Realizing that an audience has begun to tune you out can be unsettling when making a presentation, but it doesn’t mean that all hope is lost. In fact, realizing that your audience’s attention has waned presents a valuable opportunity to reconnect and ensure that your presentation resonates. Here’s how:
Change the environment
If you’re seated at a table, get up and move about the room. When presenting onstage or at a podium, cover the length of the stage and step into the audience if possible. If using a PowerPoint presentation, flip on the lights at various intervals and draw attention to a handout, white board or different visual tool. Adding fluidity to your presentation can boost the attention of a fading audience.
Get them talking
Don’t speak continuously for more than five minutes. Mental processing is deepened when listeners are asked to repeat information that they have heard and apply it to a personal situation, either internally or verbally. Give audiences an opportunity to speak, chuckle and respond. Take pauses and ask open-ended questions about either a personal experience or the material you’ve covered. The value is less in what you’re asking and more about getting the audience to engage and process what you’ve said.
Replace “I” with “you”
Early in your presentation, tell your audience why and how your presentation affects them, and remind them throughout. For example, replace “I have 10 years of experience managing these programs” with “You’ll learn how to apply this information to get one step closer to the promotion you want, based on my experience.” The same rule applies when teaching with examples. If you use a real-world event as an example of a concept, ask who in your audience remembers it and why. If providing a hypothetical or private business example, address how the audience can apply the information and invite their ideas on similar examples.
Ask outright: “Do we need a break?” and “What questions do you have so far?” Simply acknowledging nonverbal signals tells audience members you respect their time and can break down the “walls” of listener and presenter, leading to a more engaged, less formal interaction.