Your first do or die moment as a presenter is to get your audience’s attention. You have to do this in the first 30 seconds. Every presenter needs a hook at the start of their presentation, in order to grab attention in an attention-deficit world. This is your ‘have them at hello’ moment.
Once you get your audience’s attention, your next challenge is to keep your audience’s attention. This second do or die moment is where most presenters are challenged. One way of keeping your audience’s attention is to think of the key points you are making in terms of headlines, or bumper stickers.
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Avoid fluffy or vague statements. For example, instead of saying change is inevitable but difficult and, unless we give it our best, change will not happen (yawn), and imagine the reaction if you had announced that 80% of change efforts are doomed to fail. Then back it up with an explanation and anchor this point with an example, a story or a question.
Keeping your audience’s attention is always a three-step dance. It begins with your bumper sticker statement followed by an explanation, which is then anchored with a case study, a story or humour. The bumper sticker and the anchoring helps the audience remember what you said, and keeps their attention in the room with you. Even if their attention wanders, and it will, both these tools help you reel back attention to the point you are making.
Your last do or die job is to give your audience something to do at the end of it all, a call to action. If your call to action is simply the desire to inform your audience then don’t waste their time, just send them an email!
A call to action could be varied depending on the purpose of your presentation and your audience. You need to be clear on what you want your audience to think, do or feel as a result of your presentation, so you issue a call to action at the end of your presentation. Most presenters fall down at this point and stop short of completing this third step. They leave their audience feeling ambiguous or unsure about what they have to do next.
But inspiring presenters understand the power that every presentation packs in its ending. Speaking after the massive manhunt that led to the capture of the second suspect in the recent Boston Marathon bombings, Barrack Obama ended his address by saying:
“We have the courage, resilience and spirit to overcome these challenges and to go forward as one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
So how are you going to get and keep your audience’s attention, and what call to action will you issue at the end of your next presentation?