One of the most important challenges for a presenter is first grabbing and then keeping the attention of an audience. If the presenter is unable to do this, the presentation might not succeed, no matter how valuable the content might be. When a presenter is waiting for his turn and slyly looks over the crowdbefore having to step in, panic tends to overwhelm. This is a familiar feeling for many.
Audiences might seem intimidating or too chaotic at first but there are ways to grab and keep their attention. We must remember here that grabbing their attention is not enough. We must hold their attention during the entire length of our presentation. Many speakers try to grab attention in numerous ways,e.g. by telling the latest joke or by making a flamboyant entry. This can grab attention but does not establish relevance, so after some time people might wander away or fall off.
This kind of attention grabbing trick, which is not actually relevant to the topic or theme of the presentation, may be effective in grabbing attention for the presenter momentarily, but then people see these as tricksand seldom remember the actual presentation or the message it had for them. Jumping on the table or landing on the stage from a helicopter would definitely catch the audience, but if your presentation is not as flamboyant and gripping the effect wears off quickly.
Here are some of the most commonly used methods for successfully getting and keeping audience attention.
1. Asking a question.You can ask a rhetorical question or something that involves everyone by getting him or her to think about the topic.
* How many of you in this room have hated filling up tax returns?
* How many of you drive a German car?
* Are our competitors driving us out of the market?
You can wait a short time after the question to get some information about your audience, but don't wait toolong as members of the audience feel stupid if no one knows the answer. Avoid open-ended questions and ask only questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no unless you are confident in skilfully using such questions. If you ask too general questions like "What is the purpose of life?" people might form an impression that your presentation is very general.
2.State an impressive fact.Begin with a shocking, unusual or impressive fact connected to the theme of your presentation.
* We are going to be out of business in six months if we allow our competitors to outrun us like this.
* The demand in the market has doubled in the last three years and our market share has risen by only 1%.
3. Tell a story.
Telling a personal story closely connected to the theme ofyour presentation is a great way to begin. People usually like to hear personal stories, which are not too long or try to glorify the narrator too much.
"Dear colleagues, before I begin I would like to tell you a short story about how our service got its name. Don't worry, it's not too long".
A Tale from India
Three fish lived in a pond. One wasnamed Plan Ahead, another was Think Fast, and the third was named Wait and See. One day they heard a fisherman say that he was going to cast his net in their pond the next day. Plan Ahead said, "I'm swimming down the river tonight!" Think Fast said, "I'm sure I'll come up with a plan." Wait and See lazily said, "I just can't think about it now!" When the fisherman casthis nets, Plan Ahead was long gone. But Think Fast and Wait and See were caught! Think Fast quickly rolled his belly up and pretended to be dead. "Oh, this fish is no good!" said the fisherman, and threw him safely back into the water. But, Wait and See ended up in the fish market. That is why they say, "In times of danger, when the net is cast, plan ahead or plan to think...