Steve Jobs Wants YOU to be a Better Presenter—and So Does Your Audience

As a senior business major, a hallmark of the weeks leading up to finals is a plethora of presentations. And you know what? I hate them. 

Not because I personally hate presenting. Oh no. I'd give a keynote address in front of my whole high school class in my skivvies rather than take a two hour test any day of the week. 

No, my problem is when other people present. I am sick of watching their boring presentations. 

PowerPoints, Prezis, pictures, outlines, Smart Art, YouTube Videoswhatever you've got, I don't want to see it unless it's got a little bit of pizzazz.

By being boring during presentations, you are not only wasting your audience's time, but your own time as well. While your audience is zoning out as you're droning on, you are diluting the impact of all the hard work you have put into the presentation. Your research, conclusions, graphics, and results all cease to matter when you present them in a boring way. Excuse me while I scroll through my Newsfeed while your monotone washes over me. 

We live in an age of chronic Attention Deficit Disorder. My boss this summer loved to throw out the little tidbit that "the average attention span has shrunk from 12 seconds in 2000 to eight in 2012" (Shameless Plug: If you want to hear even more about how to grab people's attention, check out his book, Brief. It's a life-changing read, I recommend it to everyone!). Because we all have a touch of ADD, if we're not instantly engaged in what's being said, we quickly divert our attention to the other, multiple outlets availableour smart phones, computers, laptops, and tablets. 

But there is hope. 

Steve Jobs was a dynamic public speaker. His presentations of new Apple products live in infamy, and his speaking skills are studied and taught by speaking coaches the world over. Jobs knew how to work a room and get the people goin' (Check out one of his presentations here.).

Steve Jobs feels pained by your poor presentation.

I understand that not everyone is a phenomenal public speaker.

Speaking from the point of view of a consummate showman, I know that it's easy for me to tell people to be more dynamic and fluid in their public speaking when I myself have ZERO fear of stepping in front of a room where all eyes are on me. However, I truly believe that if you know what you're talking about and have put in the effort to make your presentation, you can fake the 20 minutes of confidence needed to carry out a successful presentation that engages your audience. 

So, If you're looking for some tips as how to NOT put your audience to sleep, I present to you my recommendations for how to be a better presenter:

Be the Warm-Up Act. 

I know that I'm not that funny. But during presentations, I still try to be. Breaking the ice by starting with a smile and maybe tossing out a little joke or pun can go a long way to capturing your audience's attention at the start. It subliminally primes the audience to be more inclined for the presentation to come. And at the very least, it loosens you up as a presenter. 

CHANGE YOUR TONE.

Be like a pubescent boy and CHANGE yOUr TOnEexcept in this case, you'll be in control of your voice. Throughout the presentation, put vocal emphasis on items of importance, and utilize pauses and sentences of different lengths to make your point. Speaking should be natural, and it should feel like you're talking as you would during a conversation. Most conversations are not one voice droning on in a monotone that never ends.  

We like when you move it' move it'.

Your audience will feel physically uncomfortable when you stand in one spot, arms crossed over your chest, rocking back and forth. Body language is an important mechanism for connecting with an audience. Dynamic speakers move their hands and walking around during their presentations. This makes them seem more open and interactive with their audience. Try walking over to the presentation screen and pointing to points you want to emphasize. The movement will inevitably catch your audience's  eye. 

It's okay to kill your baby...No, really.

Many writers use the term "killing your baby" to describe when they have to take out parts of their work that are great, but just don't fit with the work as a whole. For presenting, this means that it's okay to not include every last detail about your work. It's best to just put a few words on a slide and then speak more in depth about the points you want to make. This will force your audience to listen to you instead of reading the material they see on the slide.  

Toss some questions at the audience.

Sure they might not answer, but maybe their heads will pop up if they think someone is talking TO them, not AT them.

Play up the smoke' n' mirrors.

I implore you to give your audience the old razzle dazzle. But make sure it has some substance. Put in pictures, graphics, charts, YouTube videosanything that is self-explanatory and will visually engage the audience. Prezis are a powerful new form of presenting because of their ability to move the audience's eye around the material. 

"Frankly my dear, I don't give a d**n."-Rhett Butler

Being a good presenter is about being considerate of your audience's time and mental faculties. When informing the audience, ask yourself, "Why should they give a d**n about what I'm saying?" By thinking about your audience's point of view, you can help give your presentation relevance in the mind of your audience and understand what drives them to pay attention to the material. 

In the end, it's up to you whether or not to implement these mechanisms into your work. At the end of the day, however, by at least attempting to make the presentation a little more enjoyable for your audience, you are also making it more enjoyable for yourself - you've worked hard, you're ready to share your knowledge, and nothing is more of a confidence kill that a room full of people looking down at their phones and not even listening to you!

 

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