No matter who's in your audience, or where and when you deliver it, the secret to making a great presentation is capturing your audience's attention and then holding it throughout.
Research shows that if you don't get the audience engaged in your presentation within the first 30 seconds, then chances are you'll lose them.
So, what can you do to grab and hold onto your audience? Here are five proven steps for doing just that.
1. Think up lots of ideas.
Every great presentation begins before you get up in front of your group. Start by thinking up lots of ideas to present, weighing which ones are the best for your particular audience. Consider who will be there, what you want them to learn and understand, and the impact you want to have.
2. Create an outline.
After you've come up with lots of ideas for your presentation, create an outline of perhaps three to five of the main points you want to make. You don't want to overwhelm your audience with too much information. Edit your ideas down to those that are most important and save the others for another time.
3. Make connections and fill in the gaps.
Once you have your outline of main points, build the text that explains each and create pictures, graphs, spreadsheets, samples, or other props to illustrate your points. Remember: A picture really is worth a thousand words -- researchers have found that when information is presented with vivid images, people will remember 95 percent of what they see and hear.
4. Polish, practice--and then practice some more.
There's an old saying that we've all heard at least a million times: Practice makes perfect. If you want to make the best impression possible -- in those most-critical, first 30 seconds -- then be sure to polish and practice your presentation until it flows effortlessly.
5. Crank up your energy.
Just before you begin your presentation, get excited -- really excited. You want your audience to know that you are enthusiastic about your topic, and you want that enthusiasm to rub off on them too. The last 30 seconds of your presentation is almost as important as the first 30, so summarize your points clearly and succinctly, and leave your audience with an inspiring or uplifting message to take with them.