Category: Uncategorized

5 Quick Tips to Boost Audience Interaction

August 30th, 2023 by

Capturing your audience’s attention and keeping them engaged during a presentation is a challenge we’ve all faced. A well-crafted presentation can make all the difference in conveying your message effectively.

One key way to achieve this is by encouraging audience interaction. However, this can sometimes be easier said than done. For example, what can you do to counteract the dreaded ‘no question’ silence at the end? Or how can you encourage the audience to be actively involved during the presentation?

We’ve pulled together five tips that you can use in your next presentation to both engage and leave a lasting impact on your audience.

1. Begin with a Powerful Statement or Question

Start off the presentation with a powerful or thought-provoking statistic, statement or question. If just a statistic or statement, once you allow it to settle in for a moment, ask audience members to share their thoughts on it, or go for a show of hands to gauge their feelings about it. This can be a very impactful way to grab (and keep) their attention straight away – you’ve not only immediately piqued their interest, but have also drawn them in to becoming active participants.

2. Tell a Compelling Story

Humans are hardwired to connect with stories. Incorporating a relevant and relatable story into your presentation can transform it from a mundane information-sharing session to an engaging experience. Sharing a personal anecdote or a client success story related to the topic at hand can help your audience connect emotionally and invest more in the content. Not only does storytelling make your presentation more relatable, but it also opens the door for questions, discussions, and insights from your audience. Encourage them to share their own experiences or opinions related to the story you’ve shared.

3. Gamify Your Content

Introducing an element of gamification can infuse energy and excitement into your presentation. Design interactive segments such as quizzes, polls, or challenges that require audience participation. Platforms like Slido make it incredibly easy to incorporate live polls, quizzes, word clouds and more directly into your presentation. Gamification not only keeps your audience engaged but also helps reinforce key points and encourage active listening. You can offer small incentives such as digital badges, shout-outs, or small prizes to participants who perform exceptionally well in the interactive challenges.

4. Invite Questions – Anonymously

Inviting questions from the audience is an obvious and well-known tactic to allow for more participation. However – it may be that sometimes you don’t get any questions at the end. It could be that audience members aren’t confident enough to ask questions – especially if the subject matter happens to be of a sensitive nature. No questions can perhaps be a bit of an awkward note for an otherwise fantastic presentation to end on. To counter this, try asking questions anonymously – for example, before the presentation begins, have pencils and paper available for each audience member, and encourage them to write down a question during it. Then have a helper collect any questions towards the end of the presentation to have them ready for the presenter to go through once they’re finished. Alternatively, you can use Slido, which gives the option for participants to ask questions anonymously.

5. Employ Visual Engagement

A visually appealing presentation is important to have for more than just aesthetic reasons. Using visual aids like images, infographics and videos to support your content not only breaks the monotony of text-heavy slides, but also can serve as conversation starters. Incorporate visuals that resonate with your audience’s preferences and align with the message you’re conveying. Encourage your audience to analyse and discuss the visuals you’ve presented, leading to deeper engagement and understanding.

Presentations hold the power to make or break your message. By implementing these five quick tips to encourage audience interaction, you can transform your presentations into immersive experiences that captivate, educate and resonate with your audience.

Closing the Digital Skills Gap with Interactive Learning

August 2nd, 2023 by

In recent years, there has been a noticeable increase in the demand for interactive learning (eLearning) presentations from both our longstanding and new clients. Undoubtedly, the pandemic played a crucial role in driving this, as individuals looked for flexible learning options that could accommodate their busy schedules and deliver impactful results. However, even after lockdown was lifted and restrictions eased, we saw this trend continue.

According to a recent study by Econsultancy, there is currently a digital skills gap within many organisations. One of the biggest challenges uncovered is that employers and employees alike are identifying a need for training across numerous areas such as marketing and ecommerce.

83% of organisations polled said that “their growth depends on rapidly evolving their employees’ skills/capabilities to meet emerging customer and business needs”.

