Your audience won’t be paying attention 100% of the time. Some will be more interested, others will be momentarily distracted, or find it completely difficult to pay attention to the topic. Bring audience attention back to you when the time comes to deliver your most important point.
Pay attention to the central message, since this what the audience should remember after listening to your pitch. Use body language, vocal timing, and slide positioning to let the audience know when it’s time to hear the main part of your presentation.
Maximize Audience Attention
Citing Susan Weinschenk’s best-selling book, 100 Things Every Presenter Needs To Know About People, media trainer Brad Phillips estimates a 10-minute cap on people’s attention spans. The brain can only hold attention for about this long before losing focus. Make it a habit to scan the audience for their reactions every 10 minutes or earlier. When the audience starts to look uninterested and listless, establish eye contact with them.
Make sure to look at each and every person in your field of vision while speaking. In a large crowd, scan the first row, the middle, and then the furthest in the back. Doing this shows that you’re paying attention to them, and makes them feel they’re part of the discussion.
This is also a subtle way of getting each person’s attention without making them uncomfortable. The direct and stronger approach would be to point with your finger, but this can be misconstrued as rude and imposing. When you have their attention back, proceed to introduce your main point.
Command with Your Voice
Lowering instead of increasing your voice’s volume invites the audience to listen more closely. This doesn’t mean that you should whisper for your entire presentation. Speak in a hushed tone just before you say something important as if telling them a secret.
Signal the audience that you’re about to deliver a crucial part of your presentation. You can do this with phrases like “what this is all about”, “the main thing to remember”, “this is important,” etc. Then pause every few words, effectively slowing down your speech.
This builds up anticipation and also gives you a chance to take a break. Reveal the information when the audience is already attentive.
The Big Reveal
There should be one slide that encapsulates your entire idea in as few words as possible. A single word filling up the entire slide creates a bigger impact than an entire paragraph. Some remember information better when they see a visual aid, so choose a relevant image with your concept.
Continuously refer back to this slide to repeatedly emphasize your point. But going back to previous slides disrupts the flow of your speech. Instead of going back through slides, repeat the same slide throughout the presentation.
Since repetition helps in memory recall, you can drive your point home using this method.
Know when and how to reel your audience back to you. Start by gauging the attentiveness of your audience through eye contact, then invite them back. Make them feel how important what you’re about to reveal in the next few moments is.
Gently persuade them through carefully timed pauses and vocal tone. Dedicate one slide for your big reveal. This can be a single word, phrase, picture, or any combination of each.Repeat this slide throughout your deck so you don’t have to keep going back. Create the upwards momentum using these methods when emphasizing an important point.
“10 Ways To Emphasise An Important Point During Your Presentation.” Outspoken.co. May 13, 2013. Accessed October 12, 2015. www.outspoken.co/emphasize-an-important-point/
“How Many Minutes Is The Audience’s Attention Span?” Mr. Media Training. August 23, 2012. Accessed October 12, 2015. www.mrmediatraining.com/2012/08/23/how-many-minutes-is-the-audiences-attention-span/
Featured Image: “Canadian Film Centre” by Sarjoun Faou on flickr.com