In this age of information overload, the window of opportunity to keep your audience's attention gets smaller by the tweet. How bad is it? It has been reported that we are bombarded by the equivalent of 174 newspapers of data a day. No doubt about it; we constantly battle a tidal wave of information demanding our attention.
The question is, "what can you do to capture the attention of your listeners?" Here are eight ways to "disrupt" the barrage of noise so your message is heard.
1. Tell a story.
As children, we all loved hearing stories. That has not changed. Storytelling is instantly engaging because it taps into the feeling that we're going to be let in on some sort of secret.
2. Make 'em laugh.
Provided it is relevant to your subject, saying something humorous breaks tension . It also humanizes you and provides listeners with a new way of thinking about the topic at hand.
3. Use transitional phrases.
Crisp transition statements like, "Before I go on, let's summarize …" help listeners know where to focus. Two others to try:
"The second issue is …"
"Now that we understand (summary statement), let's look at (next topic) …"
4. Bring the Q & A in early.
Solicit questions often and early. Integrating your audience into your presentation engages them by allowing them to make comments or simply gain clarity.
5. Ask a question.
Ask your audience to share an example of the subject being discussed. If time is tight, ask a rhetorical question to get them thinking. Another way to engage is to ask a question and request a show of hands in response.
Yes, the simple act of leaving the front of the room and walking into and around your audience provides an element of surprise that keeps your listeners alert.
7. Get them talking.
Help listeners process your ideas by asking them to talk to the person sitting next to them. For example, you could ask them to share with their neighbor, "What would you do differently as a result of this presentation?" This technique effectively disrupted the status quo and helps re-engage your audience, while allowing you to assess their level of comprehension.
8. Reward participation.
He who participates gets a sticker. He who has the most stickers at the end wins a prize. Friendly competition prompts participation regardless of the makeup of your audience – from C-level executives to front-line employees, I've seen this work across the board.
Whiche technique (s) you try, remember – keep it relevant. From the story or joke you tell to the participation reward or activity you choose, make sure it paves the way for your listeners to take in your message. It's essential to be able to disable everything else that may be distracting your audience so they can listen and act based on the powerful information you share.