Gaining Your Audience’s Attention and Keeping It

Posted on July 9, 2012 in Creating Rapport, Public Speaking by Toke Kruse | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , ,

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Death by PowerPoint is a common phenomenon and will always lead to you losing the attention of your audience. So what are good ways for you to keep your presentation from being interrupted by the sounds of people snoring? We have listed 5 ways below which should not only prevent that, but help your audience feel like they are a part of your presentation.

1. Get the engagement ball rolling from the start
The beginning is crucial to the success of the whole presentation. A great way to start the presentation is to get the audience to work together on a task. Get them to work in groups of 2-3 to answer a question and have a small discussion. After several minutes, ask them to present their conclusions, and voilà, you have made the audience not only participate but even feel like they are an integral part of your presentation.

2. Present with your eyes
Our eyes speak our true feelings. Audience members tend to focus on your eyes during your presentation, thus they will be able to judge whether you are passionate and enthusiastic about your subject. Make sure they see the passion in your eyes. Avoid scanning the whole room and focus on making eye contact with an individual instead, keep the focus on them for three to five seconds. It is like holding a one-on-one conversation with them and they will stay with you and participate by hanging onto your words.

3. Ask easy questions
People like to appear smart in front of the others so avoid asking difficult and complicated questions. Give them a chance to shine by giving easy questions instead. Keep in mind that asking questions can backfire at times if none of the audience raise their hands. So direct your questions to specific people if no one volunteers to answer your question.

4. Invite them to the podium
Bringing people to the podium has several advantages. Firstly, it’s a great way to engage your audience and make them feel a part of the presentation. Secondly, it stimulates them to not only listen passively, but to take action by giving their opinion or answering a question. Finally it’s a great way to regain the attention of your audience if you notice them losing focus of what you’re saying or getting distracted. If there is a different speaker, even for just half a minute, you will have everyone’s attention.

5. Engagement slide
Do not talk by yourself for the whole presentation. Using engagement slides is a great way to increase audience involvement, engagement and participation. Put a content header at the top of a slide and ask them to throw their ideas at you. Write each and every one down, and this will instantly make people feel like they are part of your presentation, not just another member of the audience.

It is understandable that some presentations do not permit or even allow the audience to participate. In that case it is even more important for you to connect with them through body language as illustrated in point number two.  However in all other cases, take the opportunity to interact with your audience, it will make a massive difference to the attention which they give to you as a presenter. So when you see the audience are starting to yawn, cross their arms, or open their laptops, try one of the techniques listed above and marvel at the outcome.

Have you used any other techniques to get the attention of your audience? If so please tell us with a comment below!

3 Comments

  1. Thanks, I particularly like the idea of the “engagement slide”. Where do you mean to write down the ideas, though? There’s not an obvious and neat way to add audience input like that to a slide. At first thought, a flipchart seems like a good solution! (Or see the long PPT workaround at http://www.ellenfinkelstein.com/pptblog/add-notes-during-a-presentation/ .)

    For more ideas on focusing people’s attention, also see http://remotepossibilities.wordpress.com/2011/11/16/5-ways-to-be-a-top-presenter/#part1

    Thanks again.

  2. Engagement is the key in the sessions I do with educators. Teachers have sat through so many inservice trainings that are deadly that they are a tough audience. I get them up and moving around the room right away. Love the idea of an engagement slide. I will definitely try that. Here’s my favorite quote about inservices that I often use at the beginning: I hope if I die it is during an inservice because the transition will be so subtle…
    Great post!

  3. Frank Rowley says:

    Thanks for your comment and links. The last time I did a presentation with an engagement slide was at university so there was a blackboard to write people’s ideas on. However once when there was not one I just opened the PowerPoint presentation and added bullet points as people gave their ideas. Admittedly not the tidiest and most professional way of doing it, but at least a very simple way.

    Great post on focusing people’s attention from your blog! We will be sure to read your other blogs and leave comments. Cheers!

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