Good presentation skills: discover how to make it sensory-friendly
What are the qualities of good presentations? Presenting a workshop or at a conference is truly an acquired skill. You can likely remember a lecture you attended a lecture where you struggled to pay attention to. Moreover, has that made you wonder, what makes a presentation bad?
In this blog, you will learn how to give a sensory-friendly presentation. This article is geared towards presenters preparing their slides. Following these effective presentation techniques will help your audience. Also, it will help them pay attention, be engaged, learn from you, and enjoy your presentation.
Make your presentation sensory-friendly by paying attention to your audience’s eight senses. You are probably thinking about what they see, hear, taste, touch, and smell. Nevertheless, there are three more: movement, balance, and interoception. You will learn more about all of the senses below.
What the audience sees.
The more important presentation tip is to include slides. A sensory-friendly presentation has good slides. Always. Even if you are introducing the day’s agenda. Show it on a screen. As an example, telling people where the bathrooms are as part of housekeeping? Then, put a map on the screen too.
We have included three slides as a good presentation example. Slides should include something to read, numbers to review, and a video and/or picture and/or graphic to look at. That is because your audience will have different learning styles. Some people understand by reading words. Moreover, some people understand by looking at a video, picture, or graphic. And finally, some people are digital learners and learn best with numbers or lists.
Other important things to note about what the audience sees on your slides. You do not have to put it all on one slide. You should break it up where possible. We created the fourth slide in contrast with everything on it. Note that even with good slide design; it becomes too busy, cluttered hard to make sense of.
Key points about good presentation skills for visual learners:
- Less is more.
- Simple is better than fancy.
- NEVER write out the whole sentence you will say on the slide. Unless it is a direct quote.
- Show points, bullets, lists with as few words as possible
- Use simple, easy to read fonts like Calibri, Arial or Helvetica
- Keep the same font throughout
- Include lots of white space
- As little as possible on each slide
- Big font size.
- Always sentance case, or upper and lower case. It is easier to read.
- Bold to mark emphasis.
- No underline or italics, harder to read.
- NEVER IN ALL CAPITALS. SEE, IT IS HARDER TO READ AT A GLANCE.
- Use easy to read color combinations
- black on white
- white on black
- black on yellow
Why is this important? Well if you look at our slides you will see that we cited the Vision Council of America. 75 percent of adults need to use some sort of vision correction to see. That means four billion adults wear glasses. So, not only do people have different learning styles, where audience members will want to read, look at, review and watch something to understand and remember what you said. But, most adults need to correct their vision. Furthermore, glasses do not always correct to 20/20. Some adults need to correct for near vision and far vision.
Most importantly, give every advantage to your audience.
What the audience hears.
We first reviewed what the presenter shows to the audience. In the next presentation skills example, we are going to talk about what the audience hears. But we iterate, it is critical to both show and tell together.
Bad presentation example.
I was recently at a full-day conference, held in a school gymnasium. There were over 100 people in the audience. I was an exhibitor, but the exhibits lined the gym. Presenters spoke for 1 hour and 15-minute time slots. One of the afternoon presenters was a respected journalist. He had an amazing story to share. And I am sure he was a compelling storyteller. But I do not know. Because despite my hearing aids turned up to “full”, even though he had a microphone, I could barely hear a word he said. I quietly leaned over at one point to the exhibitor next to me, and she relayed (without hearing aids) that she couldn’t hear anything he said either. We were in a large, high ceilinged gym not designed for presentations. There was an audio system, it was crackling and scratchy. It as not powerful enough for the size of the room. The presenter had no slides. Nothing for visual learners. So even if he was speaking to the audio learners in the room (and there are always many types of learners present), they couldn’t hear him!
Microphone and audio system.
Finally, ensure you have a good quality microphone. Talking to 10 people, okay, maybe you do not need one. On the other hand, talking to a group larger than that? Get a mic.
One in eight people in the United States (13 percent, or 30 million) aged 12 years or older have hearing loss in both ears, based on standard hearing examinations. Many, if not most adults who have hearing loss, do not have hearing aids. And let me tell you from personal experience, as someone who has the best possible hearing aids in the world and only mild to moderate hearing loss, they do not give me a great hearing!
Thinking about asking the room if they can hear you? Most people are shy. Any you saying a few words, “Can everyone hear me alright? It is not long enough for a test.
Get a mic. Make sure it is good quality and use it.
Key points about good presentation skills for audio learners:
- Tell a story
- Better yet, show and tell your story
- Make sure your story is heard: use a good quality microphone.
What the audience tastes.
Yes, you read that right. The importance of presentation skills includes the sense of taste. So, ask the conference organizers to ensure there are water and candy on the tables for the audience. Furthermore, the longer the presentation, workshop or conference, the more this is needed and will be appreciated! Moreover giving people something to drink and a little snack will help them pay attention with a little mouth break!
What the audience feels.
