7 Surefire Strategies to Capture and Hold Your Audience’s Attention

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by Sarah Warlick, content director

Pay attentionAs anyone who’s done any public speaking roles knows, it’s critical to gain the attention of your listeners in the initial few moments of your presentation. According to Darlene Price, author of Well Said! Presentations and Conversations That Get Results and president of Well Said, Inc., you have 60 seconds in which to accomplish this.

If a minute has passed and they aren’t riveted by what you’ve shared up to that point, chances are good that they won’t be really tuning in for the rest of your presentation. That means you should never waste those precious opening seconds in anything but a powerful invitation to connect with your topic. What’s the best way to do that? Try these seven suggestions from Price, shared in Business Insider by Jacquelyn Smith.

1. Start with a great story. Storytelling is an ancient and powerful technique for sharing experiences and knowledge with others. We’re trained to tune in to this medium from our earliest days in the nursery, and remain captivated by stories in the form of gossip, plays, novels and movies, among others, for our entire lives. Price suggests you “start with a brief 60- to 90-second narrative that launches your speech and captivates your listeners, and make sure the story encapsulates the key point of your message.

2. Engage listeners with a question that inspires reflection. Rhetorical questions and others that get your audience thinking to themselves about the issues surrounding your topic will help get their heads in the right place. If you craft the question right, it can also help generate related questions your audience would like answered, which will keep listeners focused on what you’re saying.

3. Harness some shock power with a startling fact. Citing a relevant statistic or headline that highlights the significance of the information you’re sharing is an effective means of engaging attention. If listeners are shocked by a (true) fact, they’ll be particularly keen to hear solutions or discussion about the topic.

4. Co-opt extra credibility with a great quote. If you can find a relevant quote by a famous, well-respected person you can use it to “tap into his or her credibility, likeability and notoriety,” says Price. The trick is to find an apt quote and then show how it applies directly to the situation you are discussing.

5. Go visual: Try a photo. Our eyes are one of the most direct routes to understanding and engagement. The more you can rely on photos to make your point, the more memorable and appealing your audience will find your presentation.

6. Get physical with a prop. Photos aren’t the only option for engaging visually. An appropriate prop adds the image that will help your audience relate to and remember your points, as well as adding kinetic appeal as you manipulate the prop to further make your case. It also keeps your audience’s eyes glued to you during the course of the presentation.

7. The ultimate visual aid: Video. Video lets you offer the visual images your audience likes while eliciting an emotional response. Price elaborates on the power of video, saying, “Unlike text and bullet points on a slide, you can employ people, pictures, and sound to reel in the audience, add drama, and communicate the gist of your message quickly.” Video is the pinnacle of entertainment power for modern audiences, so use engaging and insightful video to convey your message wherever you can.

Any opportunity to make a presentation, whether it’s within your firm or for another, more public audience, represents a chance to share important knowledge and cement your value as a speaker. Make the most of these great moments by capturing your audience’s attention right off the bat and keeping it throughout your allotted time. And let us know what you think, too. Did these ideas work for you?

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