Start with a bang!
5 tips for grabbing your audience’s attention
by Catherine Welborn
Experts’ opinions vary regarding how much time a speaker has to grab an audience’s attention. Some say 10 seconds; others claim you have up to a couple of minutes. Regardless of the exact length, most people agree that you’ve got a limited time to hook your audience. So start strong and give your audience a reason to pay attention. Follow these tips:
- Arrive early and mingle with audience members before your presentation. Ask the people you meet why they’ve come to hear you speak and what they’re looking for. Listen for relevant and arresting anecdotes. When you go on stage, begin by introducing an audience member and sharing his or her story. Example: “Just a few minutes ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Jane Anderson, your vice president. She shared with me that …” Note: Make sure you have permission to share the person’s story.
- Speak with enthusiasm. What aspect of your topic are you most fired up about? Start with that. If you’re not passionate about your topic, your audience won’t be either. On the other hand, if your excitement is obvious, it will spread to your audience members quickly. Start with a powerful declarative statement, and match it with an equally powerful tone. Example: “I am sick and tired of people insisting that today’s teenagers don’t care about the world.”
- Be specific. Don’t begin with vague generalizations, such as “Diversity in the workplace is an important topic. As people of various races, religions and generations come together at work, we must make inclusion a top priority.” Instead start with “Do you know that in this building, the employees represent 17 nationalities, speak at least nine different languages, and practice 12 different religions? And yet when I went into the cafeteria, I noticed only one table where people of different races were seated together eating lunch.”
- Promise value. Rather than focusing on what you hope to accomplish during your presentation, state the benefits for your listeners. Replace “I’m going to teach you …” with “You will leave this presentation ready to …”
- Encourage audience participation. Involve audience members physically in your presentation and they’ll be more engaged mentally. That can be as simple as asking them to raise their hands in response to polls or quiz questions. If appropriate, use a more elaborate activity, such as leading a group cheer or including audience members in a magic trick.
Last month’s poll results:
Last month we asked “Which of the following speeches or presentations will you give this summer?”
The most popular response was “a meeting presentation,” followed by a tie between “a conference presentation” and “a motivational speech.” One person will be giving a sales pitch, and another will be leading a board of directors’ meeting.
A successful presentation at any of those events has the potential to propel your career ahead. The special report The Executive’s Guide to Successful Presentations will teach you how to deliver strong, effective presentations to any audience.
Paticipate in this month’s poll here.
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Delivered each month, American Speaker Forum offers you public-speaking advice and tips for wowing your audience during your next presentation. This resource also offers you a way to ask for feedback on your next speaking engagement and to share your own experience with your colleagues.