DEFINING MOMENTS

Fighting for attention: win this battle within the first minutes of your presentation

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That crucial moment is here. You are about to deliver a key presentation for your career. Starting now, time can be either your best friend or your worst enemy. You have just a few seconds to attract your audience. Eight seconds, to be more accurate, if you are dealing with a younger crowd.

 

This was what a research carried out last March by WGSN Mindset found out after studying Generation Z (the demographic cohort that includes individuals born between the late 1990’s and 2010). And, as you can probably imagine, social networks and smartphones carry most of the blame since they divert attention from the speaker. Now more than ever, people, especially youngsters, want to be connected to everything, which kills their focus. If the presenter fails to leverage the first few seconds, he runs the risk of being sidetracked by some WhatsApp discussion regarding the next happy hour.

 

A decision clocked by the second

 

How to win this battle, then? The secret is to give special attention to the first few minutes of your speech and surprise the audience right at the beginning. In what way? By studying your audience, the attendees, prior to the presentation. Find out their interests, what triggers their curiosity and what jokes amuse them.

 

Gathering previous knowledge will set the tone for the next step towards victory: showing promptly what is in it for them. Picture yourself in a meeting where you want to suggest a partnership. You might begin by saying the other company would benefit from the partnership since it would increase their profit in a department it is not doing so well. Additionally, if you are delivering a speech concerning people management, what about sharing a remarkable story most of the audience can relate to before getting into more technical details of that matter?

 

Show them straight away the advantages they might get from your proposal, or even unveil a piece of information that shows your speech is different from anything they have heard so far.

 

Emotion and Focus walk hand in hand

 

As time goes by, you must establish an emotional bond. After getting everyone’s attention with your first information or story, it is time to arouse empathy. Once you set up this connection, your listener will be more willing to concentrate on rational arguments you will present later, such as figures and statistics.

 

Storytelling is a great technique that helps bonding. Organize a narrative for your presentation and make it clear from the start. A story that gives rise to emotions is much more effective than some numbers on a screen.

 

You should also be aware of non-verbal communication. The moment you set foot on stage, smile, make eye contact and stand in neutral positions. Avoid arching your back, starring at the floor or being hard-faced. No one pays attention at someone who seems in distress. The body is loquacious and hence must be your ally.

 

When everybody knows your name

 

When meeting with or presenting for an acquainted audience, it is possible they might have some information regarding your talk. So, try to get to the point. The most technical information can be revealed swiftly. Change the order: offer your conclusion at the beginning of your presentation and, then, proceed with your arguments.

 

Bottom line: make the effort to always have your listener or audience in mind and work on your presentation focusing on their interests rather than only on yours. If you follow these tips, the fight for an audience’s attention will certainly be a less scary one.