Holding Your Audiences’ Attention in the Age of Technology

According to Pew Research, 95 percent of Americans now own a cell phone with 77 percent of those being smartphones. And users of these devices are more distracted than ever with being able to do so many things via their phones, from responding to emails to engaging on social media and streaming music to checking the weather. A recent study found that the average person touches their phone 2,617 times a day.

As a presenter or a facilitator, technology alone can challenge your ability to captivate your audience, whether you are presenting to a large group at a conference or a smaller, more intimate group in a business meeting. It’s easy for individuals to get distracted in larger groups, but research has found that smartphone users are tempted to check their phones (or watches) even in smaller groups.

We are in an age where there are going to be distractions. Short of not allowing smart devices into your event altogether, there isn’t a ton you can do to eliminate them entirely, but there are things you can do to make your engagement more, well, engaging, and keep your audiences from reaching for their smartphones. Below are some suggestions to get you started:

Do your homework. It is crucial that you know your audience and what they want to gain from your presentation. If you understand their needs and consider different learning styles, they are more likely to pay attention and stay engaged.

Grab your audience’s attention right off the bat by uniquely highlighting the objectives for the presentation. Captivate your audience by telling a story, a joke or sharing an interesting statistic related to your topic.

Use real-life examples whether personal or professional.
Professionals like to hear stories to support the details and facts that you are sharing. For many, those stories validate that what you are saying can translate into real-life situations. These examples can be emotional, humorous or just plain examples, just be sure to use them.

Engage your audience. No one wants to attend a presentation that just uses a PowerPoint deck to communicate your points. And if you’re reading PowerPoint bullets straight from the deck, you are even more likely to lose your audience to their smartphones. The less wording on your presentation the better. Use graphics, images, video and animation to keep your audience’s attention. Also consider, incorporating an expert panel, breakouts/group discussions or guest speakers into your overall presentation.

Keep on topic. Don’t let your audience hijack your presentation. If your material allows, ask for audience feedback and questions, but be sure to keep on topic. When a question arises that will be discussed later, simply mention that you will be discussing that point a little later in the presentation. If the point is not relevant, address the point and bridge back to your topic.

Distractions are inevitable. However, you can minimize them with techniques to hold your audience’s attention.  Chartwell offers a variety of training sessions, including trainings on presentation skills and how to engage your audience. If you are interested in more on this topic, connect with us.