Interestingly, the study goes further to claim that a company obtaining a singular learning solution will limit their growth potential. It states that “companies that invest in multi-modal learning and development are more than twice as likely (57%) than their peers to say their employees have the necessary digital skills to meet business goals”.

We firmly believe that interactive learning must be among the primary options on offer. This is because it allows for far more flexibility; and when learning at one’s own pace, it leads to a deeper understanding of the subject matter. In fact, Leftronic reports that 58% of workers prefer to learn at their own pace.

Our interactive learning presentations transform this learning setting into an experiential one, which according to the article, makes it “meaningful, stronger, and durable”. In fact, a study from Prezi showed that 68% believe of people that interactive presentations make the content more memorable.

But don’t just take it from the business leaders being polled – employees themselves agree. “Employees at companies that deliver multiple types of learning are 68% more likely to say that they find learning opportunities to be of a tangible benefit to their jobs.”

When addressing the digital skills gap, integrating interactive learning opportunities emerges as a strategic and effective solution. These versatile learning options offer individuals the freedom to progress at their own pace while benefitting from increased engagement and improved retention through interactivity.

For businesses, this approach holds immense value, as it empowers employees with vital skills necessary for optimal performance and meaningful contributions to organizational objectives. By providing accessible and convenient learning experiences, employees acquire the expertise to excel in their roles, leading to greater efficiency in achieving business goals.

Ultimately, interactive learning serves as a powerful catalyst in closing the digital skills gap and cultivating a workforce that is skilled, motivated, and adaptable. It positions businesses for success in an ever-evolving digital landscape, securing a competitive advantage in the modern world.

Steve Alford

The Importance of Design in Presentations

May 21st, 2023 by

Presentation design… is it really needed?

People tend to underestimate the power of good design in presentations. It can be easy to think that it’s an unnecessary embellishment, or just something extra to look at if there’s time. However, design is in fact a crucial marketing asset, especially when it comes to presentations.

Think about it – you’ve spent hours crafting and honing your message, ensuring the content is relevant and engaging. So, when it comes to adding it into a presentation, you wouldn’t just carelessly throw your quality content onto some bland slides and call it a day, right? The visual element of your presentation needs just as much effort and consideration as the content. A well-designed presentation elevates and reinforces your content, whereas a poorly designed one may distract from, or even diminish your content.

For example, you wouldn’t want to make the common mistake of featuring text-heavy slides overloaded with bullet points that lack visual engagement – you’d instantly lose your audience’s attention. It’s crucial to strike a delicate balance between aesthetics and usability, where a visually pleasing design shouldn’t compromise the message’s effectiveness.

However, design needs to do more than just aesthetics.

It plays a crucial role in presenting a solution for a problem effectively and engagingly. By using visual elements and strategic communication techniques, design can simplify a problem by presenting information in a visually appealing and organised manner, enabling the audience to grasp the core issues effortlessly.

That’s why every presentation needs to do more than to just look good.

Still not convinced as to the value of design in a presentation?

Here are three reasons why it’s so important:

It makes it more memorable – Humans are visual learners and are much more likely to retain information when it is presented visually. Since the age of cave paintings, to emojis used today, visual communication is key to our development, learning and understanding. According to Harvard Business Review: “Hear a piece of information, and three days later you’ll remember 10% of it. Add a picture and you’ll remember 65%.”

It grabs the audience’s attention – You have a very small window to make an impression: the average attention span of an audience within a presentation is around 10 minutes. So not only is making it visually appealing more likely to catch the eye, but adding imagery also makes your message easier to digest – conveying more of your message quickly and efficiently. Prezi found: “It takes 1/10 of a second to understand a visual scene, compared to 60 seconds to read 200-250 words.”

It inspires action – One of the most common goals when giving a presentation is to encourage the audience to take action. So how do you go about making it more persuasive? By adding visuals, of course. In this study about the effectiveness of visuals in presentations, Prezi noted: “Researchers found that when the presentation was delivered with visual aids, it was 43% more effective at getting people to take action than when the presenter used no accompanying visuals.”

Ultimately, a well-designed presentation is far more likely to truly capture attention. And the more the audience is engaged, the more likely they’ll take in your key messages and really understand and consider them. Plus, you are far more likely to persuade your audience of a particular view or solution with quality visuals.

