Are You Engaging the Audience?

Audience Attention - KETLER

 To get buy in from the audience,

it is vital that you maintain their attention.

Not only is it important to get them to listen to your entire presentation, but extremely difficult.

A one-way presentation is one of the worst possible ways of transferring information from person to person.


1.   Talk in terms of their interest:

It is so easy to fall into the trap of speaking about a topic that is close to your heart when it is not the passion of the audience. Find out why the audience is at your presentation and what it is they want to get out of it. Speak about things that are of interest to them and what the benefit is to them. Create a powerful presentation and know their need. If you’re speaking at a conference, people come to listen to you because of the synopsis – that’s what they’re interested in. Don’t change it just because it suits you. Don’t subject them to a talk on a subject they are not interested in.

2.   What’s in it for them?

As you begin your presentation, tell them what they can get out of listening to you. Have a one-liner that grabs their attention and leaves them thinking about themselves, for example, “If there were a way that you could stand in front of any audience feeling relaxed and confident with immediate effect, would that be of interest to you?” Make certain that it ties in with your presentation content. You could also open with a story of someone who lost everything or gained everything by adopting the concept of your presentation. If you can’t find a reason why they should listen – don’t give the presentation!

3.   Create the challenge:

The main task of the audience when listening to your presentation is thinking. This needs to be set at the correct level that will challenge them. This will differ for different audiences based on their confidence in the topic and their background knowledge. By speaking through a series of bullet points does not require challenging thinking and becomes very boring. Conversely, if you talk around a complicated flow chart and jump straight into the detail without explaining what it’s about, the thinking task will be too challenging. Be aware of every minute of your presentation if you are competing with their thinking task.  Keep questioning, is it too easy or too hard?

4.   Introduce change:

As humans, we are consciously aware of new changes around us every minute of the day; for example, when a light flickers in the room you immediately become aware of it. Throughout your   presentation, you can create a similar change to get the audience’s attention. To create impact use different visual mediums, PowerPoint, charts, video clips etc. Give the audience opportunities to get into discussion groups, bring in different presenters to do smaller sections of the presentation, let them stand in groups to view exhibits, etc. Keep changing your style of presenting, for example, project your voice at certain places, speak faster or slow down the pace for one sentence. Introduce a new ‘change’ every 8 minutes.

5.   The power of stories:

People enjoy stories as they are better able to relate to them. When you introduce a story, “… this reminds me of a story about …” the audience always seem to perk up and their interest level increases. The story must be relevant to your point and must always illustrate the benefits. If not – leave it out. Don’t tell a story for story sake. Have a few stories evenly spaced throughout the presentation.

6.   Keep the structure interesting:

The structure should guide the audience from a stage of inquisitiveness to a solution that resolves their needs. Taking them through these stages will keep their interest throughout the entire presentation.

7.   Have frequent breaks:

After every hour arrange for a 5 minute break or when you notice their attention level is dropping, allow for a quick leg-stretch. Check other areas that may cause their attention to drop, for example, room temperature too warm, outside noises or distractions, cell phones ringing, etc. You, the presenter, need to take control of any situation.

8.   Keep it short

Never exceed your allotted time. The audience will appreciate the fact if you can get all your content across in a shorter space of time.


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