How To Grab And Keep Audience Attention During A Presentation

One of the most important challenges for a presenter is first grabbing and then keeping the attention of an audience. If the presenter is unable to do this, the presentation might not succeed, no matter how valuable the content might be. When a presenter is waiting for his turn and slyly looks over the crowd before having to step in, panic tends to overwhelm. This is a familiar feeling for many.

Audiences might seem intimidating or too chaotic at first but there are ways to grab and keep their attention. We must remember here that grabbing their attention is not enough. We must hold their attention during the entire length of our presentation. Many speakers try to grab attention in numerous ways, e.g. by telling the latest joke or by making a flamboyant entry. This can grab attention but does not establish relevance, so after some time people might wander away or fall off.

This kind of attention grabbing trick, which is not actually relevant to the topic or theme of the presentation, may be effective in grabbing attention for the presenter momentarily, but then people see these as tricks and seldom remember the actual presentation or the message it had for them. Jumping on the table or landing on the stage from a helicopter would definitely catch the audience, but if your presentation is not as flamboyant and gripping the effect wears off quickly.

Here are some of the most commonly used methods for successfully getting and keeping audience attention.

1. Asking a question.

You can ask a rhetorical question or something that involves everyone by getting him or her to think about the topic.

  • How many of you in this room have hated filling up tax returns?
  • How many of you drive a German car?
  • Are our competitors driving us out of the market?

You can wait a short time after the question to get some information about your audience, but don’t wait too long as members of the audience feel stupid if no one knows the answer. Avoid open-ended questions and ask only questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no unless you are confident in skilfully using such questions. If you ask too general questions like “What is the purpose of life?” people might form an impression that your presentation is very general.

2.State an impressive fact.

Begin with a shocking, unusual or impressive fact connected to the theme of your presentation.

  • We are going to be out of business in six months if we allow our competitors to outrun us like this.
  • The demand in the market has doubled in the last three years and our market share has risen by only 1%.

3. Tell a story.

Telling a personal story closely connected to the theme of your presentation is a great way to begin. People usually like to hear personal stories, which are not too long or try to glorify the narrator too much.

Example:

Dear colleagues, before I begin I would like to tell you a short story about how our service got its name. Don’t worry, it’s not too long“.

A Tale from India

Three fish lived in a pond. One was named Plan Ahead, another was Think Fast, and the third was named Wait and See. One day they heard a fisherman say that he was going to cast his net in their pond the next day. Plan Ahead said, “I’m swimming down the river tonight! Think Fast said, “I’m sure I’ll come up with a plan.” Wait and See lazily said, “I just can’t think about it now!” When the fisherman cast his nets, Plan Ahead was long gone. But Think Fast and Wait and See were caught! Think Fast quickly rolled his belly up and pretended to be dead. “Oh, this fish is no good!” said the fisherman, and threw him safely back into the water. But, Wait and See ended up in the fish market. That is why they say, “In times of danger, when the net is cast, plan ahead or plan to think fast!

4. Cite a quotation.

Quotations are much used for presentations and they add a colourful touch to your personal style.

A short saying often contains much wisdom.” Sophocles (496 BC – 406 BC)

No culture can live, if it attempts to be exclusive.”

Mahatma Gandhi

Though they may be impressive, quotations do not have much shock-value and could be forgotten quickly. So they should be augmented by other methods of gaining audience attention. Remember also that use quotations sparingly. If you use too many quotations, people start to think that you have nothing original to say as you’re always borrowing other people’s sayings.

5. Narrate a joke.

Jokes are wonderful for relaxing the audience and setting a cheerful mood. Relaxed audiences tend to be more interactive. This might make the presenters work somewhat easier.

The joke must be appropriate. People have very different senses of humor and you have to be very careful with jokes. What might produce rolls of laughter from one audience might cause stunned silence in another.

Experiment with the joke first with people you know to check how it works and if poor language skills hinder understanding of the joke. It is very embarrassing if you are the only one who gets the joke and no one can laugh for the right reason. Some jokes to avoid are sexual, religious, ethnic and political issues as people are very sensitive in these areas.

One thing to be careful about is the cultural relativity of humor. In many cultures the locals crack jokes about many things and everybody rolls in laughter, but the moment a person from another culture or overseas head office makes the same joke, it can cease to be a joke and become a cultural affront.

6. Go among the audience.

Presenters usually keep to the area in front, near the laptop or the transparency projector. This creates a comfort zone for many people in the audience. Some courageous presenters disturb this comfort zone of the audience by walking closer or going absolutely to one side. Then the primitive instincts of the people in their comfort zone start waking them up. “The presenter is so close and next he’ll even ask me something, so I better be alert“.