It will also bring your story to life when considering the power of visual storytelling (read more about this in our last blog post).

So, whether in a sales pitch, a seminar, or an informational talk, when your presentation uses design effectively, it will be more successful at keeping your audience engaged and getting your message across.

Steve Alford

How storytelling can help you build a more powerful presentation

April 12th, 2023 by

In our previous blog, we focussed on the importance of building a structure into your presentations. But so is building an emotional connection with your audience. So how do we bring these two things together?

One way is to use storytelling.

In this blog I’ll look at why you should consider using storytelling in your presentation. I’ll also unpack three storytelling structures and consider how we can use them to structure a presentation. Lastly, we’ll look at what to do if you want to use the power of storytelling but don’t want to build your entire presentation around it.

Why use storytelling in your presentation?

For me, there are three reasons why storytelling is important when you’re thinking about the structure and emotional impact of your presentation.

Firstly, because it reflects who we are as human beings.

Storytelling is part of our everyday lives. It’s in the films we watch and the books we read. We also spend a lot of time telling stories to each other – one study found that up to 70% of our conversations with each other are spent telling personal stories.

Secondly, research suggests humans tell stories because it helps us pass on knowledge. When you think about it, that’s the purpose of every presentation – to pass on knowledge.

One study showed that after a presentation, 63% of attendees were able to remember stories, while only 5% could remember statistics. (I think it’s funny we use statistics to prove statistics don’t work! It’s a reminder that we need to engage hearts and heads when we present.)

Finally, we know that storytelling helps us get results.

Studies show that focusing on the impact of a tragedy on a single individual helps charities raise more donations than statistical references to the thousands or millions of people who are affected by it. This is because we can empathise with an individual’s story and we become emotionally invested.

So we know that storytelling is powerful. But what is a story?

A story is a structure

A story is made up of a few key ingredients, such as characters, an emotional hook, but the thing underpinning them all is a solid structure. There are generally considered to be eight key types of story structure:

  1. The hero’s journey
  2. The mountain
  3. Nested loops
  4. Sparklines
  5. Converging ideas
  6. False start
  7. In media res
  8. Petal structure

You can build a presentation around any of these story structures. However, in reality, I think there are three that work particularly well. They are the hero’s journey, in media res and sparklines.

Let’s explore each of them, how they work and the types of presentation they are most suited to.

Using the hero’s journey in your presentation

The hero’s journey is the plot of thousands of books, plays and films. (Star Wars is the example you’ll most often see.)

If you Google the hero’s journey, you’ll find it has up to 12 steps. Broadly speaking, though, these divide into three parts:

  • the hero leaves the familiar world behind, either intentionally or unintentionally
  • the hero learns to navigate the unfamiliar world
  • the hero returns to the familiar world transformed by their journey and equipped with new-found wisdom

The most obvious use for a hero’s journey in a presentation is when you’re telling your own story. For example, it would be great if you’re delivering a keynote speech about a notable event in your career.

It’s also ideal for raising awareness about a topic you care deeply about. Here’s the description of a TED talk for example:

“After bacterial meningitis took her legs, Amy Purdy struggled with depression, and only beat it when she learned to accept her new reality, but not any limitations. After being unable to find prosthetics that would allow her to snowboard, she built her own. Today, she is a world champion female adaptive snowboarder. In 2005, she co-founded Adaptive Action Sports, a non-profit dedicated to introducing people with physical challenges to action sports.”

Watch Amy’s TED Talk

The hero doesn’t have to be you, though. If your presentation was about a customer problem you worked on, the hero might be your customer. In this scenario, Act 1 would look at the problems they were facing. Act 2 would be about their search for the ideal solution (which was your product or service) and the work you did together. Act 3 would be about their world now and how it’s been changed for the better by your work.

Using in media res in your presentation

Like the hero’s journey, an in media res structure has three acts:

  • set up
  • confrontation
  • resolution

The crucial thing that separates it from the hero’s journey, though, is where you start it. Because ‘in media res’ translates as ‘in the middle of things’. You start your story at the most climactic moment.

