There’s no worse feeling than being in the middle of a presentation that’s starting to go wrong. Think being on a roller coaster … but not being able to see the top of the hill.
How did you get to this point? You prepared your presentation carefully. You might be a little nervous (or maybe not). You’re thought you knew your audience, and what it would take to engage with them. But now, things seem to be heading in the wrong direction.
How do you bring your group back before it’s too late?
1. Get a grip
You have to acknowledge that you have a problem in order to begin to solve it. So, start by noticing when things veered off course. It’s challenging to stay tuned in to your audience while giving a talk. But, it’s absolutely vital. So, instead of just forging ahead as if everything is fine, stop and take a beat.
Notice what’s happening with your audience. Have things gotten off track? Where did you lose them, and where would you like to pick back up? Once you start to wrap your head around the situation and see it accurately, you can begin to regain control.
Presentation going off the rails? Instead of just forging ahead as if everything is fine, take a beat.
2. Pick up the pace
Want to deliver a good presentation? Remember what it’s like to listen to one. After all, the only thing worse than having to give a presentation is having to sit through one.
Keeping things brief is a good start. There are several strategies you can use to condense your presentation. One of them is not to start talking faster, by the way. Instead, try jumping ahead to your conclusion and use that to focus your main points.
Be willing to let go of less essential sections of the talk. Just because you prepared the presentation a certain way, that doesn’t mean you can’t make adjustments.
3. Give what you want to get
It’s important to try to be relaxed and at ease when giving a presentation — if for no other reason then to help your audience to do the same. Your group will most likely model your attitude and behaviors. Be relaxed, serious and focused. They’ll follow suit.
Take a deep breath, smile and just be yourself. Try not to let the nerves overwhelm you. Remember that you prepared well for this and that it’s an important talk. Project an attitude of competence and ease, and you might just find that your audience returns the favor.
4. Provide a map
There some things you can do to help your group stay on track.
Start by simply explaining to your group what you’ll be doing for the rest of your talk. You might say something like, “I have about five minutes left of material to cover, then I’m hoping for a few minutes of discussion and feedback from you and then we’ll wrap up.”
If you’ve provided an agenda, redirect your listeners to it. You might even consider revising it. The point is to show your audience where you are and where you’re going next. It will help them stay with you.
5. Have a conversation
Audience interaction keeps everyone engaged. Stop giving a presentation and start having a conversation instead. This more personal format should help your presentation to be useful and interesting to your audience members. And, at the end of the day, that’s the most important thing.
Giving a presentation isn’t easy. Often things go wrong. If and when that happens to you, don’t panic. Stay relaxed and just keep being yourself. If you do that, your audience won’t stay lost for long.
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