It’s tragic. An otherwise perfect presentation gets sideswiped by an audience distractor. All of the time, energy and effort that went into gathering the audience or getting time on the prospect’s calendar, building the presentation and even actually practicing OUT LOUD, out the window because of a cursed distractor.
What do I mean by an Audience Distractor? Something that takes the audience’s focus away from your presentation. Once you lose an audience’s attention it’s hard to get it back, and if you do, they’ve missed something – and possibly something important – while they were away. Worse still, some distractors take audiences so far away they can’t get back. Don’t want this to happen to you? Make note of these distractors and do not allow them to be a part of your next presentation.
Ums, ahs, you knows, I means, actuallys and likes: These are the most obvious verbal distractors. Fortunately, you must be peppering your sentences pretty heavily with any of these for them to be distracting. In other words, if you say “um” half a dozen times in a 20 minute presentation, no one is going to be distracted by it.
If you are guilty of way overusing one of these verbal distractors (or any others) it’s easy to kick the habit. How? Simply begin paying attention to what is coming out of your mouth; something most of us rarely do. Be aware; when you first start paying attention to what you’re saying you’ll not be able to catch yourself before the distractor escapes your lips. This will be incredibly frustrating. Don’t despair! Stick with it, and in a matter of hours you’ll be able to eliminate the distracting word or non-word from your patter. In the beginning you’ll replace the distractor with a pause – silence that will feel super awkward to you. Breathe through it. Audience’s love silence! It gives them a chance to digest what you’ve just said and prepare themselves for what you’ll say next. A complete gift to them – the antithesis of a distractor.
Jokes: Yeah, I know. All kinds of “experts” recommend that you begin your presentation with something funny. I’m not against funny – we all love to laugh. The problem with humor is that it can easily be poorly received, misunderstood, or (most lethal to the success of your presentation), offensive. Any of these outcomes are distracting. If your joke doesn’t land, and land perfectly, your audience is either disappointed, confused, or downright angry. Not a great way to begin a presentation.
Apologizing: Unless you’ve arrived late, or the temperature control in the room is not working you have NO reason to apologize. If your slides are out of order, out of date (!?!), not animating correctly, etc, do not apologize. Apologizing will only draw attention to something otherwise invisible and will only distract the audience from your message.
Confessing: If you didn’t get any sleep the night before, or you weren’t the intended presenter, or you’re nervous KEEP IT TO YOURSELF. The audience has no need to know these things, and if you tell them these “fun facts” they’ll be thinking, “Wonder what she’d be like if she’d had a good night’s sleep?” or “Wonder who the real presenter was supposed to be?” or “Wonder why she’s nervous?” all things that are (say it with me now) distracting them from hearing your message.
Make a commitment to yourself to avoid these audience distractors, aka presentation-success-killers. You’ll be heard, and be giving presentations that NAIL IT.