Connecting with the audience

Direct your audience’s attention

how to direct your audience's attention

Brilliant presenters understand that their audience has ever shifting attention. Sometimes it’s on you, sometimes it’s not. And that’s okay, so long as we know where it is and where we want it to be.  Poor speakers tend to leave the audience to their own devices, then get jittery as  the audience’s attention tends to wander where it will.

A few vacant gazes in the crowd doesn’t mean you’re losing them, but sometimes you might be. Here’s a short piece to help you get better at gently directing attention to where you want it to be.

Remember this-

  • Humans have a rhythm of attention that drifts in, out and around full awareness.  You know it’s true, just think about how  we drive for minutes at a time and remember little of that time, we seldom crash, we can think of a million things while staying in complete control of the car. It’s what humans have learned to do.  Peripheral attention works like vision. Sometimes we drift out, but as soon as something catches our eye, whoosh, we’re able to focus immediately on the closest detail.
  • This rhythm is perfectly natural and to be worked with, not fought against. But it should be used to help us make our points, deliberately. Get into the habit of sending your audiences away and bringing them back to your command.
  • We want our audience to think, don’t we?  So when we make them think we ‘send them away’ for a while. As long as we bring them back, that’s a very good thing.

How do we ‘send people away’ from us?

  • When we tell a story, show them a picture, share an example, we focus their attention more closely than when we’re just talking.  We direct their imagination and attention to  where we want it to be, to help us make the points we want to make..
  •  When we say something that people agree or disagree with so much that there’s a mental and/or physical response.
Why is it good to direct our audiences attention
  • Because we can use that level of attention (think 7 levels, where 1 is absolutely focused and pure attention as when we’re having an intimate dinner with someone we adore; and 7 is that we’re still in the same room but we couldn’t be less connected than if we were asleep.)
  • 20 minutes is a long time to sit still just listening.  More than long enough for all of us to drift away for a while.
  • Humans remember more from the first 2 minutes and the last 2 minutes of a speech if they know that the end is coming.

 

Jim Harvey

Jim Harvey

Managing Director at The Message Business
Jim is the MD of The Message Business, a company which helps FTSE 100 companies to sell themselves, and their products better. Speech writer, Prezi trainer and designer, coach and consultant, Jim also finds time to be a proud father and husband.
Jim Harvey
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