You delivered a killer introduction that grabbed your audience’s attention. Now ten minutes into your presentation, you begin to see the tell tale signs that you are losing them.
This happened to me when I first starting teaching on the collegiate level many years ago; I would get frustrated. The course material was mostly theory, and after about 10 minutes, the students would start pulling out their phones, putting their heads on the desks, etc…I could tell I was losing them. I wasn’t quite sure how I could maintain their attention. One day, after about 10 minutes of lecture, I inadvertently told a personal story. And when I told that story, I had their attention again. I was amazed, so I tried it again. Ten minutes of lecture, then a story. It happened again. I came to realize that one of the ways to re-engage my audience was through a story (that related to the content that I was delivering).
Highly effective speakers watch the body language of their audience and adjust their presentations accordingly. What are some additional ways to re-engage your audience when you notice their attention is waning?
- Break up your content every 10 minutes. According to molecular biologist and author of Brain Rules, John Medina has uncovered that our attention span lasts for only 10 minutes. After 10 minutes our attention declines significantly. What this means for you as a presenter, is that you need to break up your content every 10 minutes and do something different to regain your audience’s attention and engagement.
- Include an activity in your presentation. After about 10 minutes of delivering content, have your audience members turn to their neighbor sitting next to them and share a piece of information they just learned. This is called a Pair-and–Share. You can also have your audience members write down one or two things they just learned in the past 10 minutes. If you are teaching your audience new information, these activities will reinforce what they are learning.
- Get Their Hands Involved. After delivering about 10 minutes of content, ask your audience questions where they can answer with a “thumbs up” if they agree, “thumbs down” if they disagree, or thumbs sideways if they are undecided or need more information. This keeps your audience active and helps you check for understanding of the information you just presented. The key to an engaging presentation is to actively involve your listeners. Audiences who participate in a presentation are much more likely to remember your message – which dramatically increases your impact.