8 Tips for Grabbing (and Holding) Audience Attention


8 Tips for Grabbing (and Holding) Audience Attention


“The obligation to be understood is from the one who speaks or writes, not from the one who hears or reads.” – Ricardo Amorim


Ricardo Amorim, a Brazilian economist, is saying a really interesting thing here.


When we make a presentation, the most important thing of all is that the audience gets the message we want to convey, right? In fact, this is the goal for any PPT that’s going to support a speech. Whether we’re talking about flying to the Moon or a new electronic discovery or the benefits of sleeping in a mud mask, the right approach is crucial. And that approach will depend on the profile of the listener we’re targeting. So: A woman probably won’t care about tire tread. A man probably won’t care about hosiery. Knowing what we want to say and how we want to say it, and to whom, is totally crucial.


But how to make yourself clear enough to be understood?


Here are 8 tips to engage an audience and help you get your message across:


1) Who is my audience?

To make yourself clear, you absolutely have to know who you’re going to be talking to. This is basic to any communication, actually. So before you begin creating a presentation, try very hard to find out:


  • Who will be the audience?


  • How many will be there?


  • How much do these folks know about my subject?


  • What DON’T they know about my subject?



 2) Switch roles

Now put yourself in the shoes of those who’ll be listening to you. If you want to make sure the entire audience gets your message, you have to be clear, interesting and fluid when making a presentation. And the best way to do this is to think and feel with the mind and heart of the audience. Do you like to listen to strings of five-dollar words? As an executive, are you comfortable listening to street slang in a boardroom? Do you feel uneasy when you hear a speaker stammer, forget the text, get embarrassed? Nope. So do everything in your power to try to imagine where these people – your audience – are coming from and then you come from there too.



3) Be clear

Choose the right words. Write your presentation script so it’s relevant to your audience. And use body language that makes sense to them too. It’ll make your message more attractive.



 4) Give examples

How can your audience apply your idea in their day-to-day lives? As you go along, give them some clues. Know your product and its impact; know your concept and its impact. You heard it all probably a thousand times as the thing was being developed. Look back in your marketing briefing notes, in the notes you took at team meetings … ASK your family: How can this thing help you? And stick the answers into the speech. Some people need a diagram. Give them one!



 5) No Technical Terms!

Never use technical language or complicated terms in a presentation speech. Wherever you can, use colloquial, simple language. Over-the-top sentences can only undermine the message … If this blog were written as a soliloquy, we would’ve lost you at the first sentence, right? So, whatever it is, just say it!



6) Tell a Story

Tell a good story. One that has a beginning, a middle and an end. A story your audience can feel connected to. Why do you think advertisers use puppies and kids and families to sell stuff? Because the viewer sees the ad and says, “Hey, I like puppies and kids!” Of course, the viewer doesn’t know he/she is being manipulated. But, hey, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it! These ads sell! People start to care about the “people” in the ads. So: you’re creating a presentation? Same thing.



7) Ask Questions

Take breaks during the presentation to ask people in the audience about the material you’ve just presented. That way they’ll feel connected to you and probably pay more attention. And always leave time at the end to answer all the other questions.



 8) Rehearse

Nobody gets up on any stage anywhere and is just brilliant with no rehearsal whatsoever. Not even Meryl Streep. No! These folks rehearse ‘til they can do the roles in their sleep. Likewise, that is how solid your presentation has to be. You need to rehearse to make the story like your own,to know the sequence of the slides, and to feel confident enough to make the audience feel nice and comfortable too.


Here at SOAP, when we ask a customer for a briefing, we always start by asking who’s going to be at the presentation. Not even SOAP can develop a good presentation without knowing who the audience will be! And we’ve learned that the best way to know an audience is to put ourselves in their shoes. So, do this while you’re putting together your next presentation and you’ll see just how much better it’ll go over.