Whenever you have the opportunity to give a presentation, whether you’re at a trade show or corporate event, it’s important to recognize that preparing yourself properly can make the difference between generating dozens of new customers and having everyone who attended your talk feel as if they could have spent that hour in a better way.

So, if you’re given the opportunity to stand in front of an audience, don’t take it lightly. And a little investment in preparation time can go a long way toward helping you give a presentation that not only engages the audience, but also turns listeners into converts.

Enthusiasm Counts

No matter what the ultimate goal of your presentation – to provide information, gain customers, spread an important message, raise brand awareness, or all of those – the truth is that no one is going to be excited about your presentation if you are not excited. Even great content won’t override the negative feeling people have if a talk is delivered by a speaker who is bored with their own topic.

What you really want by the end of the presentation is to be unforgettable, not ordinary. So if you are not overly thrilled with the topic itself, then find something about the situation that you are excited about so you can tap into that for your enthusiasm.

As you are preparing your presentation and working on ways to tap into your own passion for the talk, always keep in mind that this is about the audience and how you can best serve them – it’s not about you.

Make the First Few Minutes Truly Count     

You’ve probably heard it before – first impressions count. When you are a speaker, you are often meeting the people in the audience for the first time. And just as they would judge you on their first impression if they were meeting you in a social situation, they are going to judge you from those first few minutes of your talk. That means you should spend extra time on those few minutes.

Don’t start by rambling on about your personal background information.

Do start with an engaging bit that brings out some sort of emotion in the audience. For instance, stories engage.

Connect to Your Audience with Body Language

Studies indicate that more the most important factor from the audience’s perspective is body language.

Just as a table across the front of a booth acts as an uninviting barrier, so does a podium. So even if speaking terrifies you, don’t start behind the podium and stay there. Remember, the point of your talk is to connect with, and engage, the audience.

  • Make eye contact (though keep in mind the degree to which you do this can be culturally-based). If you have a slide presentation to go with your talk, resist the impulse to stare at the slides yourself. The audience is not there to watch you watch the slides. If you tend to be nervous during talks, which can result in too many nervous gestures, carry some note cards or something similar in your hands.
  • Be conscious of what you are doing with your hands. Too much hand movement can distract your audience, but a certain amount is good for emphasizing points or displaying an emotion.
  • Moving around the stage or front of room is a good way to indicate change of focus and to hold the attention of your audience.

A word of caution: don’t preplan your gestures or they will look forced and unnatural.

Choose the Right Technology

The right technology for your event can really jazz up and support your presentation. Conversely, poorly chosen technology can bring even a good talk down. For example, an audio system or microphone that works poorly or not at all is very distracting, and far worse than just relying on your voice. No matter what type of talk you are giving, you should always think about the right lighting and sound.

To select the proper technologies, know your goals first and keep in mind that with the state of technology today, you can go way beyond a powerpoint presentation on a screen.

Take the time to become familiar with what’s possible and what fits with your budget. Whatever technology you end up selecting to support your goals, also aim to have it:

  • supplement or clarify your presentation
  • create greater engagement with the audience
  • increase presentation impact

Don’t be afraid to use technology in more than straight presentation ways to help entertain your audience. You can use iPads and audience response systems to have them respond to your questions on-the-spot.

Entertain Your Audience

Even if your presentation is loaded with valuable information, you must still be entertaining or you’ll have a hard time keeping the audience focused on you. No, you don’t have to be a stand-up comedian (though well-placed humor is good), but you have to let that enthusiasm shine through, and you absolutely must find ways to appeal to one or more of your audiences’ emotions.

Most of us are not natural entertainers when we find ourselves up on stage. Here are a few idea and tips that can help you entertain your audience during your presentation:

  • Don’t talk too fast. Many inexperienced speakers talk way too fast.
  • Draw people into a story. The goal is to use stories to create that emotional connection between the different ideas of your presentation.
  • Have fun. If you are having fun, your audience is much more likely to also have fun which is, of course, entertaining.
  • Talk to your audience as if they were your friends.
  • Insert some personal touches. What makes you different from the speaker next door? Make sure your audience knows that by the end of your presentation.
  • You can also boost the entertainment level of your talk by using social media for visual support via images and pictures and have your audience posting and tweeting live as you talk. This takes the audience out of being passive listeners and into the land of the actively engaged. We are all more entertained when we are personally engaged.

A powerful presentation is the perfect venue to elevate your brand and draw in new customers while at the same time providing them with insanely useful information. And that’s when we all win.