From Screen To Audience - Proper Slide Delivery
The only way to assure your presentation audience will stay with
you every step of the way is to maintain proper eye contact
throughout your presentation. Proper eye contact involves
delivering your presentation as a series of one-on-one
conversations with each member of the audience, and holding
eye-contact with members through to the end of a thought or
complete sentence. Most presenters hold eye contact with any one
person no more than one second - to effectively bond with your
audience, you need to pump that up to a range more like three to
The image to keep in mind here is that you are never delivering
to a group of individuals, but rather to individuals in a group.
(When people ask me what's the largest number of people I've
ever spoken to, I always answer, "one".)
When presenting a PowerPoint presentation, maintaining proper
eye contact becomes difficult if your slides are structured like
most we see in the corporate world today - with way too much
information than the audience can digest before the speaker
feels compels to start speaking. In order to maintain constant
eye contact with members of the audience, you must restrict the
volume of information that you toss up on the screen at any one
time. Otherwise, you will do what most presenters do, which is
to spend much of the presentation looking at the screen. In
fact, you must restrict each new parcel of information to that
which can be absorbed by both you and the audience in just a few
seconds - ten at the very most.
That will set you up to then smoothly and coherently transfer
the information from the screen to the audience. We call the
procedure for doing this "Absorb, Align, and Address."
When new information appears on the screen, all eyes will follow
it, and at this point it is OK, and desirable, for you, too, to
look to the screen. By doing so, you "give permission" to the
audience to get prepared for what's coming next. That's all the
screen info should include, too: just enough information to set
the stage for what you are going to discuss. At this point,
because you are not looking at any individual in the group, you
must be silent.
Rule Number 9: If your eyes aren't locked, your jaw must be.
When you have absorbed the data bite, you can now think for a
moment on how to phrase what you want to say to start off. This
would not include expounding on the point, but merely filling
out the talking points to make a grammatically correct
Once you and your audience have had the opportunity to take in
this info, you then need to turn your attention away from the
screen, and lock eyes (align) with a member of the audience.
This is the most difficult part, physically, to perform, as the
natural tendency is to begin speaking as soon as you have
formulated your statement.
Locked on, you finally can address your selected member of the
audience with your version of the talking point.
Understand that if what you're addressing is a bullet point,
this address should not be the actual words. You may always say
more than the line on the screen, but never, never any less.
Keep in mind that the group will read everything that's on the
screen, so if you put words up there but don't speak to them,
you are actually insulting your audience: These words aren't
important enough for me to bother with but I wanted to take up
your brain's time and effort just the same.
How many times has this happened to you: You go to a
presentation and see slide after slide with all kinds of
footnotes and small type, or graphs with legends and data to
which the presenter never refers? You're looking at all the
elements on the slide trying to figure out which stuff is most
important, and then the presenter never even mentions half the
stuff you've read. How does that make you feel? For most people,
the first slide that contains more information than the
presenter chooses not to discuss is the point at which they
check out, deciding to figure it all out later from the handout,
which, of course, they trash at the first can they see outside
the presentation room.
Once learned, the Absorb, Align and Address system is a
beautiful thing to behold. Slides designed with this system
never suffer from TMI, and thus never have too much for the
presenter to deal with. Presenter confidence is high, and the
audience feels this big time. The audience is forced to turn
their attention to you, because there's not enough information
to allow them to jump to their own conclusions. By the same
token, you are now able to direct all of your speaking to the
audience and not the screen.
But here's the really fun part: When you follow this simple plan
for both design and delivery, almost anyone can look and sound
like an expert on their subject, regardless of how much prep
time they've put into rehearsing the presentation! We prove this
in our corporate training classes by having participants deliver
other participant's presentations that we have edited and
revised to comply with the "rules" (next chapter). Preferably,
off course, you would have a good background in the subject
matter, so that you can deliver the "meat on the bones" part
effectively. But if you know to what the talking points refer,
and you also know that no more material than you can deliver in
just a few seconds will appear, you can actually give a
presentation for the very first time and sound like you know
what you're talking about!