How to get the audience to care about your presentation; Issue #374 October 11, 2016

In two of my customized workshops recently, participants asked how they can keep the audience engaged during the presentation. This is not the first time this question has been asked. I think every presenter wants their audience to pay attention to what they are saying. Today I want to suggest how you can do this.

Some presenters tell me that they can’t get the audience to pay attention because the topic being presented is boring. It may be legal or regulatory information, or it may be financial results. I don’t think these topics are necessarily boring. I think there are ways that every topic can grab the attention of the audience.

It isn’t the topic that is the issue. It is how the topic is presented. If you believe the topic is boring and you just drone on and on in a monotone voice, any topic will be boring. Presenters need to remember that the presentation isn’t for them, it is for the audience. And the audience is made up of people like themselves, and like you and I. All of us pay attention to what we are interested in, and that is the key when developing our presentations.

For each audience you speak to, analyze the people who will be there. What matters to them? What about your topic impacts their situation or life? How does what you are saying affect them personally? In short, Why should they care?

Unless you develop your presentation to focus on what matters to your audience, you run the real risk of them not paying attention. It isn’t your topic, it is how you choose to talk about that topic that is important.

Here is one example from a recent workshop. A product manager was struggling to get the sales reps excited about the legacy product she managed. It wasn’t the new flashy product line the company recently introduced, but it still provided a significant portion of the commission income for each rep. She felt that the reps wanted to hear about what was new, not the old boring product.

I suggested she stop focusing on the history and features of the product line, and focus instead on why the reps should still care about the product line. To do so, I suggested that she start by showing the reps how much income they get from this product line. This would show them the personal impact if they stopped offering this product line to their prospects. Now, they could see why this legacy product line mattered to them and would pay attention to what she had to say.

In your situation, determine why your audience should care about what you are presenting. Make it personal to them. Don’t use generalities, determine what about your topic makes an impact in their lives. They will be much more inclined to pay attention.

By Dave Paradi

Dave Paradi has over twenty-two years of experience delivering customized training workshops to help business professionals improve their presentations. He has written ten books and over 600 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 fewer than ten people in North America recognized by Microsoft with the Most Valuable Professional Award for his contributions to the Excel, PowerPoint, and Teams communities. His articles and videos on virtual presenting have been viewed over 4.8 million times and liked over 17,000 times on YouTube.