6 Easy Ways to Engage Your Audience for a Better Presentation

If you’ve ever been nervous in front of an audience, you’ll know how much of a difference it makes when you can get the crowd engaged right from the start.

Not only does it help you to build your confidence and calm your nerves, but it can also really improve the impact of your words, as well as impress the judges at your DECA competitions.

At Hult, we know the importance of presentation skills in business—in fact, we have a number of classes devoted to communication in our undergraduate program. So to help you get into shape for this year’s upcoming Ultimate DECA Power Trip to Washington, D.C., we thought we’d share some of our favorite tips for improving audience engagement, straight from class!

1. Maintain eye contact.

It may sound obvious, but eye contact is crucial throughout your presentation—and that doesn’t mean just those first two minutes. Many people drop eye contact after they get into the flow of their presentation, but don’t fall into that trap! If you find it difficult locking eyes with the front row, aim just above the back row. The audience will still think you are looking at them, but you’re less likely to get distracted or flustered by their expressions.

2. Make them laugh.

Personal anecdotes and humor can be useful tools for releasing a bit of nervous tension when you start a presentation, though you must always keep it professional. Laughter helps you to establish an emotional connection with your audience and puts them at ease, making it an ideal way to soften them up before you launch into your argument.

3. Tailor your approach.

Your presentation should fit the conditions you’ll have, not the conditions you want. Ideally your audience will be bright-eyed and ready to listen, but that isn’t always going to be the case after a long day of listening. Tailoring your approach can make a big difference to the amount of engagement you create. For example, if you know you are going to be presenting just before lunch, you’ll need to plan how to distract an audience full of hungry clock-watchers. After lunch? Perhaps you should spend one or two minutes getting people re-energized before you start. Always be ready with a couple of ideas up your sleeve, and audience engagement will follow.

4. Tell a story.

Stories have been around long before humans were even able to write them down, and some even say our brains are hardwired to process them better than any other kind of information. Treating your presentation as a storytelling opportunity can be a good way to change things up, and could help you to make your presentation that much more memorable. It’s not as tricky as it sounds either—try looking at a couple of examples online and you will soon get some interesting ideas.

5. Keep it short.

Storytelling is great, but we’ve all experienced that sinking feeling we get when someone opens a deck of 40 slides covered from head to toe in text. When we can see a long presentation looming in front of us we all tend to react in one of two ways: either switch off, or become copious note-takers. In either case, the audience is always going to be distracted from you, the speaker, so try to stick to ten slides or less. You need to balance your story by cutting out the bits that don’t add to it. Ideally you should try to aim for clean neat slides (avoid too many animations!), with no more than six short bullet points on each. This should help you hold everyone’s attention, and will keep you close to the point throughout.

6. Share your enthusiasm.

As a DECA member, you will often find yourself presenting on the same topic as several other teams, so it can be tricky to stand out. But enthusiasm can often be the thing that gets you remembered, so show your audience how passionate you can be. Interactivity is another great way to help you get your point across, so don’t be afraid to ask the crowd questions, or even get them involved in a skit. Presenters who make great points but deliver them in a robotic or over-rehearsed way come across as much less flexible, so let your natural enthusiasm for DECA flow through you. It’s the perfect way to show you’re enjoying the challenge!

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