Strategic Human Capital Insights

3 Presentation Essentials to Help Understand the Audience Perspective


Businesswoman doing conference presentation in meeting roomWhat makes a great presentation great?  Great presentations don’t ‘just happen’.  Yes, there is theory behind the presentation process.  Great presentations are carefully crafted on many levels to make sure the presenter captures and keeps the audience’s attention.  After all, isn’t that why we make presentations in the first place?  There are three critically integrated parts to a great presentation that will make it high impact, memorable and game changing. Before you even begin to create your presentation, you must consider all the underlying components together with your intent for the presentation.  To meet all three requirements, you must absolutely understand how the audience processes the presentation. 

Top 10 Things That Can Go Wrong and Often Do

(To name only a few)

  1. The presenter is monotone
  2. The presenter looks wooden or frozen – there is no positive body language
  3. The presenter looks and sounds nervous
  4. The graphics are too busy or too boring
  5. The graphics don’t match what the person is saying
  6. The graphics are not referred to and the presenter is talking about something else.   
  7. The presenter goes off point – where is this presentation going?
  8. The presenter is reading sentences and paragraphs off the graphic – and the font size is so small the audience can’t follow
  9. The presenter is pacing all around
  10. Two presenters are on stage and talking to each other – not the audience


Three Presentation Essentials

The Power of the Non-Verbal Aspect of the Presentation


  1. Harnessing the Power of Body Energy / Language

The audience sees the presenter and the presenter’s body language and energy.  That’s reality.  Body energy / language is reflected in both your body and your vocals.  As a presenter, you are a sight and sound show. That visual image creates the initial impression of, “do I want to listen to this person and do I believe what the presenter is saying”?

  1. Beware of Message Dissonance

If there is any disconnect between the visual presenter’s body and vocal energy message and the verbal information being delivered, the audience will experience ‘message dissonance’. ‘Message dissonance’ is the confusion experienced between what I see versus what I hear.  This is NOT an image you, as the presenter, ever what to impart. Why?  Because we know that our senses will more often believe what they see before they believe what they hear.  Therefore, you must plan to ensure that both your body and vocal energy and your verbal message are in synch.  This requires careful verbal message preparation and rigorous practice to ensure your physical skills are integrated with and reinforce your verbal message.  When these two messages are out of synch – your presentation is in trouble.   Always consider the power and pull of the non-verbal component of the presentation. 

  1. Manage Your Audience

How do you get and keep the audience’s attention?  Always remember that, during the presentation, the audience is having a sensory experience. It is sensing the following three messages:

Your verbal message – what you are saying

Your physical body and vocal energy message – how are you saying it

Your graphic message – your billboard

All three messages must work together or your presentation message breaks down.  We know that the audience will decide very quickly if your message is one they want to devote their mental energy to, or not.  Today, this is extremely important – especially when the audience has so many other things they can be doing, and numerous devices they can use that won’t let the presenter know that the audience has already checked out.  Haven’t we all shown up for a presentation with a list of things we can do if the presentation is bad? I know I have!

Understanding the basic essentials of presentations is the first step to creating great presentations.  The next three blogs will focus on each topic in more detail. 

In our blog series on presentation skills, we focus on the elements of great presentations and provide a framework to follow that allows you to control your message so it creates the intended impact at the highest possible level.  Just click here to read all of our presentation skills blogs.

Read Presentation Skills Series >>

Topics: Presentation Skils

Posted by Joanne Flynn

Joanne Flynn

In 2014, Joanne Flynn founded Phoenix Strategic Performance, a strategic human capital advisory firm. Prior to this, Joanne was Vice President at Goldman Sachs for 10 years responsible for global learning and development. She then led the consulting practice of Phoenix Group International, a consulting firm specializing in global financial service. Joanne is now taking best practices from the people-intensive financial services industry and adapting those best practices to startup and growth businesses. She is a thought leader in the areas of strategic organizational alignment, organizational agility, human capital gap analysis, leadership challenges for the new workplace and transformation leadership.

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