Engaging your audIence during a presentation.

Onyinye Anyakee Written by Onyinye Anyakee · 2 min read >

Humans have a very short attention span. This is can be attributed to our very busy environment. If it is not an external distraction, we are likely to generate an internal one. This ranges from thoughts to memories to emotions. To put a number to this attention span, Research has shown that the average adult can only concentrate completely for less than one minute.

This however, does not mean that this lost attention cannot be regained. The goal is to recapture their attention over and over again.

We have three capacities for attention namely:

• Alerting

Alerting means awareness of our surroundings, particularly changes in them.

• Orienting

Orienting or focus allows us to concentrate on something.

• Executive

Executive attention helps us plan and make judgments.

The audience in a presentation are distracted by alerting and orienting attention.
In the middle of the presentation, phons will ring, email will drop and people might also leave the venue for different reasons. These distractions captures the attention of the audience because we are wired to pay attention to our environment. They lose focus of what you are saying in these distractions.

Your ability to constantly engage your audience is what presentation is all about.

Questions and Answer Sessions

When the audience engages you in a question and answer session, it shows that they participated actively in the presentation, at least most times.
It Is therefore important to take this session very seriously. In fact, consider it as a continuation of your presentation. It Is also a good opportunity for you to re- emphasize your main points and further convince them in the case of a persuasive presentation.

You should prepare and anticipate possible questions.Some of the methods that can help you predict likely questions are:

• Ask yourself what points about the topic are missing in your presentation.
• Go through the slides, but study them from an audience point of view. This will help you recognize some assumptions that can lead to questions.
• Think about the peculiarities of the audience and the bias they might have towards that topic.

After predicting the questions, answer them comprehensively. Then practice the questions and answers alongside your presentation. You can achieve success at this by telling a friend to ask the questions while you provide answers to them. You can also write the questions and answers on flash cards or sticky notes. You can practice with these.

After delivering a presentation, you are probably keyed up and may have strong emotions. This is not an internal state conducive to listening patiently. But that is what you need to do in a Q&A—observe questioners closely and listen to them carefully.

Watch the body language of the questioner.

Study the body language and nonverbal expression. This includes the facial expression, posture and gestures. The information helps you concentrate and assess the questioner’s motivation and attitude.

Understand the question.

Always repeat the questions to the questioner to be certain that you have certain that you interpreted her questions properly. Never answer what you think was asked—ask for clarification. Look out for questions that give you the opportunity to re emphasize your evidence and main points again.

Repeat the question so that everyone knows what it is. Remember to speak to the whole audience, not the questioner alone.

Accept criticism gracefully.

Acknowledge and accept constructive criticism. See the criticism as areas of improvement.

Do not fake it.

When ask a question that you don’t have an answer to, promise to get back to the question with the answer and remember to do so.

Maintaining Control

Scenarios can arise where some audience members try to intentionally sabotage the questions and answer session. They can do this by asking too many questions at the same time or asking questions not related to the topic

These situations can be managed bye politely telling that audience member to give others a chance to ask their questions.

A failure to engage your audience is an obstacle to effective presentation and applying the above tactics will make your presentation more productive.


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