Getting the audience excited before your presentation; Issue #185, May 19, 2009

PowerPoint Tip: Getting the audience excited before your presentation

This is the description for the session I will present at the Annual Conference of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) next month in New Orleans: “Too many HR presentations look like the text of a manual was copied onto the slides. How can you create persuasive visuals when you aren’t a graphic designer? This session will show you a five-step process for creating persuasive visual slides that allow you to present in a conversational manner.”

Why do I share it with you? Because it illustrates how we can get the audience excited about our message before our presentation even starts. If you are presenting before colleagues or managers internally, in front of prospects and clients, or at conferences as I do, you want the audience to walk into the room positively anticipating what you will say. You can achieve this with a well-written description of your presentation that is included in a program, agenda or brochure.

I have learned a lot about writing descriptions of my work from the world of direct mail copywriting. These are the people who write the brochures, letters and e-mails that convince people to buy a wide variety of products or services, such as newsletters, health-care products or consumer goods. Here are a couple of tips that I’ve picked up that can help you.

First, you need to get into the mindset of the typical attendee at the presentation. What are the topics of greatest interest to them? What ideas would they be looking to take back and implement in their job or life? Note that this is very different than the typical approach of considering what we, as presenters, want to tell them.

Second, make a specific promise of what an attendee will get from your session if they attend. A common technique is to use a numeric promise, such as five key lessons or six steps in a process. This helps convince people that attending your session will give them a measurable outcome.

Once you have written a great session description, you will find that your presentation is already well planned. This process forces us to narrow down all the ideas we could share and focus on what the audience needs to hear. Now we will deliver a focused message to an audience that is ready to hear it. I’d say that’s a winning formula for any presentation.