Keep Your Energy Going (And Your Audience Interested)

how to keep audience attention during a presentation

Create Exciting Presentations That Stay Exciting

One of the most challenging things about public speaking is keeping your audience interested. We’ve talked about engaging your audience before, and there are a lot of things you can do to make your presentation fun and enjoyable for the people listening. But how do you make it a fun experience for you, too?

Sometimes you’re faced with the task of presenting material that you (or your listeners) wouldn’t exactly describe as “exciting.” You may have come up with a clever opening to grab your audience’s attention, but that’s the easy part. Where do you go from there? A strong opening can only take you so far. If your presentation starts strong then gradually fizzles out, there’s a very good chance your listeners will stop paying attention long before you make it to the end.

Keeping Your Audience Interested

It doesn’t matter what you’re presentation is about: When people sit down to hear it, they expect to somehow be entertained. No, that doesn’t mean you have to break out in song and dance, but it does mean you need to get in the mindset that you are an entertainer first and a public speaker second.

When you attend a concert or a play, does your mind wander back to other things like that item you forgot to add to your shopping list or the big project coming up at work? Of course not. When you’re being entertained, everything else fades away. Every bit of your attention is invested in what you’re seeing and hearing. When you can do that for your audience—when you see how engaged they are—you’ll find it energizes you to keep going. Just as a performer feeds off of the audience’s energy, you too will find yourself energized by an audience that’s into your presentation.

Add Excitement Every Seven Minutes

It’s kind of an unwritten rule that no matter how great your presentation, you need to inject something exciting or profound every 6 or 7 minutes. By surprising them, you’ll rejuvenate their interest and their energy. There are a lot of really simple ways to do this:

  • show them an image that is in some way profound (a large, funny image on one of your slides will easily do the trick)
  • ask the audience a question or poll them (“How many people here…?”)
  • change position or walk through the audience (who says you have to stand in the same spot the entire time?)
  • dramatically increase or decrease the volume of your voice
  • make a humorous observation or say something funny
  • do a little demonstration (include the audience if you can)

The 6- to 7-minute mark is merely a guideline. You can toss more funny or unexpected slides into your PowerPoint, for example. The point is, you want to strike a good balance between keeping your audience entertained and making your presentation (and your message) memorable.

While we’re at it, let’s talk about the overall length of your presentation. Of course, the nature of your presentation will ultimately dictate how long it will be. When you’re invited to give a keynote address, for instance, you’re expected to speak for a certain length of time. But when you’re called on to give a business presentation, the quality of the presentation outweighs its length. Keep it short, sweet, and to the point whenever you can. Keep your audience entertained, but do it in as few minutes as possible without compromising the message you’re trying to get out there. Your audience will appreciate it and it’s easier to keep your energy going and hold their attention over a shorter span of time.

Public Speaking: Openings & Closings

If you’ve been called on to give a presentation, it’s because someone believe you have something important to say and that you’re qualified to do it. Make sure the audience remembers you by delivering an energetic presentation that they can’t forget.

When it comes to keeping your energy going, what challenges do you face? Tell us about it in the Comments section or find us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ and join the conversation there.

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