Creating a presentation that is engaging, insightful and beneficial for your audience is a challenging task. However, knowing a few tricks of the trade can help you with your next presentation. Using one or several of the following 6 tips can help you gain the audience's full attention.
1. 30 seconds is all it takes for someone to decide if they’re interested in what you’re saying
Your opener is one of the most important parts of your presentation, if not the most important. First impressions count, and if you are unable to convince the audience that what you have to say is important, then you will have lost them for the rest of the presentation and your well-thought-out speech will fall on deaf ears.
According to boundless.com, to make the most of your introduction and grab the audience’s attention, you need to explain what you’re going to talk about and why it’s important for your audience to know about it. Convince the audience that this information is important to them.
There are so many different techniques that can be used to make a killer opener. However, it is important to choose the one that best suits your topic. Here are 8 presentation openers that you can use for your next presentation, as discussed by Ffion Lindsay.
2. Interesting images are recalled better than plain text
Most people can interpret images more efficiently than ordinary text. This is because our brains are wired for visual input at a biological level. We see our surroundings from when we're born and, once developed, can interpret visual cues quickly.
Reading is a tool that is learnt - it doesn't come naturally to us. We spend years in school learning the alphabet and words, how to structure and understand sentences, and ultimately how to write and understand written text. On the other hand, we look at an image and interpret its contents almost instantly. In fact, interpreting an image happens 60,000 times faster than text.
Our ability to remember information is affected by our speed of recognition and interpretation. Many of us remember what we have done, places we’ve been and people we know because we’ve seen and experienced them. It is unusual for someone to be able to remember what was written down when it is no longer in front of them.
Putting information that you want your audience to know into an image will aid in the recollection process down the track. A relatable image that explains the point as a story or with more context allows the audience to gain a greater understanding of your main takeaway much faster. This will help you communicate with your audience more efficiently.
3. Attention levels decrease over time
When it comes to presentations, it is generally said that adults have an attention span of 20 minutes. This means that the average adult will stay focused for 20 minutes before their mind starts to wander and think about other things.
However, this doesn’t mean that people can’t pay attention for a longer period of time. The increasing length of movies seems to indicate that they can. Attention can be recaptured or a person can decide to concentrate on what they are watching, allowing them to concentrate on something for a longer period of time. For someone to do this they must see value in paying attention, possibly due to an interesting storyline or information relevant to them.
It is also important to understand that the attention level of a person is not steady for the full 20 minutes. One way to look at attention levels is to look at it as a scale, going from no attention to full attention. A person can sit anywhere on this scale, although preferably you want them to pay full attention to your presentation. Generally, as a presentation goes on, the attention level of the audience moves down the scale.
There are many techniques you can use to raise your audience's attention level during your presentation, some of which are discussed in this blog.
4. Facts are 20 times more likely to be remembered if they are part of a story
As discussed earlier, we are more likely to remember things that we have seen or experienced. As well as our visual understanding, it’s the context of what we were doing, why we were doing it and when we were doing it that helps us remember a situation, fact or event. This context can be considered the ‘story’ behind the fact.
This information can be used to your advantage when creating your next presentation and is one of the techniques you can use to increase the attention span of your audience. To get your audience to fully understand and remember your fact or main takeaway, encase it in a story. Communicate your fact within a story the audience can relate to. You could use an analogy, make up a story or even tell the story of how you came to find the fact or point that you are trying to make. Giving your audience context will work wonders.
5. Break up long presentations with videos to grab the audience’s attention again
Another way to overcome the decay in a person’s attention span is by using videos throughout to break up the tone of your presentation. In this case, tone refers to the sound level and natural tone of your voice. Listening to the same voice for an extended period of time can have a negative effect on a person’s attention span. Videos are a good way to create a break in that tone.
This works in a similar way to ad breaks on TV. The advertiser wants to make their ad stand out from all the other ads. They use many techniques, including yelling at the audience, to get their attention. This particular ad technique uses louder sound and a different tone of voice to the TV show you were watching and the other ads shown in that ad break. Using videos as a part of your presentation is another, less confronting, way of doing this.
6. Certain words trigger the audience’s attention
Imagine you’re sitting in a university lecture. You’ve been sitting there for an hour already and you still have an hour to go. You’ve completely lost interest. The next thing you know your lecturer says the words “this will be on the test” and you're suddenly focused and paying attention again.
This happens in all presentations as a result of that pesky attention span we discussed earlier. The lecturer in this situation knows this happens and to overcome it they occasionally throw in the word ‘test’ or ‘assessment’. These words are trigger words in a university student's mind. Hearing these trigger words means that they could be missing vital information that could help them pass the subject. They’re immediately drawn back to the lecturer's presentation.
You can use this to your advantage in your next presentation. Think about your audience and what trigger words could relate to them. Do they have targets that they need to hit? Maybe they’re more interested in increasing revenue. You can use the words 'target' or 'revenue' to grab their attention and regain their focus.
Use these 6 tricks when creating your next presentation and earn the audience's attention.
Want to create eye catching presentations? Read our blog the 5 best presentation software alternatives to PowerPoint.