How to win over your audience

The framework of a business presentation should be built on the three Es:

  • Engage
  • Enlighten
  • Entertain plus a fourth E:
  • Excite


The importance of engagement cannot be overstated. Here are some golden rules to help you start a presentation with power and impact.

● The 7 – 30-second impactful opening.

● The 7-10 minute rule of pressing the attention reset button to re-engage the audience.

● Pattern Interrupts – Doing something different and unexpected.

● Use a prop or other device to reengage.

The Case for Engagement

You know the importance of maintaining eye contact with your audience and how using PowerPoint breaks this connection. It is also true when you are continually reading from your slides or, worse still, reading directly from your notes. This not only breaks the connection between you and your audience, but also sends a message that you don’t know your material or someone else has prepared it for you.

Recently I attended a forum to discuss the effects of the latest political pronouncements on the insurance sector. The company hosting the event is a major player in this area and the speaker representing the company was very knowledgeable and personable.

His talk was divided into two parts. The first was a slide presentation showing the credibility of his organisation in terms of longevity, some facts and figures showing its standing in the sector and its worldwide reach.

The information on the slides was bullet pointed, almost all text, difficult to read, self-congratulatory and, frankly, boring. What was worse, the presenter read the information word-for-word off the screen.

Clearly, he had been told that he had to use these slides and it was obvious that they had been prepared for him, rather than by him.

This compared dramatically to the second half of his presentation which was energetic, engaging, relevant and related to the fears and concerns we all have about political intervention.

The animated way he presented the second element of his talk demonstrated that this subject was both close to his heart. Occasionally he glanced down at his notes, but in the main he kept eye contact with us.

His whole demeanour was completely changed from the opening slide section to the conversational style of the second section. You could see him physically drop his shoulders, exhale and relax into this part of his talk.

After the presentation I congratulated him on the talk, but suggested that the company credibility element of his presentation would have had greater impact if he had told us not what the company does, but had given us specific illustrations of what the company does for its clients.

There are a number of key lessons to be learnt here:

● Know your material – reading off the slides can damage your credibility.

● Make it relevant to the audience – starting with a pitch alienates your audience.

● Tell stories rather than show heavily text-filled slides – tell me what you do for your clients, not just what you do.

● Maintain passion throughout all elements of the presentation.

● Keep eye contact with the audience – don’t read the slides or your notes

● Refer to your notes only to confirm where you are in the presentation.


There are three main reasons why people read a book, listen to a presentation or go to a seminar:

TO GAIN INFORMATION or acquire a nugget of insight that is valuable to them or their organisation. The ability to report back on or teach others in their company about something validates them spending their and their company’s valuable time and money.

TO GAIN CONFIRMATION that what they are doing is right and that they should keep on doing it. There is great comfort knowing that what you believe and do is valid with supporting evidence. It is also provides a benchmark of success and everybody, regardless of their position in a company, seeks positive endorsement for their activities.

F.O.M.O. (Fear Of Missing Out) – This is the greatest driver and motivation for learning something new. The concern that your competitors are doing something that you are not, that they are stealing a march on you in your market place and that you may be losing out to them is a powerful driver.

PAIN is a compelling reason to get people to change, do something differently and think in a different way.


Even in a situation where the topic you are speaking on is weighty, important and, maybe, controversial you still have to entertain.

As before this doesn’t mean you have to sing and dance, tell jokes or juggle in front of your audience. Think what you can do to get your key points across with impact so that people remember them and are motivated to take action.

The 4th E – EXCITE

If you’re not passionate about what you do, how can you make others passionate about it? This may appear obvious, but how many of us have seen presentations where the presenter was not fully engaged with their topic and it came across as lacklustre and unconvincing?

The phrase that comes to mind is “If you are really excited about what you’re saying – tell your face.” In other words let your feelings show, it helps your audience to engage emotionally.

Taken from Stand Up and Sell – Why Work the Room when you can Command It