You see the in media res structure in films and TV programmes a lot.

The opening scene starts with something unusual or intriguing – a familiar character behaving in an unfamiliar way or in an unlikely situation. Then, we get the text on screen that says something like: ‘Two days earlier’. We then go back to where the story actually begins and go through all the stages that led to the opening scene. In process, we get to see how the familiar character ended up in the unfamiliar situation.

This structure grabs your audience’s attention right from the start and engages them to listen on.

You’ll often see in media res described as ‘cutting to the chase’. Rather than starting your customer success story at the beginning with a description of your customer, you could try starting it at the moment they realised they needed help.

Or in a sales presentation, you could open by painting the picture of the problems that your product or service solves. Alternatively, you could start with a piece of feedback thanking you for the difference your company made.

Using sparklines in your presentation

Sparklines are when you contrast an existing world to an ideal world. The most famous example is perhaps Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech. Here’s an extract:

“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

“I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Sparklines is a good storytelling structure to use when you need to get people on board with something. You might need to show people the benefits of using a new piece of technology or a new way of working. You might need them to buy in to a new business strategy.

You take each of the problems you currently face. You then contrast it with a world where the technology is in place or the strategy has been implemented to show how much better it is.

By switching, you help to pull out all the problems with your world as it is at the moment. You also highlight all the benefits of the your new world. This helps to build a powerful argument people can buy into – and gets them excited about making the changes needed to get there.

Harness the power of storytelling in your next presentation

We love using storytelling to build powerful presentations for our clients. I hope this blog has shown you why.

But if you don’t want to build your entire presentation around a storytelling framework, you can still use the power of stories. For example, you could try opening your presentation with a personal anecdote. This will help create an emotional connection with your audience and they are likely to be much more engaged in what you have to say. Three steps to writing and structuring a winning presentation has a little more on this.

Let us know your experiences of using storytelling in presentations – and remember, when you tell us, you’ll be doing what humans have been doing for generations – telling a story!

Steve Alford

How to be more confident when it’s time to present

February 24th, 2023 by

If you get nervous when presenting, you’re not alone. More than 75% of us experience glossophobia – the fear of public speaking. In fact, it’s the most common social fear.

But feeling nervous or anxious needn’t be a barrier between a good presentation and a bad one. It just means we need to acknowledge the fear we experience and equip ourselves with the tools to handle it. We’ll explore a few of those tools in this blog.

The key to confidence is preparation

The idea of presenting in front of a room full of people can be enough to put off even thinking about your presentation, let alone starting it. But preparation is vital.

The fact is, the more preparation you put in, the more confident you’ll feel. You’ll know how to deliver the key points to get your message across and maximise the impact of what you want to say.

Remember too that confidence is contagious (yes, really!) When you’re more confident, your audience will have more confidence in you and what you’re saying. The same thing applies in reverse as well – when your audience has confidence in you, you’ll gain confidence in yourself.

It all comes down to neuroscience and the phenomenon of mirror neurons – brain cells that fire ‘when an animal acts and when the animal observes the same action performed by another.’

So if preparation is the key to confidence, what does good preparation look like?

For me, there are three steps:

  1. Practise your presentation
  2. Plan your delivery
  3. Focus on your stage presence

Practise your presentation

Putting together your presentation and slide deck is your first task. (If you need tips on where to start when creating a presentation, take a look at our blog Structuring your Presentation.)

Remember, though, that your finished slide deck is not your presentation – it’s you, presenting it.

So, take the time to practise and then practise some more (… and then some more). You’ll have heard this countless times before, but it cannot be emphasised enough. Carving out enough time to prepare is often the key to the success or failure of a presentation performance. It’s also where you’ll gain your confidence.

Don’t use your preparation time to correct typos or play with design. Instead, use it to work out what works for you in communicating your story and eliminating anything that doesn’t. You will only find this out by practising. If you continue to stumble or don’t feel like it’s working the way you wanted, don’t be afraid to rewrite, reorder or even start again – you will only gain confidence when you’ve got a presentation you’re comfortable with.

