Do You Call Your Audience to Attention?
“My experience of great storytelling, working with classics, is just finding a way to present it simply but let the story do its own work, or be an invite to the audience’s imagination.”– Kenneth Branagh, actor
The first article of 2022. Happy New Year, everyone!
Have you ever thought about all the things on your mind as you attended a presentation? It could be how you will afford college for your daughter in high school. It could be that writing project you have been working on for a while. It could be simply cutting the grass.
Everyone in your presentation audience has many things on their mind besides your presentation.
If you don’t get your audience to put aside these other thoughts, they will not get the full effect of your presentation.
At the beginning of your presentation, you need an attention step to concentrate your audience’s minds on your presentation.
You must start with the attention step relevant to your presentation before saying anything else.
Below are three attention steps that have worked well for me over my years presenting: stories, quotes, and videos.
Before books, television, and the Internet, there were stories. From prehistoric times to the present, stories have survived as an effective form of communication.
Think about which presentations you have attended you have enjoyed the most. My educated guess is somewhere in these presentations, the speaker told a story.
The best type of story for you to use is a personal story. Relevant personal stories provide you with a great deal of credibility with your audience. You have experienced what you are talking about in your presentation. You can’t get more credible than that.
You have to look no further than the number of books sold worldwide, fiction and non-fiction, each year to establish people love stories. So why not present a story to your audience as an attention step?
Stories get your audience involved with your presentation. They become emotionally involved with it through your attention-getting story attention step.
So, use stories to engage your audience right upfront.
Another attention step you should try is starting your presentation with a quote.
Quotes are a great way to capture the attention of your audience.
Again, the quotes have to be relevant to your subject matter. Below are three quote examples pertinent to the presentation subject:
Presentation subject: Motivation
“Challenges are what make life interesting. Overcoming them is what makes life meaningful” – Joshua J. Marine
Presentation subject: Persistence
“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” – President Calvin Coolidge
Presentation subject: Never Give Up
“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never — in nothing, great or small, large or petty — never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense.” – Winston Churchill
At the beginning of your presentation, a quote forces your audience to focus on your presentation topic. That is the job of an attention step.
Now you know stories and quotes are significant attention steps. Thanks to the Internet and YouTube, videos embedded in your presentation are another attention step you can use.
The Internet has made millions of short videos available to you as an attention step. It is easy to embed these videos in your presentations. For example, google “embedding videos in my presentation,” and you will find the easy instructions to do this.
Below are links to three videos I used in recent presentations:
Presentation subject: Leadership: Winston Churchill’s “… we will fight them on the beaches, . . .” speech (11:00 into the video) (https://youtu.be/s_LncVnecLA)
Presentation subject: Entrepreneurship: Steve Jobs “Don’t Lose Faith” speech (https://youtu.be/ptD0T-ZcF2M)
Presentation subject: Networking: General Dwight David Eisenhower’s speech on the eve of the World War II D-Day Invasion of Europe (https://youtu.be/fQ7IKM-jiJI)
There is nothing quite like a video to draw your audience’s attention. It appeals to your audience’s sight, hearing, and heart. It is a great way to open and close your presentations
This article has explored stories, quotes, and videos as attention steps.
Your presentation is competing with all the thoughts in your audience’s minds. Therefore, an attention step at the beginning of your presentation is crucial to refocus your audience on your presentation.
Not having an attention step and having one is like the difference between your audience hearing and listening to what you say. When they hear what you say, they could be thinking many other thoughts. When they listen to what you say, they focus on your presentation.
Grab the attention of your audience early, and don’t let go!
Call to Action
Include one of the following and other attention steps in all your presentations from now on:
Relevant stories, personal ones if possible
“Often-used hook ideas involve the use of quotes. While many speakers start with an apt quotation, you can differentiate by stating the quote and adding a twist. For example, “We’ve all heard that a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. But we need to remember that a journey to nowhere also starts with a single step.”– Bruna Martinuzzi
Frank formed DiBartolomeo Consulting International (DCI), LLC (www.speakleadandsucceed.com) in 2007. The mission of DCI is to help technical professionals to inspire, motivate, and influence their colleagues and other technical professionals through improving their presentation skills, communication, and personal presence. Frank can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and (703) 509-4424.
Don’t miss Frank DiBartolomeo’s latest book!
“Speak Well and Prosper: Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Better Presentations”