I Can Read!
Over the course of my professional life, I came across hundreds of presentations & courses in technical and business fields delivered by experts in different fields. Out of these workshops, I could barely remember very few that grabbed my attention from tip to toe.
Well, the problem with the majority of the presenters/instructors is that they tend to ignore that:
1. WE can READ; yes, whatever is plugged into the presentation slides can be easily read by the attendees. Actually we are looking for information beyond the combination of letters in our sight.
2. Our average attention span is 12 minutes; that’s if we disregard all the distractions around us which means we require every 12 minutes an attention retainer and it’s only the instructor who can supply.
3. We are born with body and facial expressions that can be efficiently used.
I can’t imagine how a sales representative or a project manager or any occupant that excessively has stakeholder’s interaction can survive without the basic knowledge of how to present. The situation is exacerbated when a consultant or a trainer lacks these basic skills and I can confirm you, out of my experience, many of them do!
Now, that I’ve been into the consultancy and training domain for several years and get to know the actual needs of the attendees, here are some simple actions you can do to engage your audience and keep their attention span the longest time possible:
Engage with all your attendees
The simplest way possible would be to distribute your sight over all the audience and avoid any blind spot. Having blind spots will make part of the audience feel unaddressed and might lose interest in the whole presentation. If the group is small (in the range of 10–15 attendants), interact with them so often, ask them questions, get their feedback, LISTEN to them. This doesn’t mean you can’t do this should the audience be bigger, actually on the contrary it’s required, but make sure you can still assume full control!
Do NOT read
Explain in your own SIMPLE language; remember, if you can’t explain it simply, you might not have understood it fully
Do NOT use a monotonic voice
whether low or high. Yes that’s right even if your pitch is high, the human’s ear will get used to it in 2–10 minutes. How come? Take a simple real life example. Supposedly, you are working at office and after few minutes some construction work nearby started; that would be very disturbing for you at the beginning but with time, you will get used to the disturbance and once the disturbing noise ceases this is where you would realize: “Oh that was really disturbing”. Another example: you have been sleeping with your music player switched on. Once it is switched off, you have a high chance you would wake up (unless you are one of those who need a bombing alarm to wake up ☺)! Why is that? Because switching off the music and creating this tranquility disturbs the disturbance monotone the ear gets used to!
Don’t be too serious but not too comical
We tend to be attracted to comical sayings and actions; however, overusing them will definitely make us lose control over the audience (at least for some time) and the objectives behind your presentation might be at stake. On the other side, don’t be too serious, you’ve got some teeth so for God’s sake SHOW THEM ☺
Use your body language
but don’t overuse it, that might be distracting. Avoid using the index finger when you are pointing to someone; use your full flipped hand instead. Keep a genuine smile and don’t get too close to any of your audience; that might be uncomfortable to them.
Do NOT allow mobile phones and laptops
Well, that might sound dictatorship; however, the issue is that I believe, multitasking, especially when it requires some mental effort, is just a myth. Much recent neuroscience research tells us that the brain doesn’t really do tasks simultaneously, as we thought, or hoped, it might. In fact, we just switch tasks quickly. You still don’t believe ha?
Let’s do this simple test: ask one of your colleagues to send you 5 messages on your mobile to which you have to reply; time it! Second, pick one activity that you are expert at. For example, playing a musical piece or shooting set of photos or playing some sort of sport. Again Time it!
Now shift to multitasking! Do these two activities simultaneously. Ask your friend to send these messages while you are performing the activity. How much did it take? I bet it’s longer. Why? Because with multitasking, rather than saving time, it costs time, it’s less efficient, we make more mistakes, and over time it can be energy draining. So, believe me, you don’t want your audience to “multitask”.
Plan the breaks wisely
especially for long presentations. While it’s good to have a planned time slots for the breaks, make sure not to follow them strictly should you see the trainees in need for attention refresh.
What does it mean? While you have to plan your presentation ahead of time and study your audience cautiously, you shall still keep a margin of flexibility to cater, instantly, for unforeseen changes to meet the actual needs of the audience. Imagine, you are doing a great job presenting, and boom!! Your laptop crashed and you can’t fix it in due time! Well, that’s a horrible change to your plan! How do you react? Do you feel confused and lost like many do? or can you be flexible and shift to flip charts, boards, engaging activities etc..
That were, very briefly, the key messages that, in my opinion, shall retrieve the audience’s attention span for a long time.
Everyone of us got tens of bad experiences about training courses or presentations they had attended. Instructors or Presenters must understand that delivering a training or presentation is not only a professional responsibility but also an ethical obligation to value every minute and every penny paid by the audience.
So from now on, do me a favor; if you are attending a presentation or a training course and your instructor is not fulfilling his professional and ethical duties, just calmly raise up your hand, stand up and tell him: “Sir, guess what!! I Can Read!!”