Audience-Friendly Presentation Style Habits in Three Easy Steps

You have presentation style habits that automatically appear when you are speaking in public. Where did these habits come from? Most likely you picked them up from watching other people give presentations, or they are carry-overs from your own conversational style. They tend to be so automatic that you aren't really aware of them.

Many presentation habits are not audience-friendly. They prevent you from connecting with the audience; they bore the audience, or they make it hard for the audience to pay attention to you. If the audience feels remote and bored, it calculates a low Return on Investment for attending the presentation and will not follow your call-to-action.

The list below describes the poor habit and the audience-friendly habit you can use instead. These are habits my coaching clients frequently need to replace with better habits.

Poor presentation habits Audience-friendly presentation habits

  • Talking towards screen or slide Talking about media while facing the audience
  • Lack of eye contact with the audience Connecting with individual audience members for 2-3 seconds at a time
  • Reading bullets Explaining the information in your own words
  • Announcing or reading slide titles Opening each topic with an interesting and attention-getting statement
  • Boring transitions between presenters Value-add transitions between presenters that keep the story flowing
  • Audible "next slide, please" Hand gesture or nodding to indicate you're ready for the next slide
  • "Uhs" and "ums" between every thought Silent pauses while you're thinking
  • The best speakers analyze their presentation habits and make a plan to change their poor habits, one by one. How can you do the same?

    Once you know your content fluently you can begin the analysis of your presentation style habits. Have a colleague video tape your presentation. Your helper should record your opening and 5 minutes following it, then about 5 minutes in the middle, and then the last 5 minutes. Short stretches spread out over the whole presentation will give you enough material to work with, but you won't be overwhelmed with trying to analyze the whole thing.

    Use these three techniques to add audience-friendly habits to your presentations:

    1. Look at the video clips. Identify which of these poor habits you have. Be specific. The worst thing you can do to yourself is to make a general evaluation such as "I look terrible."

    2. Create an affirmative plan for change. Select one habit to improve. In order of importance, 1) start with habits that ignore the audience, such as lack of eye contact, and facing the slide/screen as you speak; 2) improve your oral content, so you say things in your own words; 3) work on substituting silent pauses for "uhs" and "ums" and using gestures/nods instead of "next slide, please."

    Your plan to improve eye contact could be to select two different people to look at during your next practice. Exaggerate at first, perhaps by actually counting to 3 or 4 while making eye contact, so you really get a feel for it. Ask your audience if they could tell who you were looking at. Practice again with other people.

    The goal is to look at each individual in a group for 2-3 seconds several times throughout your presentation. When you're speaking to a large group, you will want to make eye contact with a number of different people throughout the room.

    3. Once you have added one audience-friendly habit to your presentation style, move on to another one. Taking your habits one at a time and creating a strategy for change for each one is more effective than trying to change many things at the same time.

    When you Put the Audience first, and focus on how to increase the Return on Investment of every audience member, every time, you will find it easy to replace your poor speaking habits with audience-friendly ones.

    Susan's expertise is coaching speakers from all industries, in all types of companies, and for every reason, so their presentations provide high value to the audience, and the presenter's standing is elevated. Call 703-790-1424 for your coaching appointment today.

    Susan G. Trivers has helped hundreds of people learn great presentation habits, and coached them to use their new habits to replace poor ones. In fact, people she has helped have won over $7 billion worth of new business, giving them an extraordinary return on their invenstment.

    Learn more about Susan's communication consulting and coaching at Sign up for her monthly newsletter, Create Magic in a Minute, download complimentary samples of her ebooks, and log on to Trivers Communications Group's Resources and Tips at

    Copyright©2005 Susan G. Trivers

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