As presentation specialists, we’ve gotten good at “reading the room.” We know when a presentation is connecting with an audience and when an audience is losing interest, and we also know that many clients are operating under a misconception about how much time they actually have to reach their audience.
We generally subscribe to the idea that the attention span a person can comfortably hold is around 20 minutes. Focus fades after that, but it can be rallied back with meaningful action. Here are a few effective approaches to captivate and engage your audience.
Ask Good Questions
Posing thought-provoking questions can invite audiences deeper into your subject matter. Let them participate in an exchange of ideas. In addition to critical thinking questions, go interactive with an app that attendees can answer questions on. Everyone’s answers can then appear live on screen to open up a bigger group discussion.
Show, Don’t Tell
Your audience has 5 senses—here are some strategic ways to engage them.
Touch — Let them use their hands for something other than taking notes or checking their phones. Challenge attendees to create something that promotes intellectual and physical engagement. For instance, an event Brella helped coordinate incorporated an interactive presentation aid where attendees literally built buildings to emphasize constructing something part of a whole…with Legos. Who says Legos are just for kids?
Taste — Implement an experience to go with a meal. Brella helped a client design a strategic murder mystery dinner in Muir Woods for a leadership team meeting. A senior leader used food, mystery, and an awesome venue to weave an experience into his presentation about collaboration and cooperation.
Hearing — Give them an auditory experience with live performances to reinforce your theme. For a meeting, Brella produced a video with live singers that played Lean on Me, which tied into patients leaning on the company to help improve their quality of life. Good tunes and a good message.
Sight — Many of us are visual learners. Tap into that with an opening video, or powerful visuals in your presentation that aren’t crowded with too much text. Don’t underestimate the impact of a stunning and cleverly built PowerPoint that incorporates meaningful visual reinforcement.
Smell — Strengthen your theme with complementary smells. Case in point: Brella helped with a campaign launch that had a train theme, and carts of roasted nuts and popcorn (popular snack foods on European trains) were brought in to emit the aroma and vibe of being on the train (and give attendees a delicious snack).
Give Concrete Next Steps
What should audiences do with what you’ve presented? Give them a clear call to action. Without direction, they won’t know what to take away—and won’t remember what you’ve told them. Give them digital reminders—a presentation summary, a handout, or a post-event video to reinforce your message.
Incorporate some of these strategic approaches and help your clients create interesting ways to keep their audiences engaged for far longer than the status quo.