Speaker Tactics That Generate Attention

There is only one thing worse than a rude audience at a corporate meeting; a polite one. They smile, make eye contact, but their attention is elsewhere.

The goal is to create an engaged audience. Here are a few proven tactics that generate audience attention.

I.  Write Your Own Introduction

Your presentation begins with your Introduction, not when you start speaking. Therefore, write your own and have the Moderator deliver it. Here are the hallmarks of a successful introduction:

  • Keep it short. Don’t detail your resume. Focus on relevant experience.
  • Insert a teaser. Feature at least one benefit the audience will derive from your talk.
  • Review pronunciations. Flag tricky words and review with the moderator.
  • Make it appropriate. Who or what’s the focus of your talk? Hint: It’s usually not about you.

II.  Grab-em!

During the first few moments of your talk, audiences decide if you’re worth their attention. You must grab them intellectually and/or emotionally.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Provocative statements. Say something surprising. “By this time next year, 5 of you in this room will be dead.” (beat) “Statistically speaking, that is.“
  • When it comes to meaningful and fun quotations, the Internet is your friend. But be careful.  As Abraham Lincoln said, “The internet is not always a reliable source of facts.”
  • Stories & Anecdotes. Everyone loves a good story. The best ones keep the listener in suspense. Find an appropriate one. “Imagine my panic just three weeks ago, I was awakened at 3:00 a.m. by a phone call … from our biggest client!”
  • Tough questions. Ask a difficult question … then answer it. Conflict/resolution is as old as the hills because it works. “What goes on in the mind of a soldier who returns home–after years living as a POW?”
  • Polls. No matter the format, polls involve everyone, demonstrates that you value the audience’s opinion, and generates meaningful metrics. “Please raise your hand if you’ve needed tech support in the last 12 months.”
  • Props. Oprah Winfrey famously illustrated her dramatic weight loss with a wagon of animal fat equal to her weight loss. This single visual aid told the whole story. Literal, analogous, or direct, well-chosen visuals create a powerful hook for your whole presentation. “You may be wondering why I’m wearing this crash helmet?”
  • Demos. A product or service in action captures attention, proves effectiveness, and directly involve audiences. “Who would like to try it for themselves?”

When you use these types of attention-generating tactics, your presentations will have greater impact, you’ll have more fun, and audiences may begin to look forward to your next presentation.