Attention-grabbing skills are important for establishing relevance to your audience. Most of the people in the audience are often not mentally present or with you when you begin to speak. Even if they are physically present there and are trying to look interested, in reality, they are in their own worlds. They are thinking about work matters, planning the rest of their day, thinking about a problem of their own or just daydreaming. You have to bring them into your world and get them interested in your subject.

Attention-grabbing skills are your tool for helping the audience tune in to your subject. These skills for grabbing audience attention is not about your ego, you’re just helping them to tune in. When you have something worthwhile saying, and your audience feel that you’re actually guiding them and helping them focus on your topic, they will appreciate this and reward you with eager attention and active participation. Then at the end you will feel elated as they clap to show their appreciation.

The best place to keep a presentation is a prison; they already have a captive audience.

Enjoy your presentations!

Presentations: 14 Ways to Make Them Interesting

 They’ve come to hear you speak. Their time, like yours is precious. There were many other things they could have been doing. Instead, they chose to attend your presentation. In reality, they’ve entrusted you with their time – a precious gift. You therefore owe it to your audience to make it interesting, and to give them the stuff they came to hear.

So how do you grab your audience by the scruff of their necks right from the start and keep them riveted to your message through to the finish? You certainly need to attend to a lot more than just your content. You need to be purposeful in your preparation. By asking yourself these 14 key questions, at preparation stage, you will set yourself up for a presentation that is sure to keep them riveted:

1. Why did they come? They came to receive value specifically related to the topic you were billed to speak or present on. As a result of what you say, the best result for everyone is that something should happen. If nothing happens as a result of your presentation, then why did you bother? Be absolutely clear about your central message.

2. What did they come to hear? Whether it was the talk title, topic or product they came to hear about – that’s what you should give them. Not a whole lot of other stuff. The other stuff we mistake for value add is merely clutter. Go deep into the stuff they came to hear. 85% or more of your content should be only that.

3. How will they remember what I said? If you can link specific concepts or points to real life scenarios or stories, your point is more likely to be memorable. After 24 hours most people will only remember 1 or 2 key points anyway. Link your stories to those key points, and make sure that they remember the important stuff.

4. Is structure important? The structure of your content is more than important – it’s vital! Start by telling them what you’re going to be speaking about – it’s called setting up the topic. That way, they know they’re at the right place! Maintain a thread of logical order throughout your presentation so that it makes sense and is easy to follow. Wrap up neatly at the end. If you’re going to allow a question time, before the wrap up is the time for it. If you have the opportunity to record your rehearsal, play it back to ascertain whether the flow works. If you’re not sure, ask someone else’s opinion.

5. Are last minute changes advisable? Introducing a snippit of current news or up to date information immediately grabs people’s attention and can be a great addition to your presentation. Up to date information can be added a day or 2 before, and a news snippet can be added on the day. But avoid making far reaching changes a few hours before. You may confuse yourself completely!

6. Must I use humour? Light heartedness is preferable to a string of pre-planned jokes which can fall flat if not delivered properly. Humour gets people into a receptive mood and engages them – and spontaneous humour is easily the most effective. It is therefore important to get yourself into a relaxed, up-beat state of mind prior to your presentation.

7. Should I interact with the audience? Audience interaction is on the increase as the Silent and Boomer generations give way to the X & Y generations now taking over the marketplace, social space and audiences. These younger generations now expect interaction. In the future speakers or presenters who fail to interact with their audiences will become largely obsolete and irrelevant. The most common way of interaction is via questions. The presenter can ask the audience questions or invite questions from the audience. Increasingly, presenters will get the audience to interact with props, electronic gadgets and even television screens. If you develop the ability to respond to reactions or chirps from the audience, you will heighten audience interest and engagement. This also indicates that you’re relaxed and enjoying yourself.

8. Do I bang on too much? Waffling on and pontificating about the same thing is the quickest way to shift audience attention to the nearest mobile device within reach. Keep your points crisp, illustrate using stories or examples, then move on. It’s far more powerful to return to a key point to re-emphasize, several times if warranted, rather than going on continuously.

9. What kind of language do I use? In order to reach as many audience members as possible, simple is always the best. Except in rare cases, the vast majority of audience members use a vocabulary of less than 1500 words and simply won’t understand words outside of that range. It follows that too many “big” words will result in you losing that person completely. It’s important to note that the possibility exists that that was the very person you most wanted to influence!

