How to get an Audience's Attention

Andrew E. Schwartz

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A trainer dryly discussing how to motivate people in an organization basically has just another “point-by-point” presentation. But suppose that he mounts the podium and begins to speak. Suddenly, a phone on the lectern rings. He ignores it at first, trying to continue. Finally he gives up, excuses himself and answers it. It is an engineer (off-stage voice) with a series of questions relating to the organization and the lecture topic. Although the presenter protests that this is “highly irregular, ” the offstage voice indicates that the issues are pressing and must be answered on the spot (while visual support flashes on the screen). Humor meaningful to the audience may be injected, such as, “Why aren’t you at the meeting?” The lecture time is up, the presentation time has been used, and the presenter complains he “never got a chance to talk to the audience. ” But the audience members have received the information that the trainer had come to share with them, and in an attention-getting way.

Being a trainer, it is very important to capture the attention of an audience. There are many ways of using an audience’s natural curiosity to do so, ranging from hinting, to a “surprise, ” to out and out staging. Innovation and creativity are the catchwords here. Covered material, a wrapped package even silence or blank space might sometimes be used. Suppose, for example, that a series of slides were flashed on a screen in absolute silence—pictures of several product applications, then some competitive equipment, then a customer, then an engineer at his drawing board. No sound or speech. A desired momentary or prolonged audience response during this part of the presentation might well be something like, “What’s going on here?” “Somebody fouled up. . . forgot the sound. ” Curiosity and attention are aroused. Then the spoken part of the training begins.

On a side note, no presenter should be afraid to be definative, to come right out and let his audience know that “this is the way it is. ” Hedging weakens the whole presentation. From the standpoint of attention, an unequivocal statement can make an audience sit up and take notice. For example, “Ladies and gentlemen, you’ve undoubtedly heard some trainers say that planners and calendars are ineffective tools in time management. This is not true!” If spoken with proper emphasis and self-confidence, the statement implies that the person knows what they are talking about and is not afraid to say so. An audience will notice and respect it—even if they disagree.

Copyright AE Schwartz & Associates All rights reserved. For additional presentation materials and resources: ReadySetPresent and for a Free listing as a Trainer, Consultant, Speaker, Vendor/Organization: TrainingConsortium

CEO, A. E. Schwartz & Associates, Boston, MA. , a comprehensive organization which offers over 40 skills based management training programs. Mr. Schwartz conducts over 150 programs annually for clients in industry, research, technology, government, Fortune 100/500 companies, and nonprofit organizations worldwide. He is often found at conferences as a key note presenter and/or facilitator. His style is fast-paced, participatory, practical, and humorous. He has authored over 65 books and products, and taught/lectured at over a dozen colleges and universities throughout the United States.


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