Own Your Audience

Own Your Audience

Do you do presentations? Whether it is to a group of four in a boardroom for a sponsorship pitch, an audience of 2,000 at a conference, or one-on-one with your boss for raise, we all do presentations. One key element to a successful presentation is owning your audience. You need to secure their attention and keep it.

I do 30+ presentations each year to conferences (keynotes and breakouts), boards, clients for training sessions, and city councils. Here are some tips I picked up from several presenters about PowerPoint. They have helped me, so I thought I would share them with you.

  1. We need to get the audience’s attention. You are often competing against many others, but they are things and not people. The box of Tim’s donuts. The dreaded mobile device. The scenery outside. The brochures or information on the tables. And of course, whatever is going on in their minds about personal or work scenarios. You need to overcome all those obstacles from the start and engage people enough that they don’t go for that Boston cream, check a text, or think about what they need to pick up for dinner on the way home!
  1. You cannot really control any of this unless you and your presentation are engaging.
  1. If you are using a PowerPoint (or similar), don’t put up full sentences—just key words or a picture. That should prompt you to talk and them to listen. If you put all the notes on the screen, they don’t need to listen to you.
  1. Never hand out the slides or notes in advance. If people have everything in front of them, they don’t need to listen to you. Feel free to share the deck after the presentation, but never before.
  1. People read faster than we talk. They will read whatever you put up on the screen before you get it out of your mouth! Therefore, make sure you only place key words and pictures there for you to “tell the story” rather than them to read.
  1. Keep the slides simple and succinct—not cluttered or overcrowded.
  1. Make sure the font is readable. There is nothing worse than using a 12-point font which no one in the front row (let alone the back row) can read. At minimum, I use a 24-point font. It should never be smaller than that. Ideally, it should be 32-point. Two things happen—one is that people can read what you want them to read. Second, it ensures you don’t clutter the slides.
  1. Make sure your images (pictures or graphics) are clean, sharp, and unique. Don’t show things that are routine. Stand out and differentiate. But make sure it is not blurry!
  1. Don’t be afraid of blank slides. Sometimes you just want to the attention to be on you the presenter, not the content on the screen. Sometimes, it might just be a rest for the audience members and their eyes! Just don’t use a blank white slide—add color or lines or something—a blank white slide implies something is missing or wrong).
  1. Period.

I hope this helps you make better and more engaging presentations.

© 2020 All rights reserved.


  1. Great tips, Brent.

    You don’t have to put blank slides into a deck though. When presenting in PowerPoint pushing “B” on the keyboard causes the whole screen to go black (press it again to go back to the presentation). I regularly do this when teaching or presenting, in order to get the class or audience focused on me rather than the screen.

    Pressing “W” does the same thing, only the screen goes white (useful if shadow animals are included in the presentation).

    Shaun G. Lynch, CFRE
    Adventum Philanthropic Marketing

    • Shaun,

      Hey terrific info! I was not aware of those applications within PPT. Thanks so much for the post with these hints. And thanks for reading.


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