10. What techniques can I use? My friend and fellow author Alan Stevens refers to the “rule of three” which creates a strong impact. For example you may say “regardless of wind, rain or blizzard, we will deliver on time”. In a political context, try this. “They have no clothes, they have no food, nor do they have shelter, but they are our countrymen and it is our duty to help them.” You can always slip one of those in somewhere. Another one is the technique of anaphora, where one repeats a phrase in a speech. Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” is a great example of this.

11. Is tone of voice important? People may be attracted to attend a presentation to learn, but once they’re there, they also like to be entertained and informed. A warm, friendly, conversational tone will keep them engaged far better than preaching. Listen to a recording of your speech to help eliminate voice tone problems such as monotony or speaking too fast.

12. What about the visual aspect? A person can only focus their eyes on one place at a time. Preferably, that should be on you. Slide shows, unless used professionally and sparingly can be distracting and cause confusion. When planning your presentation be absolutely sure where you want the audience to be looking at any given time. Keeping them looking where they should be looking makes the presentation much more interesting for them. If various people are looking at different things at the same time, you have not got their focused attention. Distraction is therefore a major reason for presentation disconnect.

13. If I smile frequently will I be taken seriously? Paradoxically, yes you will! Friendliness makes you appear more charismatic and authentic and ensure that people warm to you. The smile is the big persuasion tool that wins over your audience. Use it lavishly, but at the appropriate times. Your default expression should be one of warmth.

14. Where should I be looking? You should not be looking at slides, the carpet, your shoes or the ceiling. Making eye contact with your audience creates a strong connection and makes your presentation much more engaging – and interesting. For a larger audience, looking at sections of the audience will do the trick.

There’s just one more thing, of course. You need to go through it a few times beforehand. That’s the bit we usually forget. Preparation without rehearsal is like an unserviced vehicle – it just doesn’t go very well. You only need a few failures for your confidence to plummet, so don’t do that to yourself. Make the time to rehearse. That means your other prep should be completed well in advance.

There is nothing like a well planned, riveting presentation to ensure that you get the result you planned.

6 Negotiating Steps Used By Effective Leaders!

In, my, over four decades, of involved, in, nearly, everything related to effectively, leading, from identifying and qualifying, to training, developing and consulting to thousands of actual, and/ or, potential leaders, to serving, personally, as a leader, on several occasions, I realize, how challenging it is, to be a good leader! Unfortunately, far – too – few, organizations, consistently, use, a well – considered, relevant, professionally – designed, leadership training program, and, even – fewer, are sufficiently trained, and prepared, in all the necessities, needed, to be a quality, reliable negotiator! With, that in mind, this article will attempt to, briefly, consider, examine, review, and discuss, 6 essential, negotiating steps, the most effective leaders, must use, effectively!

1. Know what you seek/ want/ need: Whether, it’s negotiating, for events, important contracts, or seeking a meeting – of – the – minds, for the greater good, if you hope to be a leader, you must, begin, knowing and identifying, what you seek, want, and need, and how your organization, might benefit, by keeping these, in – mind! How can anyone, effectively, negotiate, unless/ until, you understand, what is needed, perceived, wanted, and sought, by your group, and its constituents?

2. Consider options and alternatives, with an open – mind: One must realize, effective negotiations, occur, when two parties, decide, it makes sense, for them, to come to some agreements, based on a meeting – of – the – minds, for the greater good! To do so, one must consider, with an open – mind, a variety of potential options and alternatives, which might bring about desired/ desirable results!

3. Know your negotiating adversary’s goals, needs, etc: Before negotiating, it’s important to do your homework, and, better understand, what your adversary, needs, seeks, and wants! How can you find common ground, without doing this?

4. Effectively listen: Although, for most people, their favorite sound, is their own voice, quality leadership, and especially, negotiating, demands, prioritizing, listening, effectively, and discovering/ understanding things, from their perspectives, in order to proceed, consistently, with the ultimate degree of genuine empathy!

5. Common ground/ win – win: Many individuals, falsely, believe, the objective of negotiations is what they believe, is winning, and/ or, defeating, the other party! However, I have learned, and strongly believe, after over four – decades, and about a thousand negotiations, discovering common ground, and creating, circumstances/ results, where both sides, feel satisfied/ content, in a win – win negotiating, approach, is the needed mindset!

6. Meeting of the minds: The ultimate goal of any, quality negotiations, is bringing about, a genuine, meeting – of- the – minds, for the greater good!

If you hope to be a quality leader, learn, and pursue, being a meaningful, effective, professionally – prepared, negotiator! Are you up to these tasks?