My experience as both an audience member and presenter tells me that the longer a presentation is, the more chance there is of the audience feeling boredom and apathy. And I doubt I’m the only one to have this groundbreaking insight.
It could be that presenters get less interesting the more they talk, or meeting rooms and conference halls have magnet type devices hidden in the floor, which gradually suck the energy and brain power from you as you sit above them. Or perhaps, less interestingly, we’re simply not good at sitting still for long periods of time.
It might at first seem that there’s not a lot you can do about this as a presenter. There’s certain information you have to share, and you can’t help it if it takes a long time to get through it all.
Some presenters, especially in business, are happy to let their audience wallow in boredom if that’s what it takes to get the job done. They think it doesn’t matter how the audience feels, as long as they hear the information being shared. In fact, boredom is a toxic antidote to effective presentations. If your audience are bored then they’re not really listening. You might as well shut up.
Here are three steps to help you to make a long presentation interesting. If you’re talking for more than an hour, you’ll need to try to incorporate all three techniques – as well as making sure the actual content of your presentation is interesting!
How to Make a Long Presentation Interesting: Step 1
Mix it up. Ask people to pay attention to the same thing for too long, and they will get bored. But ask them to switch their attention to different types of thing, and their interest will hold. Don’t just talk for your entire time on stage – show videos, come up with activities, encourage discussions, and do anything else you can to add variety.
There are big and small ways to add variety to your presentation – here’s a few ideas in ascending order of impact:
- Vary the tone of your voice.
- Show different things on screen – images, graphs, text, etc.
- Introduce a prop.
- Show a video.
- Get the audience to move or do something.
- Show some role playing.
How to Make a Long Presentation Interesting: Step 2
Break regularly. Our attention span isn’t infinite – no matter how much we try to make it so. In fact, most of us can only concentrate fully on something for around 30 minutes before needing a break. Allowing your audience time to relax and refresh their concentration will provide them with the capacity to listen more intently in the long-run.
You don’t have to release everybody for 15 minutes every time – even a short break will help people to concentrate more. If you’re worried about wasting time, take a short break and ask people not to leave their seats – just a minute or two of silence will be useful.
How to Make a Long Presentation Interesting: Step 3
Get the audience involved. If a person feels involved in something, they’re more interested in the thing and it’s results. That’s why the most effective presentations are interactive. Many presentations achieve their aims more successfully when they involve the audience. And for the people watching, getting involved can remove boredom and make the experience interesting and memorable.
Here are some techniques for getting the audience involved – from small to big:
- Ask a question (and really listen to answers).
- Prompt a discussion.
- Split off into groups to discuss, debate, or answer questions.
- Get volunteers up to take part in role-playing, experiments, etc.
- Set a challenge to be completed individually or in groups (competition really gets people interested).
Long presentations – even those split over multiple days, can be interesting if they have enough variety and involvement. But this advice can only take you so far – the only way you’ll truly retain your audience’s interest is if they are interested in your topic.