Since grade school we’ve all been taught to start any kind of paper or presentation with an introduction of the topic. And that’s absolutely a great place to start. However, it’s HOW you introduce the topic that can either get your listeners’ attention or lose it. First, beginning with, “Hello, I’m here today to talk to you about …” is OK. But unless your topic is unusual, riveting, or shocking, like “… the murder that occurred last week five blocks from here,” you may lose your audience’s attention within seconds.
So how do you get and keep your listeners’ attention? There are several great ways to do so. First let’s look at ways to GET your audience’s attention. Then we’ll look at ways to KEEP it throughout the rest of the presentation. Here are a few tips for getting listener attention right from the start of your presentation:
- In the introduction, use shocking or surprising facts and statistics that lead into your main point(s).
- Begin the speech with a dramatic story, either true or fictional, that illustrates a major point of the presentation.
- Start the speech with humor, a funny quote, or story that is appropriate to the speech and your main points. Remember, humor is not appropriate for all speeches.
- Start your presentation with a slide show, visual piece, or demonstration that may dramatically illustrate the overall theme of your presentation.
- Open by asking a question that may challenge the listeners.
Now here are some ways to KEEP your listeners interested:
- Use slides or other visual aids. Keep them relevant, and make sure everyone can see them.
- Continue to use provocative or dramatic statistics or facts that reinforce your key points.
- Involve the audience by asking questions and incorporating their answers into your presentation.
- Ask your audience for their examples that illustrate your points. Beware though, that someone who takes an opposing position may share his or her story instead. Be prepared for this with counter points or statistics.
- Continue the use of humor, using stories, appropriate jokes, or illustrations.
- Make sure the content is interesting. If you’ve lost interest halfway through writing it, your audience will follow suit when hearing it.
A good rule of thumb is to write a presentation that you would want to hear, and keep your listeners’ needs in mind.