Here’s the scene: Eight business people sitting around a conference room table. Half of them are heads down, checking their smart phones. One is flipping through paperwork, and another is doodling. A couple of them are talking to each other. And there you are, standing at the head of the table, halfway through your presentation. Ouch.
Capturing and holding people’s attention is a science and an art form that can be learned. Read on for our best tips. . .
Want people to really listen when you speak? Here are a few tips.
Know your audience. Have you done the necessary prep work to understand who you’re speaking to and why they would be interested in what you have to say? It may seem obvious, but it’s surprising how many presenters focus so narrowly on the desired outcome of their message—project approval, bigger budget, whatever— that they spend little time on under-standing the people they’re trying to inform or persuade. Ask yourself, What would these people care about, relative to my talk? What’s in it for them? And even tougher: Why should they listen to me?
Get to the point. The quickest way to lose people’s attention is to clobber them with complex or unclear detail that they either don’t understand or don’t need in order to buy in to your core message. (And if you’re presenting to C-level executives, your first line should be your bottom line, because they don’t have time for much more.) What is at the heart of what you’re trying to say? What are the few essential data that support your idea?
Be a better listener. When people feel that you are genuinely interested in what they have to say, they are much more likely to listen to you. To the extent that time allows, give individuals your undivided focus, ask questions that help you understand and summarize their points, and don’t stop at “active listening.” Go beyond the “What I hear you saying…” technique to curiosity-based questions that might promote discovery and insight. Instead of, “What I hear you saying is that you don’t support the project,” how about “What is it about the project you would change?”
Mix it up. Let’s face it, because of our devices and our impossibly busy schedules, most of us have the attention span of a gnat. We need “entertainment” to capture and hold our attention. The best speakers employ frequent changes in movement and voice (including silence) to keep things interesting—and sometimes, surprising.
- Is an annoying amount of cross-chatter stalling your talk? Stop talking. Silence. In no time, people will notice and refocus on you.
- Just like the best storytellers, raise and lower your voice to pique people’s interest.
- Speak v-e-r-y slowly and intensely when you want to drive home a key idea.
- Instead of growing roots in the floor behind the lectern, periodically move across your “stage.”
- Use gestures and eye contact to telegraph your passion for your message.
- Every time you change your tone or cadence, walk to a different spot or gesture, people notice. Once again, you get their attention. They listen.
In summary, if you want people to listen to you intently, know your audience, get to the point quickly, listen authentically, and tell your story with movement and vocal variety.
PowerSpeaking teaches these powerful techniques and more in all of our workshops. Sign up for any of our programs and you’ll learn how to be a speaker people listen to.
Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.
The PowerSpeaking team.