You look around the room, and all eyes are on you. They are hanging on your every word. You have your audience’s attention, and you know your message is getting through.
If only it were always like that. It’s more likely that your audience is surreptitiously checking email, whispering to their neighbor, or chewing on the end of their pencil as they think about the next episode of Jersey Shore.
Engaging an audience can be a challenge, even in the best circumstances. The average focused attention span for a human is 8 seconds. Most teenagers and adults can maintain sustained attention for about 20 minutes. At one time or another, we’ve all been guilty of zoning out during a speech or presentation. But when you’re the one standing up in front of the crowd, you need to do everything you can to make sure your audience is engaged and focused. Here are a few key tips to ensure your audience doesn’t nod off.
Eye contact – The easiest way to make sure people pay attention to you? Look them in the eye. When you speak directly to a person and make sustained eye contact, they can’t help but look back. If you make an effort to make brief eye contact with every person in the room, you stand a better chance of them staying involved and engaged.
Adjust your volume and tone periodically – A monotonous voice equals nap time. It lulls you into a state of relaxation. But since you want your audience to be alert, you need to make sure you are using your voice to keep their attention. When you’re excited, your voice needs to show it! If something is very important, there should be a sense of urgency to your speech. If something is funny, laugh! Changing up your vocal quality during a presentation will keep your audience awake and paying attention.
Body language is a great tool – Most people don’t like standing in front of a group, because they don’t want to draw attention to themselves. Use that unwanted attention to your advantage. The amount of adrenaline that will be coursing through your body as you prepare to speak to a group should be harnessed and used to energize your presentation. Gestures, movement and facial expressions all serve to engage your audience. An audience is sure to be more attentive if they can feel your passion for the topic coming off you in every move you make.
An engaged audience is what every speaker wants to see. If you remember to use these simple tools when addressing a group, you can turn even the most hum-drum topic into something that will be remembered and retained.