Your talk should always be stimulating, relevant and interesting to your audience (otherwise, why are you talking to them?). If you have mixed interests in your audience, it is likely that some parts of your presentation will be of less relevance to some people than others. It is therefore vital that you are able to regain those people’s interest.
The best techniques I have found to regain attention are:
- Silence. Silence is often a good ploy. Just pause for a few seconds after making a point, maybe looking in the general direction of the person not paying attention, and she will suddenly realise everything has gone quiet and look up with a start. The aim is not to embarrass her, just to regain her attention.
- Questions. If you ask a question of your audience (even if you don’t expect an answer), the change in tone and interaction will restore attention, particularly if there is a few seconds of silence after you ask your question.
- Change tone. If you have been delivering your presentation in a level voice then a change in volume (louder or quieter), accent or pitch will cause a person who is daydreaming to look up.
- Loud noise. Find an excuse to drop a big book on the floor, clap your hands, stamp your feet, cough or do anything else that will generate a loud, sharp noise. Even those who are asleep will respond to this!
- Transitions. If you have broken up your presentation into segments, you will give an introduction and summary between each segment. You can use these transitions to enliven an audience. Write your transitions in terms of audience benefit. Sell them on the next segment coming up and maybe even “preview” up coming segments. “That is one way to increase your profits by 10% and I’ll be showing you four other excellent ways by which you can increase you nett profit using this product, but first I want to tell you about………”.
Watch your audience’s eyes as you use these approaches and once you are satisfied that they are paying attention, you can move onto your next point.