Have you ever tried to give an engaging presentation on a boring topic? No, it’s not impossible. In fact, it’s easy to do with a small shift in your perspective. This article will show you how to apply proven techniques to capture and keep the attention of your audience, even if your topic is mundane.
Boring is in the Eye of the Beholder
If you’re an expert in your field, you’re passionate about what you do. Your audience probably doesn’t share your passion or care about what your business does. Talking about what you do from your perspective can quickly put your audience to sleep.
If you want to engage your audience, present your topic from their point of view instead of yours. Giving them a reason to care is an effective way to get your audience to show interest in your topic. When they can see your product or service helping them solve a problem, they’ll no longer be bored. If you explain how you can solve problems for people like them, you’ll capture their attention.
Pick the Target, Find the Trigger, Lose the Bullets
I’ve been giving presentations on technical topics for over 40 years. The biggest mistake I used to make was not understanding who was in my target audience. My early presentations had slides with bullet points listing every feature my product had. My engineering colleagues paid attention, but my non-technical customers were bored to tears. My talks were so dull, I even had one person start snoring in the middle of my presentation!
When I planned my presentations for a non-technical target profile, my talks transformed from boring to engaging. Losing the boring bullets made sure the audience listened attentively to benefits and results instead of dozing off during features and specifications slides.
The right trigger words will help you attract interest in your topic. Let’s say you’re an accountant giving a talk about recent changes in the tax code. If your target audience consists of small business owners in Maine, they’re going to be bored if you focus on the details of the new tax laws. If your trigger phrase is something they care about, you’ll have an excellent chance of grabbing their attention and interest. A trigger like “Three things you can do today to save on your business taxes” will resonate with your audience will keep them intrigued throughout your presentation.
Since we’re talking about targets and triggers, here’s a word of advice about using bullets. DON’T! A barrage of boring bullet points will transform your audience from wakefulness to sleep. People remember stories and forget bullet points. A story about how a local business owner saved money on her taxes is more memorable than slides full of bullet points explaining the tax code.
Understand, Care, and Remember
I help TEDx speakers make their “idea worth spreading” exciting and memorable. Here are three techniques that work for both TEDx talks and business presentations. They’ll help you transform boring into engaging.
- Make sure your content is easy to understand. Distill your content into a “big idea” and “call to action” (CTA). If your information doesn’t support your big idea, leave it out of your presentations. A confused audience will quickly lose interest and become bored.
- Give the audience a reason to care. Show them why they should care about your big idea and let them know what’s in it for them. Stories are more effective than bullet points in getting an audience to care about your big idea.
- Make your CTA easy to remember. What do you want them to do when you’re finished with your presentation? Don’t give them so much information that they can’t remember your CTA.
The Cure for Boring Presentations
Answering the questions on my planning worksheet will help you structure an engaging presentation that will keep audience interested in your topic. The PDF worksheet can be filled out and saved on your computer if you have a current version of the free Adobe Acrobat Reader. You can also print out the worksheet and write in your answers by hand. You can download the planner at no charge at https://presentationmedic.com/worksheets/.
Rick Pollak is president of the Society of Professional Consultants. He’s also the founder of Presentation Medic, a consulting company specializing in curing boring presentations. He coaches speakers for investor pitches, product presentations, and TEDx talks. To learn more about delivering engaging presentations, follow Rick on LinkedIn.