Presentation Tips That Persuade People to Move
Steve Jobs once said, "People who know what they're talking about don't need PowerPoint." And while we don't have anything against visual aids, his point is clear: If you know your stuff, you know your stuff – you shouldn't have to rely on crutches or props. But as someone who is only just learning the art of persuasive presenting, how can you improve your skills and deliver powerful presentations that move people to action?
4 Tips for More Powerful Presentations
A powerful presentation is merely a presentation that motivates, convicts, or persuades someone to take a specific action, change a point of view, or lend their support to a specific cause that someone else is championing.
In some instances, it doesn't take much to move people to action. (A high school student running for school president on the platform of free ice cream doesn't have to do anything other than repeat the words "free ice cream" several times and people will respond with votes.)
In other situations, you need a bit more persuasiveness. (Like in a scenario where you're trying to convince a committee of tightwads to open up their pocketbooks and fund a new $50,000 initiative for the business.)
Whatever the case may be, there are certain tips and principles you can use to ensure your presentation lands with a little more oomph. Here are a few:
1. Write Like You Talk
We can all tell the difference between someone who reads a speech from a piece of paper and someone who speaks naturally – as if they're conjuring up every single word on the spot. The key to being a good presenter is to prepare ahead of time by writing as much of your speech down, while delivering it in such a way that it sounds natural and off-the-cuff.
This delicate balance is achieved by writing like you talk. The more natural your language and sentence construction, the more believable your words are. Keep sentences short and simple. Avoid awkward sentences that consist of academic writing and technical composition. Start sentences with conjunctions and prepositions if needed. Above all else, make it sound as if you're having a conversation with the audience.
2. Tell Stories
People don't remember technical explanations or academic definitions. They remember stories. If you want people to remember what you say, tie each important idea to a memorable story that engages people on a visceral level.
3. Use Complementary Aids
Did you know that 90 percent of the information transmitted to the human brain is visual? If you want to further support your presentation and maximize its persuasiveness, integrate complementary visual aids that support your big ideas. The key term here is complementary. You're merely improving upon what's already being communicated. These aids are not replacements.
One option is to print out research reports, social proof, and anything that adds credibility to your idea and organize it into a printed handout that can be given to each person in attendance. Not only does this lend additional credence to your presentation, but it's also an impressive touch that makes you come across as organized and prepared.
4. Master Your Body Language
Your words matter, but it's ultimately your body language and stage/screen presence that influence how people feel about the words you deliver. Master your body language and you can move people to action with much greater ease and predictability. For best results, focus on three primary aspects:
- Maintain eye contact. There's tremendous power in the human eye. By making eye contact with individuals in the audience – or at least the illusion of eye contact – you can enhance trust and build faster and longer-lasting rapport.
- Keep an open posture. An open posture paints you as someone who is trustworthy and transparent. Keep your shoulders pinned up and back and look around the room. Invite people in, as opposed to shutting them out.
- Use hand gestures. Research shows that speakers are perceived as more competent and effective when they make regular hand gestures (as opposed to keeping their hands still).
If you can learn how to master eye contact, posture, and gestures, you'll see your results improve rather dramatically. And while you'll still have to come up with the right words, you'll have an advantage that few others enjoy.
Improve Your Presentation Skills
People spend their entire professional lives learning how to become persuasive speakers – so don't feel as if you have to master each of these tips in a matter of days. Instead, pick one or two of them and do your best to master each through practice and repetition. Then once you feel like you have a particular skill down pat, move on to another (and another). That's how you eventually become a world-class speaker who isn't reliant on reading from a canned PowerPoint deck.