After Hours

10+ presentation tips to keep your audience from dozing off

All presenters want an engaged, interested, fully attentive audience. For your message to be most effectively received, the audience must hear it. While there are many ways to gain and maintain your audience's attention during a presentation, getting them actively involved in the message is the best place to start. Here are 12 tactics to get your audiences more involved in your presentation and your message.

All presenters want an engaged, interested, fully attentive audience. For your message to be most effectively received, the audience must hear it. While there are many ways to gain and maintain your audience's attention during a presentation, getting them actively involved in the message is the best place to start. Here are 12 tactics to get your audiences more involved in your presentation and your message.

This information is based on the article "Twelve ways to engage your learning audience," by Kevin Eikenberry. It's also available as a PDF download.

#1: Ask questions designed to get a verbal response

Pick questions you know students can answer or have an opinion about. Getting the audience to respond verbally gets and keeps their attention focused on your message.

#2: Ask for a show of hands in response to your questions

Ask a polling question about their opinions, experiences, or needs. Getting the audience to respond physically gets them moving and mentally involved as well.

#3: Give them a mental picture

Use a verbal description to create an image of your situation or solution. Using the listeners' minds in this way builds attention and helps your message remain in their minds.

#4: Ask them to create a mental picture

Activate their minds by getting them to think of a time, event, or example in their own life using the subject at hand. This makes your message tangible.

#5: Give them time to talk to each other

Give them a minute to discuss a key point with a partner or to generate questions or concerns. Working with others, especially when they might not expect it, will refocus their attention and raise the understanding of your presentation points.

#6: Give them a game or exercise

Pick something relevant and fun. Having fun helps people learn and understand.

#7: Repeat a word or phrase

Every time you say a certain word or phrase, have your audience say or do something in response. This repetition combined with their involvement drives home key points effectively.

#8: Have them talk back to you

If your key points are short and succinct (and they should always be), ask your audience to repeat those key points back to you.

#9: Give them a "quiz"

Hesitate before key words in your sentences and encourage the group to fill in the missing word or phrase. This keeps them on their toes and helps them see how much they may already know about your topic.

#10: Encourage their questions

Tell people up front that their questions are welcome any time during your presentation. And when they ask, be sure to answer. This helps them know that you are interested in them and their problems, not just in completing your presentation.

#11: Let them select the order of the presentation

List topics you plan to present on a flip chart and have audience members vote on which one to cover next. Giving people some control over the presentation builds their support for and interest in the topics.

#12: Give them a task

Start the presentation by giving people something to do during or at the conclusion of the presentation. By giving people a task -- something to listen for or a challenge to think about -- you increase their interest and lengthen their attention span.

15 comments
SlahtMonkey
SlahtMonkey

Simple, and very effective guidelines (thanks to Guy Kawasaki for this): 10 - the number of slides in your presentation 20 - the number of minutes of your presentation 30 - the font size! In essence, keep things short and sweet, yet powerful. If you try to stick to this you will get rid of a lot of noise and end up with a very effective message!

rosnah
rosnah

If I may add more: Vary your intonation. Monotone speakers sounds like a lullaby (sp?) Pause purposefully. That'll bring the daydreamers back to the presentation coz they'll be wondering what's going on...

b4real
b4real

One that I do is to walk through the audience if possible, that seems to move their focal points.

statickery560
statickery560

Thanks a lot!. I'll do and try it myself i think it's effective!

ssharkins
ssharkins

It's a good list and I think, even good for the business audience, depending on the presentation. I'd like to add one point -- I recently sat in on a presentation that was made to just a few people. When the presenter realized that we already knew a great deal of what we were seeing, he sped things up and I could tell, totally rethought his strategy, on his feet. The potential existed for this guy to fall on his face. Instead, he quickly let go of his original planned presentation and let us pick and choose discussion points, as we needed. It was great and the presentation was a great success. Of course, I don't think this would work with a large audience, but not all audiences are big!

