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The Secret That Will Keep Your Audience Engaged
A television news director once gave me a valuable piece of advice. He said, “Viewers are like cats. You have to dangle something in front of them to keep them focused.” What he meant was, you always need to work to keep your audience’s attention.
Unfortunately you can’t dangle shiny keys in front of clients to get them to focus. Instead, you can do this one crucial trick:
Jolt so they don’t bolt.
That means as attention starts to wane, you “jolt” the audience, in regular intervals, as you speak.
A jolt can mean:
- Telling a story
- Ask a question
- Change the tone of your voice
- Remind the audience why what you’re saying should matter to them
- Switch Speakers
Imagine audience attention is like a balloon you want to keep up in the air. If you leave the balloon alone it will silently fall to the ground. But if you focus on keeping the balloon in the air, as it starts to fall you can bump it back up again.
Don’t wait until you see that your audience has figuratively fallen to the ground before you try to bump them back up. It’s a lot harder to win back attention than it is to keep it in the first place. Instead, regularly and proactively “jolt” your audience to keep them with you so they’re more apt to truly hear your message.
You should be building “jolts” into your outline as you map out what you want to say. Be prepared and make sure you know ahead of time where and when to include a story, or a question for the audience.
Let’s say you’re giving a 20 minute presentation. Plan ahead so every 2-3 minutes you “jolt” your audience. Even if you’re speaking for 5 minutes, don’t assume you’ll have anyone’s full attention for that long. No matter how long you’re talking, plan at least one or two “jolts” so you’re not just talking at someone, but rather forcing them to focus on what you’re saying.
If I’m giving a powerpoint presentation, I make sure to tell a short story or give an analogy every slide. I never go more than 3 slides without showing a video, and I’m constantly asking my audience rhetorical questions like “Have you ever ...” to keep them involved.
You need to be working to keep your audience with you throughout and regularly “dangle” something in front of them to keep them focused. Don’t take attention spans for granted, and make sure to “jolt” your audience so they stay with you as you speak!