Captivate every audience: color-based techniques for engaging presentations

"Hey Alex, could you present this to 700 engineers at the AGM this year?"

The moment you hoped would never arrive has finally caught up with you. You’ve been asked to give a presentation to colleagues from all over the country. Unfortunately, ‘performing’ on request isn’t your strong point, and it’s definitely not your idea of fun. Especially when each audience group has very different needs.

Before your heart sinks, and before pondering how on earth you’ll make your presentation appeal to entirely different teams and departments, let’s revisit some positives:

  • You actually know your subject pretty well… 
  • You know that others will find it useful, possibly essential, to learn more about it
  • You enjoy sharing knowledge that you find interesting - it feeds your sense of purpose
  • You have a timely story to tell, you have facts to back it up and the experience to give it context
  • You’re creating an opportunity to feel inspired and informed by the questions they ask

So where is that pesky sense of imposter syndrome coming from?


Common worries about public speaking

  • They’ll find me less interesting/informed compared to other presentations they’ve seen
  • Other colleagues could do it better/have more authority/are more extroverted and suited to this
  • People will judge every move I make, including how I look and behave
  • I’ll struggle to answer difficult questions and feel humiliated if I seem ignorant about my own topic
  • My professional reputation is at risk. I’m not a natural presenter or the ‘right’ person to do this.

You won’t be the first or last person to torment yourself with these thoughts and assumptions. The key is to focus on the ‘why’ and the ‘what next’ of delivering this talk and to connect with your listeners.

If you reframe the worries list and remind yourself that you have valuable information and/or a story to share, and you’ll share it with enthusiasm in a flexible way that speaks to all types, you’ll be off to a better start.

And guess what? People will be glad they listened if you resonate with their needs.


Start with understanding who’s in the room

Our biggest challenge is how to strike a chord with every kind of listener.

Fact: we have a better chance of connecting with different personality types (and not alienating the audience) if we can adapt our style.

But what do different types of listeners need? How can we know how best to communicate so that everyone stays engaged?

One approach is to appeal to all four color energies in the Insights Discovery methodology.  

Based on Jungian psychology and presented through a simple, four-color model, this system enables individuals to see their unique mix of ‘color energies’: Fiery Red, Cool Blue, Sunshine Yellow and Earth Green.

Everyone has every color energy within them, but we tend to prefer, or are more comfortable with, some over others. Importantly, in the context of presentations, this will influence how we prefer to give and receive information and communicate with others.

Whether your audience consists of salespeople, number-crunchers, marketeers, engineers, lawyers, creative artists or something entirely different, you - and they - will benefit if you apply a canny blend of styles.  



Top tips for presenting by color energy

First, let's consider seven presenting tips that apply to all color energies:

  1. Make it relevant – find out in advance what your audiences knows about the subject/where the gaps are
  2. Connect early and frame your topic: acknowledge their likely starting points  
  3. Outline what you’ll cover: a helicopter overview without too many sub-headings
  4. Share what you hope the outcomes will be and how they’ll be helpful to each team/role
  5. Stay human: share an experience or story that feels relatable – support it with useful facts
  6. Vary your content: be open to videos, data visualizations, graphs and engaging questions  
  7. Tell them there’ll be room for questions/dialogue (and allow enough time for this part)

What each color energy will appreciate about your presentation style

Let’s get back to types of listeners and how to engage them all...

Know that your own dominant style and color energy will influence your delivery. You’ve got your way of doing things, so it might feel uncomfortable to adapt your presentation to suit ‘opposite’ listener preferences;  but if you can, it ups your chance of making a connection and engaging your audience.  

It helps to have a sense of which color energy and which traits you lead with (especially when under pressure), and to actively try to include other color energy traits in your presenting mix.  

The Thinking-led color energies of logical Cool Blue and goal-oriented Fiery Red colleagues requires a different approach to the Feeling-led preferences of those who lead with collaborative Sunshine Yellow and nurturing Earth Green.  

So how can you build rapport, trust and connection with a mix of types and convey a good balance of energies? Ideally, you’ll need to include a balance of the following:


For Cool Blue Rational/why it matters
For Fiery Red Clear thinking/goals
For Sunshine  Yellow Examples/storytelling
For Earth Green Purpose/human impact


Your reason for presenting might be an educational one: sharing a new company development, methodology or concept. Or perhaps you need to actively inspire, motivate and encourage ownership of a new way of doing things or a new idea or approach. Either way, it still pays to include a blend of the four elements.

When we present, we have an opportunity to paint a broader picture, showing positives and possibilities, but also to give a reality check on what our topic involves and what it might require of our audience.

We need to strike a balance of sharing fundamentals, essential details and supporting facts, but not dwelling so long on the finer points that we lose the individuals more concerned with the bigger picture and wider impact.


What does each ‘type’ need from you?

Fiery Red

This listener seeks focus, action plans and within reason, brevity. Give a brief overview, state your goals and the value of this topic to the business. Share your vision. Talk about accountability, KPIs and results. Be clear, concise, confident and allude to how you might save people time.  

Avoid overwhelming with details. If you must get specific, reassure them that it won’t be for long and why certain detail is  essential in this presentation. 

Cool Blue

It’s all about the logic. Why be here? Outline a clear structure, include robust data, stay on-topic and allude to the checklist / fact sheets you’ll be sharing. Include strong evidence. If it all makes good sense, they’ll be on board quicker. They need the ‘why’, the ‘why now’, and the ‘what next’.  

Avoid meandering off on tangents or losing your thread. Pay close attention to multi-layered questions. 

Sunshine Yellow

This listener likes interactivity. They respond well to positivity and if appropriate for the topic, entertainment. Using metaphors and stories works well, as do opportunities for collaboration and involvement. It’s all about the people, ideas and connections that you can bring to their working lives and their circles. 
Avoid text-heavy slides, over-signposting or preaching. They want a conversation!  

Earth Green

Be sure to focus on values, benefits of your topic to relationships, levels of support and getting consensus.  This listener will appreciate the human angle to your subject and respond well to real-life impact stories and case studies of success.  
Avoid endless facts and examples that don’t touch on the human experience, e.g. team dynamics.

An impossible task? Be all things to all people? Not quite...

This is all about leaning into how people need to hear what you have to say. You’re more likely to engage your listeners if can flex your approach, include all four elements and try to meet their listening needs. Not everyone shares your preferred way of communicating, so they’ll warm to you if you present in ways that resonate with their needs. 

And remember, emotions are contagious! Renowned author Daniel Goleman and psychologists (Elaine Hatfield, Bruce Kasanoff) are clear on this. It might not feel easy at first to be an all-rounder presenter brimming with focus, logic, stories AND humanity, but if we deliver with enthusiasm, relatability, strong self-awareness and an appreciation of contrasting preferences, we’re well on the way to being much better communicators…and keeping our audience on-side!