The chances are good that, at some point, you will be required to prepare a presentation on a topic which involves a combination of sophisticated ideas, methods or real-world case studies. After all, no matter what your particular industry may be, transitioning from “competent professional” to “expert” status often involves in-depth mastery of topics which may seem conceptually out of reach for those who are approaching them for the first time. That being said, this level of knowledge and experience is often precisely the reason why experts are called on to present their work to others in conferences and other professional settings.
For the presenter in question, these scenarios can be excellent opportunities for increased exposure and visibility. In order to ensure that the experience is altogether positive, however, it is essential that more complex topics are presented in a streamlined and accessible fashion. After all, if audience members leave a presentation feeling confused or questioning their own interpretation of the content, the presentation has failed to achieve the intended goals! Here are five strategies that top presenters use to transform complex topics into easy-to-understand content for audiences.
Strategy #1: Know Who You Are Speaking To
Word choice, diction and grammar are just as important as content in the world of presentation. Always take the time necessary to properly research the audience you are presenting to, taking note of their average age, experience level, professional credentials and any other factors that may influence how they perceive you.
When presenting complex topics, it is important to remember that audiences may lose their focus or receptivity if they are repelled by how you are speaking to them. Make sure that your professional demeanor closely matches the expectations of your audience. By adapting to the specific traits of those you are presenting to, you are much more likely to be able to effectively communicate with them.
Strategy #2: Transforming The World Of Ideas Into A World Of Actionable Steps
Some of the country’s top presenters have mastered a powerful skill which guarantees increased retention and comprehension amongst their audiences – the ability to draw clear parallels between a purely abstract idea and real world actions. Think of it this way: what better way to reinforce a key concept than providing your audience with a “to-do” list they can use to reap the benefits of that knowledge? If you are attempting, for example, to explain the sophisticated workings of a computer, it’s probably quite unlikely that your audiences will be able to recall all of the information they need to build the computer themselves once they have left your presentation.
That being said, if you offer your audiences a number of easy-to-implement action steps which allow them to build, manipulate or control specific elements of the computer system, this will ensure that they have a secondary form of reinforcement which will significantly improve knowledge retention over time.
Strategy #3: Mastery Of Timing Is Just As Important As Mastery Of Content
In presentations, as in love, “timing is everything”. One of the most valuable traits that top presenters have refined throughout their years of experience is the ability to quickly assess the speed at which they should introduce new concepts and ideas to their audiences. In situations where audiences may be somewhat slower to fully grasp challenging topics, it simply does not make sense to barrel through a complete anthology of information over a short duration. As a general rule, it is better to explain one concept thoroughly than provide incomplete and, ultimately, unusable information on a handful of topics during a presentation.
Strategy #4: Handouts Are a Complement to A Presentation, Not A Replacement
Many presenters make the mistake of thinking that the best way to help audiences understand complex topics is to inundate them with paper handouts. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Every time you hand your audience something to look at, you should fully expect that their attention will, for a short time, be diverted away from you. Don’t allow your audiences to lose track of what you are saying – after all, you alone are the secret to streamlining these complex topics. Make sure that your handouts reference your presentation but do not overshadow it. Audiences should use these handouts as a point of reference and landmark during and after your presentation in order to recall specific details about what exactly you said and how it can further facilitate their own explorations of the concept at a later point.
Strategy #5: Avoiding Open-Ended Q&A Sessions
There’s absolutely nothing wrong about asking an audience if they have any questions. In fact, this is highly encouraged! However, any seasoned presenter will tell you that a vague “Does anyone have any questions?” prompt is likely to yield little audience interaction. Keep your inquiry much more pointed. When you’ve reached an area of your topic which you know to be somewhat complex, stop your discussion and invite questions related specifically to this subject. By focusing inquiries on the individual topic at hand, audiences are both more likely to engage with you as well as reap the benefits of this synergistic exchange.
Hopefully, these ideas will provide you with an excellent foundation on which to further optimize your presentation skills. Stay tuned for our next blog publication in which we will delve deeper into the world of professional presentations!