According to a recent study, the average attention span of an adult is 8 seconds. People will listen to you longer, however to get their attention you need to have passion, energy, excitment and be interesting.
In my presentation skills training sessions and coaching we go over a number of ways to keep your audience ( 1 person or 100 ) engaged, excited and interested. Here are 7 key things to keep your audience excited and engaged.
1. Most people speak in monotone – In over 20 years of coaching others on their presentation skills, I have found that over 90% of the people I coach speak in a monotone voice. If you want to get others attention you must you must understand how to use your voice for impact. Change the volume, speed, pitch and punch out words for emphasis. If you contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org I will send you one of the exercises I use with my clients to assist them in putting more energy and pizzazz into their presentations.
2. Keep the rate of your presentation at about 120 words per minute except to emphasize a key point. In fact, the best motivational speakers present at closer to 200 words per minute. The average person’s mind is moving at about 1,200 words per minute. If you talk too slow their mind will wander, they’ll get bored and they won’t pay attention to you.
3. Use body language, gestures and posture to keep interest – To keep interest move around, use gestures to make a point, smile, be open, focus on people with your eyes and avoid distractions such as fidgeting or playing with coins in your pocket.
4. Add stories and anecdotes to your presentations. Use more emotion in your presentations vs. just talking in an intellectual or professorial manner. In fact, my rule of thumb is that every 3 to 5 minutes there should be a story, anecdote, question, exercise, example or humor to keep everyone’s attention.
5. Go early and practice – I always get to my presentations at least 1 to 2 hours in advance. By walking through your presentation you can practice the movement, stories, exercises and examples you will go through. You also will have a chance to meet attendees when they arrive. This will make you feel more comfortable and relaxed. As a result you will start off with greater energy and excitement.
6. Don’t overuse powerpoint. Too many people use powerpoint as a telepromter. They turn off the lights ( puts people asleep) read the slide and never really engage the audience. Remember, it’s about you and your presentation and not your slides.
7. Make sure your presentation is relevant to your audience. When preparing my presentations I always think of two things, “so what” and “how to.” In other words when planning your presentation you should make sure that everything you are saying is relevant to your audience. Adults are thinking, “Why is this important?” or “So What?” If you can not answer this, take that part out of your presentation. Also, are you giving enough “how-to” information.