Your Presentation Mission: Grab Attention, and Keep It!

You’ve got a big presentation coming up. Sure, you’ve got a handle on the content. You possess confidence and skills, too. So now what? Even though your topic is interesting and you feel good about presenting to others, consider a few elements that help you attract and retain your audience’s attention throughout your talk. There are four factors of audience attention – relevant content, novelty, contrast and intensity.

Audiences respond to a personal touch. When you present relevant content, you’re bound to connect personally with listeners. This is perhaps the most important factor of audience attention – sharing current information that directly influences listeners’ needs, goals, and interests. Use personal examples and narrative to connect with people and showcase how your content relates to their own experience.

Audiences like to be involved. We’re attracted by what’s shiny and new, entertaining and engaging. If, as a speaker, you present material offering a fresh, fun twist to a viewpoint, you can attract and retain attention. Couple that with a direct appeal – asking questions (rhetorical or otherwise), encouraging listeners to share information with other participants, or prompting a reflection / writing activity are all simple, fun engagement opportunities in the moment.

Audiences need comparisons. If your topic is totally novel or focused on complex ideas, it’s important to compare and contrast the new concepts with the familiar. Vivid examples and simple analogies allow listeners to latch on to core themes and follow along. For lasting attention, repeat key messages with varied language choices that enhance different or difficult concepts.

Audiences enjoy being challenged. (But not too much!) Offering important, intelligent ideas can certainly make an impact. It’s more than just presenting what’s current and interesting – providing intense, thought-provoking concepts that engage your audience, spark positive reaction, and encourage realistic action can serve as the best attention getter of all. (Caution: if you go too far, you’ll lose people.)

Involve others in your speech. Promote thoughtful consideration of your ideas. And, above all, showcase your own excitement surrounding presentation topics and you’ll be sure to win over your audience every time.


ABOUT Eve Connell

Eve spends most billable hours writing, editing and helping professionals of all stripes with communication skills and leadership development. With degrees in French literature, philosophy, and linguistics, she also enjoys helping businesses and entrepreneurs develop their brands. Fancying herself a successful worm rancher, singer and flower arranger, Eve also lends her talent and expertise to several non-profit arts and educational organizations.