Making your audience fall asleep? How to be memorable in a presentation

Last year I was invited as a guest speaker to General Assembly to share about my experiences as an engineer and manager, as well as the coaching business I started.

After the program, the talent coordinator told me that I was one of the most memorable speakers they had.

I had students adding me on LinkedIn shortly after, and even an introduction to a husband and wife pair to answer their business management questions.

Don’t waste your time with a presentation that people are going to forget

There’s a common misconception that it’s hard to make a company all-hands or technical presentation more interesting.

I think it’s because we’ve been through so many sleep-inducing presentations that it has become the norm.

I know it’s possible to improve because I’ve helped my clients get those results:

Dress like a peacock

One way to stand out is to be a peacock – up your dress game and come in your best flamboyant costume.

But thankfully, we don’t need to go to that extent. Steve jobs pulled off outstanding unveils of new Apple products by simply wearing black turtleneck, blue jeans and New Balance sneakers.

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Photo taken from magazine.psykhefashion.com/decoded-big5/fashion-psychology/steve-jobs-outfit

It’s not you, it’s them

So what could really help then? The single most important thing to remember is that the presentation is for your audience; not for you.

The thing that makes people doze off is seeing that the presentation has nothing to do with them.

I see this all the time in company quarterly updates and engineering town halls. It’s not that the content has nothing to do with the audience. It’s the delivery that doesn’t make people appreciate its importance.

If you are talking about a new authentication system that you built, how is it going to benefit the other teams? Or your customers?

Going into too much details without context

This is especially so if you are presenting to an audience that isn’t directly involved with the work you are doing.

It’s going to be hard to understand what’s going on if you just dive into explaining code snippets straightaway.

And it’s very easy to get carried away explaining the nitty gritty without sufficient context because you are the one that worked on that project; so without putting yourself in your audience’s shoes, you will just speed off the highway when people are still figuring out how to open your car door.

Always give a high level overview before going into the details. You can’t be memorable if your audience doesn’t even grasp what you are trying to say!

Eyes on audience

When I’m presenting on Zoom, I like to turn on Gallery View to see everyone’s faces.

When I’m in a physical class, I will scan around the class from time to time.

Looking at your audience serves two purposes:

Firstly, it builds an instant connection between you and the other person. You’ve got their attention and you show that you care about how they feel.

Secondly, it gives you feedback.

Have you ever got so engrossed in your phone that you forgot where you are going and bumped into something… or tripped?

That’s what happens if you present without getting feedback from their facial expressions.

Maybe the audience is lost or disengaged. Maybe someone is raising their hand to ask a question.

Knowing where they are at allows you to adjust your pacing, explanation and audience interaction as needed.

Energy level

Last but definitely not least is your ENERGY LEVELS. Talking in a monotonous voice and being un-excited about whatever you are presenting is a surefire way to make people fall asleep.

Whatever energy you have rubs off on the audience.

So open up your voice, speak a little louder and with more enthusiasm!

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