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Seven ways to captivate a corporate audience

By Makena Mugane | October 13th 2015

You may find yourself given the opportunity to make a presentation or speak at a forum that could either catapult your career or kill it. Here are seven ways to take advantage of this kind of exposure and maximise your chances of success:

1. Involve your audience: Listeners want to be engaged, not bored. Give them a reason to sit through your presentation. Throw out the old rule of starting with a joke; bad idea if you’re not Chris Rock. Injecting a humorous aside is perfectly acceptable, but throwing out such an aside is a lot different than starting with, “Two guys walk into a bar ...”. Instead, start by asking a question. It brings your listeners into the discussion, and sets an informal, but positive tone. Another technique used by master presenters is to refer to one or two people in the audience by name.

2. Be animated: The best presentations are given by people who are animated in both body language and vocal delivery. Resist the temptation to hide behind a podium or stand still. Walk among your audience as you speak. Stop every once in a while, placing your hand gently on one of your listeners’ shoulders (it might help to know the person the first few times you do this).

3. Deliver the goods: Spend time working on your delivery. Nobody expects you to sound like a television anchor, but it does help to have a pleasant and engaging vocal quality. Vary the tone of your voice, your volume, the speed at which you talk, and learn to pause for impact.

4. Avoid distracting habits: Nothing kills a presentation more quickly than distracting habits. I watched a CEO lose his audience by constantly playing with the change in his pocket for an entire hour. Videotape yourself to take note of your poor habits.

5. Dress the part: Dress like the leader that you are. Wear clothes that are appropriate for your industry culture, but a little nicer than those of your peers in the audience.

6. Keep it fresh: Avoid repeating the same stories time and again. Change it up. Weave current events into your presentations, and modify them to appeal to a particular audience.

7. Rehearse: Rehearsing your presentation will certainly set you apart because few of your competitors do so. Most people glance at their notes or slides a few minutes prior to taking the podium, but great speakers know how they’re going to start and finish; they know when to walk into the audience and when to place their hand on someone’s shoulder. Rehearsing will help you look and sound more polished.

The writer works at Dolphins Training and Consultants.

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