Jan 25, 2016

How to overcome the 3 major challenges you face in every presentation?

1. How to get audience to pay attention?


As a leader you surely have the audience hooked on at the start of your presentation, but as the talk progresses, attention has to be earned. There are two ways to get more attention.

First, be brief and tell your audience that you will only be speaking for 5 minutes. When they know it is going to be a short talk, they will put aside everything and listen.

Second, do something unusual. We expect most presentations to start and end a particular way. Why not break the mould with something new? A role play to highlight the problem you wanted to talk about? A short video to set the context before you begin? A co-presenter who dons the role of the audience and shares the stage with you? A little bit of humor to ease the tension or a powerful anecdote to emphasize the seriousness of the situation?

2. How to make them understand?


Leaders are very often guilty of making complex jargon-laden speeches. How will the audience remember and propagate your message if they do not understand it well?

  • Spend time and understand your audience. Who they are and what do they already know about the topic? Will they understand you easily or do you need to hold their hand and go slow? The more you know about them, the easier it gets to make them understand.
  • Lose your jargon and speak so that your mother can understand you. Will she understand increasing shareholder value and integrated sustainable operations as well as you do?
  • What if you had just 2 minutes to convey the idea instead of the usual 30 minutes? This method helps you articulate your main message. Now build the complete presentation around it.
  • Give an example or provide an analogy. Fill your talk with examples and use videos / visuals to explain complex stuff. If you are talking about something new and uncommon, the audience will take time to make sense. Help them with an analogy.


Watch out for the non-verbal cues of your audience to know if they are getting it. A nod here or a person making a note there. Good! A blank stare or people on their mobiles? You were too complex and they lost interest.


3. How to persuade them?


Having earned their attention and made them understand, you now have to cross the final hurdle; persuasion. As a leader you have tremendous authority and your employees and the media will believe what you say. Then what can stop you from persuading the audience?
It is your over-reliance on numbers and logic. Most leaders find comfort in statistics and numbers and fail to make their presentations emotional. Let us recall what Aristotle promulgated. To persuade the audience, we need ethos, pathos and logos.
  • Ethos is about the credibility of the presenter. As a leader, you have this covered.
  • Logos is the use of logic and data. This is the most used and often abused way to persuade people. This is not enough and behavioural psychologists have found that emotions drive behaviour and decision making.
  • Pathos is the appeal to emotions. There are still business people who believe emotion has no place in the boardroom. This needs to change if you want to connect and change your audience.


How does one appeal to emotions? By sharing human stories and talking at a human scale. What is the most recalled memory of the Syrian refugee crisis for you? The fact that millions of people fled the country or the image of a dead boy on the beach?

As humans we can understand and relate to other humans. A million people is not at a human scale but that one child who died is. That’s why it appeals more. That’s what emotions can do for your message.