What is the most important resource for a presenter? Some may say it is time. Time to prepare and the time spent delivering the presentation. Some may say it is knowledge. The knowledge of the topic and knowing how to communicate that message. And others would have different answers. I would say there is one resource that is more important than all of these.
I would suggest that a presenter’s most important resource is the attention of the audience. Without that, a great message, meticulous preparation, and deep knowledge won’t ensure that the message is received by the audience. When it comes to the attention of the audience, there are three critical steps a presenter must take.
First, they must capture the attention of the audience in the initial 120 seconds of the presentation. As I wrote in this article, presenters don’t have the luxury of spending the first few minutes introducing their team, thanking the audience for coming, and giving a long background history. Attention spans are short and you have to be clear on why the audience should care about what you have to say. How will it impact their life, department, or situation? If they don’t see the connection quickly, they will pull out their phone, tablet, or laptop.
Next, you have to keep their attention with a well structured presentation and effective visuals. Use the GPS approach from my book GPS for Presentations to plan a message that will move the audience from where they are to where you want them to be. Make sure each slide has a headline that summarizes the point of that slide and a visual that illustrates the point.
At the end of the presentation, be clear about the call to action for the audience. Clearly communicate the next steps you want them to take. If you are not clear about what you want them to do, the audience will drift away as their focus shifts to something else.
Audience attention is the most important resource for a presenter. You need to work to gain their attention at the start, keep it during the presentation, and translate it at the end into action.
Dave Paradi has over twenty years of experience delivering customized training workshops to help business professionals improve their presentations. He has written nine books and over 100 articles on the topic of effective presentations and his ideas have appeared in publications around the world. His focus is on helping corporate professionals visually communicate the messages in their data so they don’t overwhelm and confuse executives. Dave is one of less than ten people in North America recognized by Microsoft with the Most Valuable Professional Award for his contributions to the Excel and PowerPoint communities. He regularly presents highly rated sessions at national and regional conferences of financial professionals.