We include the sense of touch in these guidelines for a good presentation. First, we have talked about visual learners and second audio learners. But some learners are tactile. Some people learning by doing, not watching, not listening. But they need to touch and feel something to remember. So, if you have a prop that you can pass around the audience, include it.
Furthermore, and this is critical, always provide your slides so that the conference organizers can print them out for participants. Who wants a printout? It doesn’t have to be everyone. Alternatively, so make it available participants can print them off themselves if they choose. Some people, like to make notes on the presentation. The act of writing, touching a pen or pencil and putting it down on paper, helps them understand and remember. We respect the environment too! On the other hand, if you don’t want to print, have them available in digital format. Tactile learners can have them on-screen and type their notes too!
A great tactile example.
One of the best presentations I’ve attended is where the presenter gave out sheets of paper, divided us into partners of two and had us teach each other how to make a paper airplane. She was presenting on specific skills about teaching and learning. Additionally, the presenter admitted that it was her first time presenting to a crowd of about 150. She was a fantastic presenter. We will all remember her presentation. She told us what she wanted us to do. Then she showed us a video of herself. And finally, we all got something to touch and feel and do.
Key points about tactile learners
- Give out props or samples to touch and feel
- Have an option to print so they can write notes
- At least, give out paper and pencils
- Have an option to type
What the audience smells.
Smell is one of our primal senses. We develop our sense of smell very early on, in utero at about 10 weeks. For instance, ever been to a workshop where there is a bad smell in the room? You can likely think of nothing else! On the other hand, even been to a workshop when lunch is served in the same room? Once it arrives, the audience is captivated! By the smell and not the presenter. Consequently, presenters communicate with conference organizers. Manage smells and scents as part of your effective presentation techniques. Go scent-free.
Get the audience to move
Your audience has a sense of movement. Once again, the longer your presentation, the overall workshop or conference, the more you need to get the audience to move.
Under the senses of touch section above, we shared a presentation tip to allow participants to write or type. Thus presentation notes in print or digital format doubles as allowing them to move.
Give your audience a movement break. You are likely standing and walking during your presentation. Easy for you to keep attention! For example, how many adults are accustomed to sitting (often in uncomfortable chairs) and listening to presentations all day? Presentions for longer than 1-hour? Delight your audience by asking them to stand up ½ way through. Even more so, by asking them to walk around their table back to their seats. Give them this 1-minute break to move and then settle in again and you will captivate them!
Get your audience to use their sense of balance
Accelerate your type of presentation skills even further by getting your audience to use their sense of balance and most importantly move their head. Besides, the longer they sit in one position and keep their head focused on your and a screen, the harder it will for them to attend. Especially if you are presenting for more than one-hour, incorporate a few moves of chair yoga or chair stretches. You can do so at the beginning, the middle or the end of your presentation. We’ve included a reference to some easy to lead and follow chair stretches.
The final sense that you must attend to for your audience is interoception.
This is the most critical aspect of a good presentation and a good presenter. It is likely the first time you are hearing about interoception. Interoception is your eighth sense, an internal body sense, internal organ sense. It tells you if you are hungry or thirsty. Furthermore, it tells you when you need to go to the bathroom. So as a presenter, make sure you, your conference or workshop organizers have nutrition breaks at regular intervals.
We mentioned water on the table and candy above. You can let people know that they need to brown bag it and bring their own food! But allow people to eat and drink. Critically, give them regular bathroom breaks and the time to go too! Sometimes there are line ups. For instance, do you remember trying to pay attention to anything if you have to go to the bathroom? It does not happen.
In summary, here are two checklists with key presentation skill reminders.
- Presenter checklist for the organizers
- Organizer checklist for the presenter
Presenters checklist for organizers
- Is there a large screen easily visible to everyone in the room?
- Is there more than one screen if the room is large?
- Will there be a good quality audio system?
- Is the microphone on a podium or is there a lapel mic?
- Will they make the presentation available in print or digital format IN ADVANCE or at the time of the presentation to the audience?
- What is the agenda or schedule? Are there adequate bio breaks and nutrition breaks?
- Is water available? And possibly candy too on the tables?
- Three key things at the very least: Does the presenter show, tell and get people to move?
Organizer checklist for presenters:
- Slides are a must. No exceptions.
- Easy to read? Direct them to this resource for help.
- Give them feedback, yes do so!
- Let them know they are expected to use a microphone.
- Tell them about the agenda. Ensure they respect the time of their talk.
- Be ready to stop them if they go over. Practice a kind script. Be respectful of your audience and their time and ability to maintain interest.
Ready to learn much more about making your workplace sensory-friendly so you are comfortable and productive? Sign up for our Sensory Friendly Work newsletter.
Christel Seeberger worked as an occupational therapist for more than 25 years helping people with sensory sensitivity who experience sensory overload. Christel has sensory sensitivity herself; she has hearing loss and wears hearing aids. She founded Sensory Friendly Solutions in 2016. Sensory Friendly Solutions brings together people around the world looking for sensory friendly living and businesses and organizations who offer sensory friendly experiences.