If you can, rehearse it in front of people you trust. Honest feedback is important, and it’s a valuable opportunity to see which parts of your presentation are working and which aren’t.

Plan your delivery

Once you are happy with your presentation, it’s time to focus on how you will deliver it.

There are basically three approaches you can take:

  • reading directly off a script
  • memorising a script
  • developing a set of bullet point cards that map out what you plan to say.

I imagine you’ve watched a presentation where the presenter has read their script aloud. You’ll know how distancing it is and how any connection with the audience slowly disappears. Try to avoid this if you can.

Memorising a script is mentally exhausting. It’s also risky. It might start off well, but one small mistake can suddenly alter the way you present as you struggle to remember your lines. This again creates distance between you and your audience.

Getting past this point is simple. It’s a matter of rehearsing (I will keep saying this!) to ensure the flow of words becomes second nature. When this happens, you can focus on delivering the talk with confidence. In turn, this will also allow you to improvise because improvisation only starts when our mindset is relaxed.

If you don’t have time to learn your speech off by heart, or don’t want to risk it, don’t worry. This is where bullet points on note cards come in. As long as you know what you want to cover under each bullet point, they can be a great aide memoire.

Focus on your stage presence

Having a solid presentation with a solid structure (that you’ve rehearsed until you can deliver it backwards!) should automatically give you a confidence boost. The final step is to focus on ways to boost your presence and your appearance of confidence on stage.

Here are a few tips.

Make eye contact with people in your audience

You’ll find this easier when you have rehearsed your presentation so you don’t have to rely on looking at your notes or your slides so much. It can be tempting to pick out one or two friendly faces, but this can get awkward for them and you! Do your best to look at as many different people as you can.

Watch your body language

If you’re nervous, it’s very easy to cross your arms in front of you to subconsciously protect yourself. You might also feel like a ‘rabbit in the headlights’ and find yourself frozen to the spot. Both of these signal your nerves, which isn’t great for those mirror neurons!

When you’re practising your presentation, focus on having an open posture – it will help you look more confident and feel more confident. Gestures can help too. For example, body language expert Carole Railton analysed 10 of the most popular TED Talks to see what they can teach us about strengthening our communication using gestures.

Avoid fillers

In everyday conversation we use lots of filler sounds – such as ‘um’, ‘ah’ or ‘so’ – and filler words – such as ‘actually’, ‘basically’ or ‘I mean’. They’re natural because they give us the time we need to formulate what we want to say next. But in a presentation, we know what we want to say next (or we should do!). Filler sounds and words therefore distract our audience from our message. You won’t be able to eliminate them entirely, but use your practice time to become more aware of the fillers you use and work on removing them.

Speed up and slow down

Varying the pace of what you’re saying is a great way to keep your audience engaged. You’ll likely tend to talk more quickly when you’re nervous, but your practice time will help you combat this tendency. It will also help you identify where it makes sense to speed up (for example, when you’re adding detail or rattling through some stats) and where it’s good to slow down (for example, when you’re making a key point).

Understand the power of the pause

Silence is incredibly powerful. It helps you focus attention on the most important parts of your presentation and exudes confidence. (This compilation of highlights from a few of Barack Obama’s speeches is a great reminder of the power of the pause.) When you’re practising your presentation, consider where pauses could help. And don’t forget that one or two seconds will feel like a long time to you – especially when you’re nervous! – but it won’t feel too long for your audience.

Embrace your time to shine

Nearly everyone gets nervous before a presentation. It’s completely natural. Nerves are adrenaline going into overdrive, a natural response you can use to sharpen your mind and improve your performance. In other words, feeling nervous isn’t a disaster.

Remember too that there’s no right or wrong way to give a good performance or be a naturally confident presenter. The best talks aren’t the ones that follow all the best practice guidelines. They’re the ones that offer something fresh, not formulaic.

So while I’ve given lots of advice here, there’s no need to take every piece of it on board, just the bits you think could work for you. Embrace what makes you and your idea special – and go out there and shine.

