Keep the Attention of Your Audience!

With today’s attention spans, presenters need to focus on how to engage an audience right from the beginning.

Did you know Microsoft’s recent study  found that the human attention span is down to 8 seconds? With such fleeting and fickle mental stamina, presenters are in a tough spot.

It can be so frustrating to work so long and hard on a presentation only to have it fall flat before a distracted audience. Even with a lot of charisma, speakers often find themselves speaking to disengaged listeners or, maybe worse, a silent online meeting room.

To get your message across effectively, you need more than just great stage presence.

Most importantly: Simplify your message!

A clear and concise message is about all our over-burdened brains can be reasonably expected to take these days. With constant responsibilities and also constant connection, simplifying your messaging as much as possible will help an audience leave a presentation with the intended takeaway.

The more we clutter up our main message, the less likely our audience is to find it and remember it.

But what if the message just isn’t that simple?

Tips to keep the attention of any audience

Luckily, there are some tricks presenters can use to distract their audience from their distractions. By creating a dynamic presentation plan, you can keep the attention of even the most unwilling audience.

1. Vary your stimuli

Ever been zoned out during a presentation and suddenly the environment changed? Maybe the talking stopped, or the light changed, or maybe music began to play.

When presenters drone on, the audience habituates to the tone and sound of the room. The presenter themselves becomes white noise.

A change in the room snaps a woolgathering audience to attention. Incorporate visual changes in the screen behind you or an unexpected audio experience like music or a movie clip.

If rich media isn’t appropriate for your subject matter, create variances in your pacing. Incorporate silences and quick-paced portions. Keep your audiences guessing.

2. Create a refrain

Which lyrics of any song are easiest to remember? The chorus, of course. It repeats several times and has a recognizable cadence.

According to Glenn Gibson, author of Before the Mic, presenters can learn a lot from songwriters. One of the most important? Create a refrain.

A presentation refrain, which should contain the main takeaway, should work just like a chorus, popping up at regular intervals to tie the whole presentation together. If it’s catchy, the refrain will stick with the audience long after they leave the room.

3. Modulate your voice

We mentioned speaking tempo above but there’s more to voice modulation than just rhythym. Consider volume and tone as well.

Modulate vocal tones in accordance with the mood of the content and vary volume to keep the attention of the audience. These sorts of changes subliminally communicate to our brains that differing information is being shared.

Escaping monotone delivery is challenging and takes practice. The more comfortable a speaker is, the more authentic and effective voice modulation can be.

4. Require interaction

Especially when presenting virtually, it’s hard to gauge whether our audience is truly listening. Creating accountability can ensure that our important messages are reaching the target.

Whether its an ice breaker with a neighbor, a task-based challenge, or just questions lobbed at the audience, requiring an activity forces your audience to listen and understand what is being asked of them. No one wants to look like they were just skating by.


What else should we consider when dealing with 8 seconds of attention?

Check out our posts on How to Start with A Bang and 3 Design Tactics for Engagement, which cover grabbing attention and keeping it.


Want to up your presentation game?

Whether it’s help with your design or a workshop for your team, let us help!

SlideRabbit is a presentation-focused agency. From slide design to template construction to narrative sculpting and concept generation, we help our clients show up looking their best.

All presentation design is custom for each client, fully editable, and brand adherent. We work in both PowerPoint and Google Slides.

Looking to train up your team? We also provide workshops, ranging from technical training to how to think like a presentation designer.

Reach us at [email protected].

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