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How to capture—and keep—your audience’s attention

We’ve all sat through our fair share of dry and boring presentations. In a recent study, 91 percent of business professionals admitted to daydreaming during meetings, and 31 percent even admitted to falling asleep.

As the presenter, it’s up to you to  capture and keep your audience’s attention—and the reality is that you have less than 10 minutes. One of the best techniques is to encourage audience participation. Here are five ways to make your presentations more interactive.

1. Tell a Story

Storytelling is a universal way to keep your audience’s attention. Stories spark emotion, give people a framework to make sense of information, and enable people to learn.

To hook your audience, summarize your presentation in a one-page slide. Distribute the slide at the beginning of class, and leave enough time to take questions. Then, using rich detail, present a few stories illustrating real situations attendees might face when using what they’ll learn from your presentation.

Challenge participants to apply the one-page thesis to the scenarios you gave for a truly interactive experience.

2. Start with a Problem

To capture your audience’s attention from the get-go, start the presentation with a thought-provoking scenario or a problem that people can’t answer because they have not yet mastered the content of your presentation. Make sure the problem is relevant to the people in the room.

Ask attendees to pay attention, promising that at the end you’ll discuss the answer to the scenario as a class. By teasing with a topic that will come up again later in your presentation, you build suspense and keep the audience listening.

3. Make it a Puzzle

Another way to enhance interest and engagement is to provide an opportunity for audience members to talk with those sitting around them. Divide your presentations into four or five salient topics, and separate your participants into groups—one for each point.

Distribute a topic to every group, then ask them to learn the material together and present it to the class. This not only provides varying perspectives and fuller engagement, it also deepens learning.

4. Answer a Question

It’s vital that you understand your audience, their level of knowledge with the topic you’re presenting, and what they expect to learn from you. Collect in advance all of the questions your participants have about the subject of your presentation. Require at least two questions per person.

Inform them that the questions will be used in class, and request that they submit only those that are specific and relevant. Present your content in 10 to 15 minutes, then address each of the questions you received.

5. Raise the Stakes

Prepare an end-of-class assessment to verify that people have learned the content you presented. Announce at the beginning of class that your presentation will be followed by a test for participants to verify their own understanding of the information.

After the presentation, give instructions about the test, and ask people to respond individually. Ask participants not to sign their tests. Collect the tests, shuffle the responses, and redistribute them before correcting them out loud as a group.

Are you hoping to create more memorable moments in the classroom? Take a look at our eBook, Teachable Moments of Leadership.