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Capturing and holding attention

After last week’s tip on memorization, it seemed natural to refresh your memory on a few techniques in capturing and holding people’s attention. For many of you who complain about memory loss, the cause of your lack of concentration and attention is fatigue or stress.

The effects of intense concentration are really quite amazing. We are capable, in a room full of hubbub, to suddenly ignore all the noise, as soon as a conversation attracts our attention. This form of selective attention is particularly efficient in processing and storing long-term information. On the other hand, it quickly causes fatigue. It appears that this ability to focus on certain signals, while rejecting others, strongly decreases with age. So, if teenagers tell you they can do their homework amidst a blaring racket, it is possible!

However, when your boss tells you he’s listening to you while he’s reading his email, it’s a lot less likely. We often hear broadcasts boasting the attention we can pay to multiple tasks. Unfortunately, though we love to imagine we’re in high performing, multitasking mode, there are limits beyond which we cannot fight. By doing several things at the same time, our focus of attention varies continuously from one point to another, which makes thinking, memorization and therefore, learning, very difficult. This situation significantly complicates the exercise of public speaking.

We have compiled some tricks, tips and techniques to manage the attention of your audience; some of these have already been the subjects of a ZE TIP:

Stand up to speak – We hear many arguments justifying why we don’t need to stand when we speak: “we’re in a small group,” “it’s too formal,” “I don’t want to be imposing.” These are obviously poor excuses. We must assume that the exercise in presenting is formal by nature.  To the extent that you have presentation aids with you, you are far from making an improvised speech. By standing up you naturally attract attention to yourself and you interact more effectively with you presentation aids.

A narrative structure – In addition to improving memory storage, a narrative structurefosters the audience’s involvement by telling them a story in which they recognize themselves and in which they have a role to play. Attention is increased by an activated imagination, which allows us to project ourselves and /or to imagine alternatives.

Focus on the speaker – Again, a presentation relies on the speaker, not on the slides. By paying attention to an audience, a speaker is able to heighten the attention paid to him. Something that a document attached to an email could never do.

Anticipate a lack of attention – An average attention span is estimated at about twenty minutes. For lengthy presentations, it is important to vary the pace by either changing speaker or preparing unexpected moments that will make an impact and revive the attention of your audience.

Dramatize situations – The more you present your idea as a solution to your audience’s problem, the more you’ll get their attention. This means that you will build your presentation according to the expectations of your audience and not according to your desires or needs. A bad reflex that would have us never communicating in the negative does not make much sense when you often see how the fear of losing often triggers an audience to sign on to your remarks.