Published on [Permalink]
Reading time: 3 minutes
Posted in:

Directing the Audience: The Key Skill Every Presenter Needs

A lot of posts about presentation skills – mine included – are about slides. They are about what your slides should include, what they shouldn’t include, how they are designed, and structuring them into a story. But slides are not presentations. Slides are the supporting media for a presenter. What matters is what the presenter says … and how they say it.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot in recent weeks. It seems to me that the most important thing about a presentation is not the slides, but the presenter being in control of the presentation. What I mean by control is that the presenter directs the attention of the audience in the best way for the audience to receive the presenter’s message.

Whatever the presentation scenario, the presenter is given control of the space (whether a physical space like a meeting room or lecture theatre, or an online space). This is true, even if they aren’t the most senior person in the space. The chair of a meeting yields the floor to the presenter for the duration of their presentation. For those 5 or 10 or 30 minutes it is the presenter who is in charge of the meeting, albeit that the chair of the meeting expects it back after the presentation.

As a presenter, you should grab the opportunity to be in control because that’s how you can be effective at delivering your message to the audience. In your presentation, you can skim skim quickly over some parts and deliberate slowly over others. You choose what to put on the slides (if you use them) so you control what people see whilst you are talking. If you show them an image or a chart that supports what you are saying that’s great. If you show them a wall of text that means they are reading instead of listening to you, then that’s on you, too.

When you think about being a presenter from the perspective of being in control you might decide that you want to do things differently. You might want to build transitions and animations into your slides so that you can focus the attention of the audience on the parts of the slides that you want them to look at, at the time you want them to look.

You control when and if there is any audience participation. You can stop for questions whenever you like. You can also ask the audience question whenever you like. These are devices that not only engage the audience they can reinforce the message or messages you are sharing.

Sometimes you don’t want the audience to look at you and not at any slide. That’s why you should learn about the B and the W keys. These keys toggle the screen between the current slide and a blank screen. If you want a black screen, you use the B key, and for a white screen, it’s the W key. Using this simple device, you can make sure that the audience has their full attention on you, whenever you want that to be the case.

My thesis leads me to this conclusion. Good/great presenters are in control of themselves and their audience, poor presenters are not. Poor presenters begin their presentation in control but they let it slip away. They allow their audience to read slides so that they think they know what the presenter is saying and/or they confuse them with cluttered charts and diagrams and/or they bore them with one-dimensional, monotone delivery.

Next time you give a presentation, I want you to think about it from the perspective of being in control of the audience. Looking at it that way, I think, you will want to change the way you deliver your message, and change the media you need to support you in delivering it.

Gary Bandy Limited is a company registered in Cardiff, number 5660437.

Privacy policy