How to get your audience to put down their BlackBerry & iPhones and listen to you
What do you do when you stand up to begin a presentation or a meeting and everyone pulls out their phones to answer email, send a quick text, check Facebook and—gasp!—play Angry Birds?
The first thing is to take a deep breath and not take it personally. People are busy and, especially if they mistakenly think the speaker won’t notice, they multi-task. It can be disconcerting but, unfortunately, it happens.
The challenge for the presenter is to engage your audience and get them to commit to you. But how?
Create a sense of urgency by negotiating for their time. Try something like this: “I have 20 minutes on the agenda, but I know you’re busy, so if you give me your full attention, I’ll hit the highlights in 10.” Don’t sound angry or annoyed…communicate that you empathize with them and are trying to meet them halfway.
It’s all about creating desire. Create their desire to listen more. To engage and react. To ask questions. Don’t try to educate your audience in a heavy-handed way.
Make eye contact, modulate your voice and use the room. This holds their attention better and makes them realize that you’re watching them as much as they’re watching you.
Give them the top-level version and follow up with the full presentation in an email. Tell them, “Here are the three most important things you need to know about….” Make three main points and expand with no more than two or three details for each. If you’re using PowerPoint, take extra care to make sure your headlines are powerful, clear and concise.
Go into the meeting assuming you’ll be able to deliver your full presentation. But be prepared with a CliffsNotes version just in case. This includes preparing a highlights version of your PowerPoint presentation if you have one.
Be willing to let go. Don’t resist a condensed version of your pitch because your audience needs to hear everything. Don’t let the hours you spent crafting your presentation make you reluctant to pare back. What’s the alternative? What’s the best outcome? Would you rather your audience absorb 90 percent of your shortened presentation or just vaguely hear 10 percent of the whole thing?
When it comes to fighting for the attention of your audience, sometimes less is more.