Steve Alford

Three steps to writing and structuring a winning presentation

January 1st, 2022 by

How many times have you sat down to write a presentation and found yourself staring at an empty PowerPoint slide wondering about the best approach?

  • What shall I say?
  • How do I start?
  • Will I get my message across?

Delivering a presentation can be daunting. But so can creating the presentation in the first place! If you look for help, you’ll find there are hundreds of books on the subject. The wealth of information can make the topic seem complicated. In fact, there’s so much information we think there’s a danger it can seem more complicated than it actually is. Our advice to anyone sitting down to write an effective presentation is simply: keep it simple – and remember a few of the following tricks of the trade.

Get the start, middle and end right

Just like a good story, a good presentation has three sections: a start, a middle and an end.

Common advice you’ll read suggests this breaks down to:

  • tell them what you’re going to tell them
  • tell them
  • tell them what you’ve told them.

But we think there’s a better formula when you need a memorable and exciting presentation. We also take a different approach when it comes to actually writing the presentation. And it all starts with a curve ball…

The power of a good ending

We always write the endings of our presentations first. It’s because the end is the most important part to get right in any presentation.

When you write the end of your presentation first, you’ll still be full of energy and enthusiasm. On the other hand, if you write the beginning of your presentation first, your energy levels will be lower by the time you reach the end. It means all the hard work you put into the start and middle of your presentation could be wasted by a ‘that’ll do’ end. If you’re wondering why the end is so important, it’s to do with a psychological effect called the Peak-End Rule.

It’s explained like this: “We remember experiences in our lives as a series of snapshots rather than a complete catalogue of events. The most emotionally intense points of an experience and the end of that experience are heavily weighted in how we remember an event.”

When you know this, you know you need to take the opportunity to inspire, motivate and encourage your audience to take action. So what does a good end look like? It needs to be clear, so ask yourself what change you’re trying to achieve or what message you want your presentation to get across. Always try to end with an ask, it will make your presentation much more relevant and engaging.

You now have an ending; the beginning should be easy

The beginning of your presentation is where you have to gain your audience’s attention and really connect with them. What you’re aiming to do is to invoke certain emotions into your audience – curiosity, surprise, fear and so on.

One of the best ways of achieving this is to throw in a relatable story. Don’t be intimidated by this. Think of your story as just being something to emotionally engage your audience. Describe a moment or an event where something tangible happened to you.

Alternatively, try opening with a provocative statement as this can create an instant connection. With an unexpected cue, your audience will start to pay attention because they’ll be intrigued to hear what happens next. Capturing this is key, as the audience will become more receptive and less sceptical about the information about to be delivered. They’ll also be more likely to retain the information you give them.

It’s time to fill in the gap

Once your presentation has a good beginning and clear ending, it’s time to fill in the gaps. You’re going to meet the promises you made in the introduction and flesh out some of those ideas that hooked your audience.

The middle of your presentation might be the bit you write last, but it’s likely to be the longest section. You need to make sure you keep your audience with you on the journey. Ask yourself what your audience needs to know from you. Then take time to make sure you’ve structured the key points carefully. People retain structured information up to 40% more reliably and accurately than information that is presented freeform.

If the start of your presentation is where you engaged people’s hearts, the middle is where you engage their minds. It’s why you shouldn’t shy away from using facts and figures to reinforce your messages.

Facts are an astoundingly effective way of persuading people. Not only do they connect you to the real world (as long as they’re current), you are also teaching your audience something they don’t already know, which they will be thankful for. Just try not to make the mistake so many of us are guilty of – peppering the page with so many facts and stats your audience doesn’t know where to look first. You’ve done the hard work in finding these facts, so bring them to the forefront and make them the hero of each slide.
Remember too that using imagery with facts and figures is extremely effective. A study by David Mink found ideas presented with visuals are 6.5 times more likely to be remembered!

Now it’s your turn

The structure of a presentation is the fundamental building block of an effective presentation. We hope we’ve inspired you to follow our approach when you sit down to write your next presentation.

If you do, let us know how you got on!