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/10things/?p=308 Having once taught presentation skills, I understand the concept of keeping the audience involved, however most of these ideas work great on paper but have little effect in todays world. I find that people see so many presentations that they need facts and information pumped into them, rather than wanting to participate, beyond simple Q&A. While some of the techniques are good for a training semiar or classroom, when it comes to business presentations or product presentations, the feedback/audience participation thing is usually frowned upon. The biggest mistake i have seen and still see over and over again each week, id pathetic presentation skills, no matter how involved you get your audience (or try to get them)the speaker's ability and credibility is usually miserable. Why would an audience "Doze off" if the presentation is properly 'peesented'? 1) Credibility: KNOW what yuo are presenting and be well versedon the subject, begin by qualifying your knowledge and thus gaining credibilty which in turn creates interest. Everyone wants to learn something, if they feel it is worth listening to. 2) Presentation skills, in the popular world of Power Point, I see some of the worst presentations offered by some of the most important players. If yuo are going to add graphics etc. make sure they are properly resized, nto edgy or blurred, make sure the 'white boxy' backgrounds are removed to have logos and images blend in seamlessly with backgrounds and don't overdo the animations. 3) Animations: Keep them similar and simple, fade through black is neat, but not diamond wipes etc with those cheesy, canned Power Point sounds. 4) [b]Speak up, announciate[/b] and take an interest in what you are talking about. A monotone speaker will lose his own audioence in a heartbeat. A speaker that doen't seem interested in what is being presented is not going to get anyone else's interest either. 5)REHEARSE THE PRESENTATION: there's nothing worse than someone staring at a projection screen trying to read verbatim what is printed on it. KNOW the presentation, use the bullets points on the screen to recap what you are saying, don't use them as a way of getting your point across. Turn your verbal presentation into something that is hilighted by the video screen instead; otherwise you may as well just send out the [presentation for everyone to read through in their own time. If it is a power point show, rehearse the timing, know what is on the slides. I see so may people who stop speaking, try to move to the next slide and another biullet is added to the existing page instead. Proving the speaker had forgotten a key point. 6) Energy, if you are bored or sound like its the 100th presentation you've done that week, your audience will quickly bore too. Presentingt is sales, you are sellign a concept, idea, report etc. You are trying to convince someone of yoru product or explain to them what your studies have shown. That's not boring! 7) KEEP YOUR SLIDES THE SAME!!!! Don't use a different colour scheme, crappy looking clip art from Office etc. Take time to design a simple yet stylish background, use the same size fonts for all body copy, headers etc. If you find copy is too big for one page, resize all the others to match it. THESE things do get noticed, generally by the most important viewers. There are thousands of people out there that feel they are marketing savvy because they were given the job after making out a company newsletter. Don't look like them too, be stylish, be simple and clean and most of all PRESENT YOURSELF as well as the slide show, video presentation. You should be able to do the same presentation, with no props, slides or audience gimmicks by simply speaking well. The rest is simply support for your speech. While I don't think audience participation is a KEY anymore, since grade school anyway, there are many other ways the presentation is lost due to a pathetic speaker, unrehearsed show, or poorly constructed presentation.

d.j.elliott
d.j.elliott

After way too many presentations where I have had to partner with the person next to me or work in a small group, I hate that technique. It is a tactic used by the presenter to waste time. Just my opinion...

markmascola
markmascola

When presenting something that is a "how-to" in which you criticize other people's work, it is best to actually read through your material and possibly edit it. I counted 11 spelling errors and numerous grammar errors on this document.

Alces
Alces

I think you bring it back to the roots of presentation skills. I agree with all of you points, and at the same time, I think at least half of the items in the original article are really more for schools than business. Almost weekly I have to listen to something (not a formal presentation, but it falls in the same category) where I feel like a school boy: Silly questions that the audience has to answer, with some so general that any somewhat educated person cannot think in such a dumb way to answer it correctly (because you won't be done until the exact answer is coming up, which is mostly way below your level of thinking.. grrrrr). Sitting through yet another business presentation, even if it is really interesting and, for example, follows Oz's points: I do not want to play games at the end or waste any precious time with quizzes and selecting the order of presentation. The presenter should select the order. And wasting five minutes in a presentation with silly stuff and 12 people just cost the company a full work hour.

RknRlKid
RknRlKid

I put in a lot of time "correcting" the PowerPoint slides and shows of my superiors. Educators seem to be the worst, because they like novelty. There are always those stock clipart pictures, transitions, and sound effects because they are "cute." But a professional presentation is never supposed to be cute unless you work for Hello Kitty! Little details go so far to having a presentation look professional, or to having it looking cheesy. Background and format is important. Especially important is NEVER USE THE COMIC SAN MS FONT! (That should be the rule for any application, unless you are making comic strips! I've seen lawyers use this font. Big no-no.) At a minimum, people really need to learn to use the Office Online web site, to get better and more appropriate clip art and designs. Its easy to make a good presentation with a minor amount of effort. Of course, if you don't know what you are talking about, or don't know how to make a presentation in the first place, all that is moot!

The Listed 'G MAN'
The Listed 'G MAN'

make sure that your presentation slides and any handouts are correctly spell checked! Nothing puts an audience off your message like a bunch off typo's and errors. Now - what were we talking about here?

w2ktechman
w2ktechman

of being in a meeting for a new product being rolled out throughout the company the following week. In this 3 hour meeting, I think every one of your points was broken... LOL I remember leaving the meeting thinking WTF were we in there for? Some highlights, we were being 'trained' to support this new application. But, we were only being given user-knowledge and nothing more. Everytime any of us asked a question, the answer was "I dont know, but I will get back to you". Funny, he had been doing these training sessions for about 3 days already. At the end he quantified his position by stating that he did not know the product, as they had hired him a week ago, and he hadnt received any training beyond what he gave to us. He also stated that when he sends questions in, nobody has responded yet. This made us all feel warm and fuzzy, that it was a major application being deployed the following week, and we could not get answers to questions. Come to think of it, the program was scrubbed about a year later because we moved to a different app for that usage... gee, wonder why? but yup, after about 15 min we were all checking our emails, rotating trips to the restroom (or smoke breaks), staring at the walls, etc.

b4real
b4real

Yes, no place for PowerPoint is that! Also too much text on a slide is crowd losing.

jruby
jruby

At the beginning, tell the audience there are three spelling errors in the slides somewhere, and the first person who identifies all three will get a prize. . . . . . Then make darn sure there are only two spelling errors in the presentation! :-> Jim