By Guest Contributor Nicole Soames
Author Nicole Soames, explains the basics of how to capture your audience’s attention, based on her newest book The Presenting Book.
Let’s start with the bad news: people’s attention will deteriorate quickly over time. As the graph below shows, the best you can hope for is about 20 minutes. However, if you are talking to senior management, it can be as little as ten minutes before they lose their concentration.The key to stopping this happening in your presentation is to capture your audience’s attention by adding spikes of interest through what you are saying, your tone of voice and your body language (we’ll cover these last two aspects in the book).
THE NEED FOR INITIAL IMPACT – INTRODUCTIONS
Your audience is most likely to judge whether it’s worth their while listening to what you have to say at the beginning of your presentation. This means you need to start with a bang, not a whimper, and make your introduction count so you can hook them in. First and foremost, you need to establish your name and credibility. You’ll be amazed how many people start their presentation and forget to say their own name or the name of their company. Don’t assume people know your background – instead, tell them why you are an expert in your field, using any qualifications or experience to help you project confidence and credibility without appearing arrogant. In formal presentations, it’s likely someone else will introduce you but you still need to grab the audience’s attention by articulating the theme of your presentation and why people should listen to you. The same is true if you are presenting to an audience that already knows you; remind them how long you’ve been working with them or of a recent success you’ve had.
For example, if you are presenting a new product internally, you could start by saying,
“Based on the success of last year’s launch, I’m here to talk about this season’s launch.”
Remember, your aim is to focus on fulfilling your audience’s needs by showing them what’s in it for them. Don’t just present from your company’s point of view. A powerful way to illustrate this is to compare these two opening statements:
“I’m here to update you on this year’s new product development projects” versus “I’m going to update you on our new product development pipeline and how this will help you reach your growth targets.”
The second one clearly articulates the benefits to your audience of listening to what you have to say and is therefore more likely to engage them.
ESTABLISH YOUR OPENING
When you introduce your presentation, resist the temptation to dive straight into the detail. Instead, aim to create a memorable opener that captures your audience’s attention. Below are some tried-and-tested techniques to help you hook your audience in:
BE INFLUENCED BY TED TALKS
A powerful way to see these techniques in action is to go online and watch some of the most popular TED Talks. If you haven’t already seen it, I suggest starting with the most watched TED Talk of all time, Sir Ken Robinson’s entertaining yet deeply moving talk “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” With more than 65 million views to date, Robinson immediately captures his audience’s attention with his self-deprecating humour.
He then proceeds to tell an amusing anecdote about a dinner party to make a connection with his audience, build rapport and introduce his theme of edu-cation. The use of a rhetorical question draws us in – in fact, the very title of his talk is thought provoking. Robinson uses emotive language such as ‘kill’ to engage and challenge his audience to consider the real role of education. Now, I’m not suggesting you use humour as a way of introducing yourself if you know you really aren’t funny – it’s about drawing inspiration from great presenters and then introducing your presentation in an authentic and confident manner.
The final step in creating a strong introduction is to set up the ground rules for your presentation. By ground rules, I mean how you want the audience to behave and interact throughout your presentation. For example, do you want them to ask questions as you go along or would you prefer to have a Q&A session at the end? This is important as the former option gives your audience permission to take control and interrupt your flow – therefore, you need to have strategies in place to manage these interruptions. Below is a quick reminder of the key things you need to include in a strong introduction
STRONG INTRODUCTION CHECKLIST
- Establish credibility and project confidence
- Your name and theme – show experience, not arrogance
- Memorable opener: Key insights, Rhetorical questions, Statistics, topical quotes, Engage with humour
- Ground rules
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
NICOLE SOAMES is a highly qualified coach and emotional intelligence practitioner. She gained extensive commercial experience during her 12 years managing large sales teams at Unilever andUnited Biscuits, followed by over 15 years developing and deliver-ing training programmes around the world. In 2009, Nicole founded Diadem Performance, a leading commercial skills training and coach-ing company. With over 100 clients across the globe, Diadem has helped many thousands of people become ‘commercial athletes’ in influencing, selling, negotiation, account management, marketing, presenting, strategy, coaching, leadership and management. Nicole is also the author of the bestselling The CoachingBook, The Influence Book and The Negotiation Book, all in the Concise Advice series from LID Business Media.
We often hear the phrase you only get one chance to make a great first impression when, in fact, it s the impressions we make on a daily basis that make a compelling personal brand. In today s increasingly competitive world, the ability to present the best version of yourself in both formal and informal situations is critical to your success.
The Presenting Book is an inspiring and engaging handbook packed with Nicole Soames expert advice, practical tools and exercises. This book will teach you how to become a highly skilled presenter in all areas of your life whether you re presenting a sales report to the board, promoting your personal brand online, networking at an event or being the keynote speaker at a conference. You ll learn how to develop your emotional intelligence, capture and hold peoples attention and deliver your performance with confidence.
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