The audience has many distractions.
Electronic devices compete with you for the audience’s attention; black berries, laptops, wireless Internet access, tablets, smart phones, Google glass. These distractions may be out of your control unless you deliver a competeing presentation that rivets your audience’s attention on you.
However, there is one audience distraction that is completely in your control – handouts or your presentation. Here is what happens when I get a handout of a presentation before the presentation. I read through the entire presentation before it gets started. During the presentation, I am always tempted to glance at the handout to follow along with the speaker on every slide. If the speaker is not engaging, I look forward through the handout to see how much longer I have to endure this presentation. All of these are distractions, which take the audiences attention away from you – the speaker. I do not hand out my presentation beforehand because I do not want this audience distraction. I want the audience to focus on me throughout my entire presentation, and so should you. I do make my presentation handout available after the presentation. I provide the slides of my presentation and a Word document that is the text of what I say.
Think very carefully about the impact of handing out your presentation beforehand. Does the handout make your presentation better and more effective? Will the handout help the audience remember your key messages? If the answers are no, then tell the audience up front that you are not giving handouts until after your presentation.
For training type presentations, handouts may be required. Audiences for training presentations want to take notes to help them learn and remember the material.
Some audience attendees have told me that they like handouts because the can take notes. Fair enough, but that advantage has to be balanced with the larger disadvantages that takes audience focus away from you, the presenter.
Remove Name Tag
If you are speaking at a conference or if you have been given a security name tag, remove it. The audience knows who you are. Having a name tag around your neck or pinned to you is another audience distraction.