A Critical Key to Delivering Captivating Presentations

June 19, 2023

Have you ever wondered why some presenters can hold your attention for extended periods of time while others cannot? Captivating speakers unquestionably excel in the basics of great presentation skills – eye contact, voice modulation, and sufficient volume. But there is another factor I find to be absolutely essential to deliver riveting presentations. I like to call it Presentation Density.

Natural physics tells us that density = mass/volume.

Presentation Density follows a similar formulaic structure where Presentation Density = the volume of meaningful content/unit of time.

Presentation Density is easiest to understand by looking at the two extremes.

First, think of a person who has mismanaged their presentation and is grossly running out of time. For the final lap of their presentation, they sprint through their slides. The audience checks out. The audience continues to make eye contact, but only out of grace not interest. Because the Presentation Density is too high (too much content per unit of time), the audience has signed off.

In contrast, consider the opposite. A speaker rambles on incessantly about a point without moving forward. They continue talking, but their (meaningful) content is stuck. Presentation Density is low (too little meaningful content per unit of time), and most of the audience has begun daydreaming, thinking of lunch, or checking their phone or watch for emails

When it comes to giving a captivating and impactful presentation, the basics of engagement are still the basics. They don’t change. And there’s no question that the content has to be intrinsically meaningful or folks won’t be interested in the first place. But an absolutely crucial additional piece in this puzzle is the rate at which we deliver the content.

That raises a question. How do we know what this sweet spot is?

Learning to keep your Presentation Density in the sweet spot is an art that is driven more by subtlety and nuance than arithmetic calculation. One of the best ways to know how you’re doing is to simply read the room. If you imagine the body language of your audience as a thermometer, as soon as you see the temperature dropping, that is a sign you need to adjust.

But we need to view that adjustment in two parts. The first part of the adjustment, which you can do instantly, is to modify your delivery. Perhaps you might increase your volume, become more mobile or animated or increase your voice modulation.

If, after doing that, you find the audience is still not with you, the next thing to adjust is your Presentation Density.

Self and others awareness is key. “I’ve upped my energy and they’re still disengaging. Why?” “Am I rambling? Do I need to quickly cut something out and move the points along more rapidly? Am I moving too fast? Do I need to slow down?” Of course, making those adjustments is impossible if you have every point you wish to make locked in your deck, but that will be a topic for another time.

So when you present, what is your Presentation Density? Does it generally fall in the sweet spot? Do you tend to be too dense? Not dense enough?

What might you do to improve?

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