Effectiveness is defined as the degree to which you are able to reach a desired outcome. When it comes to presentations, we must become masters of effectiveness, because in the words of Eminem “you only get one shot.” As funny as it may sound to say those words out loud, they really do ring true when it comes to presentations.

According to a study completed by Dr. Maureen Murphy at University of North Texas, the ideal length of an effective presentation is just 20 minutes.

Susan Weinschenk, author of 100 Things Every Presenter Needs to Know About People, summarized the findings of the UNT study by saying “Maureen Murphy tested this idea in an experiment. She had adults attending a 60 minute presentation at work, and tested to see the difference in memory and reaction to the same talk given in one 60 minute long presentation, versus a presentation that had 20 minute segments with short breaks in between. What Dr. Murphy found was that the people enjoyed the 20-minute chunked presentations more, learned more information immediately after, and retained more information a month later.”

What that means for presenters is that since you only have 20 minutes to capitalize on your audience, you better make it the most effective 20 minutes you can. If you want to master effectiveness, there are three elements every presentation must contain.

Engaging Opener

According to Princeton psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov, all it takes is a fraction of a second for a person to make a first-impression judgement about a stranger. They also found that longer exposure does not necessarily result in a change of that impression. I know that may be a startling statistic, but it’s important to understand that the first few minutes of your presentation is vital.

A presenter must use their opening minutes to build rapport with the audience, connect with their emotions, and humanize themself. It is also important to remember to smile. If people are making a judgement about you in the first few seconds, you want your body language to communicate warmth, rather than nerves or anxiety. Remember, it takes a lot of work to unravel a bad first impression.

Inspiring Stories

At Ethos3, we talk a lot about the importance of stories. We have shared statistics, like how stories result in a 26% increase in information retention. However, if you want to be effective in your presentations, just telling stories is not enough. Your stories must illustrate your content. It is not enough to have your audience laughing and connecting with you on a human level if you never bring the story back around to the point.

We see this mistake often in inexperienced presenters. They tell a great story by drawing the audience in to the moment, and then they move on to their next point too quickly, leaving the entire room confused as to why they spent the last 5 minutes hearing about the presenter’s grandchild. Don’t make that mistake – always begin crafting your story with the end in mind. That way, you will land the plane and connect the dots for your audience by creating not just inspiring but effective stories.

Clear Call to Action

We have all experienced the pre-lunch presentation. You probably often find yourself in and out of focus and counting down the minutes to lunch as your stomach growls incessantly. As the presentation finishes up, the presenter thanks you for the time and you quickly head to the door. The conversation arises at lunch where everyone begins to talk about the presentation. The continual question throughout the table is What did they want us to do? If you’ve ever found yourself in this conversation, the presentation probably lacked a call to action.

Call to actions are an integral part of every presentation. They are the piece that motivates people to do something about what they have just heard. Whether you are making a sales pitch, teaching a lecture, or motivating a room filled with pre-teens, this principle is the same. If you want your presentations to be effective, you must give your audience a clear call to action. Invite them into a next step. If you neglect this step, the entire presentation will have missed the mark. Don’t chicken out, and don’t shy away. Be confident in the call, and make the ask.

Effectiveness is something the team at Ethos3 always strives for. An effective presentation will help you, your team, and your company succeed. If you are interested in making your presentations more effective, be sure to contact us today to find out how we can help take your presentation to the next level!

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