simply not a good presenter. He or she did not connect with the audience. The second instance is an example of someone who is good at presenting. Focus on that person. What kinds of qualities did that person convey during the presentation?
People will connect with different qualities overall. However, there certain qualities presenters possess that increase their chances of engaging the audience.
If you come off as someone who isn’t familiar with the subject you are presenting, or you are unable to answer questions that arise, you will lack the credibility needed to pull your audience in your desired direction. On the other hand, if they view you as authoritative and knowledgeable, you have a good start in connecting with them.
Have the confidence to believe what you are presenting is correct and stand by that belief. You’ve done your homework. Project that to your audience and they will respect your position. Not everyone will necessarily agree, but at least they can see you exude the proper confidence.
You will impress your audience if you incorporate creativity into your presentations. When doing this, it’s important not to try too hard. Let the creativity happen naturally and don’t try to force it. What you believe is creative, others may not. However, if you can give them some creative components that help them connect, this will go a long way in capturing their attention.
Allow Audience Participation
You are in charge of the presentation along with its content. However, if you can get your audience to participate, they will be that much more connected. There are several methods to accomplish this. One popular technique is to pose questions throughout the presentations and open the floor for answers by the audience. You can get a lot of insight from the answers they provide as well as other questions they ask.
Most business presentations are not standup comedy routines. Therefore, using humor does not entail compiling a bunch of corny jokes and bombarding your audience with them. If you have a knack for humor in a natural way, consider using it strategically. Humor helps but only when used correctly.
Using storytelling during presentations
Which would you rather see, a presentation that regurgitates a bunch of statistics using charts, etc., or a story about how someone overcame a problem they were having? If you’re like most, you will choose the latter. People love stories, and they especially love to hear human interest stories of how people met challenges they faced.
You may be thinking that storytelling is for the Hollywood crowd or should be left to the graces of writers. But stories are incorporated in many aspects of life. The next time you see a sales page of some sort (shouldn’t be too hard to find), pay attention to any stories that are told within the text or the video for the page. It’s a very common technique in sales.
There’s a good reason why sellers use storytelling in their sales copy; it works. It connects an audience with someone who could be just like them. It gives the audience hope that solutions to their problems do exist.
Storytelling works because of the emotional aspect of it. It’s no surprise that kids will eagerly sit around in a circle to hear stories being read or told by adults. The more animated the adults can make the story, the more excited the children become.
When you incorporate storytelling, it’s a good idea to use stories that actually happened. While it’s certainly acceptable to make up stories for fiction, when you are presenting with the intent of convincing an audience, making up stories can backfire on you. It’s not just your reputation that will be tarnished; the Federal Trade Commission may come knocking at your door. You need to make sure your stories (testimonials, etc.) are true or that you disclose that they are made up.
Storytelling does take some practice to master. There are plenty of resources available, both in book form and tutorials, that can help you learn and practice. You can hit up your family and friends with your stories and see how they react. When you try this, don’t cue them about your story. Let them read it cold and observe their expressions. Then, ask them to give you feedback on what they liked and didn’t like. Ask them if the story was relatable.
If you incorporate one tip into your presentations, let it be storytelling. It is something that people will never get tired of, and it can be used for just about any situation.