Don’t let attendees fall asleep at your conference!

Attention is a delicate thing. At one moment you have it, then the next, it’s gone.

Generally speaking a good article can hold your attention for 400 – 500 words. But holding on to the attention of attendees at a conference is much, much harder.

Why? Humans are visually wired, we have short attention spans and a lot on our minds. It’s hard for us to sit for an hour, or two…or three listening to the same person talk about a topic even if we are super interested in it. That’s why we play with our phones, zone out or, occasionally, visit the land of nod.

Don’t let the sound of reverberating snores from your next event haunt your nightmares. Here’s how to keep the attention of your attendees at your next big conference or meeting (in handy attention-grabbing bullet points).

Step 1 – Think like an attendee

  • To keep every attendee engaged, write your presentation as if you were listening to it.
  • If you wouldn’t enjoy listening to it, then the chances are your peers won’t either.
  • Detach yourself from personal bias as best you can and create something for the attendees, not from you.
  • This requires thorough preparation above all else – “90% of how well the talk will go is determined before the speaker steps on the platform.” – Somers White

Step 2 – Embrace social media

  • Create a live feed of the event on the screen alongside you.
  • A simple, one-off hashtag will allow people from outside the room to feel a part of the buzz.  
  • This also allows the attendees to act and not just be passive listeners. Their thoughts about the event as a whole are encouraged and public.

Step 3 – Use polls

  • Keep the attendees active and doing by using a poll or Q&A during the event itself.
  • This keeps the attendees focussed on what you have to say, as they can directly communicate their thoughts on very precise topics (not just the event as a whole).
  • Be active yourself and clear up any misunderstandings. Spot questions and messages that show you lost your audience on a particular topic, and answer them as best you can.

Step 4 – Be reactive

  • If you’re willing to let the audience be active, then you have to be reactive.
  • Improv isn’t everyone’s forte… – “It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.” – Mark Twain   
  • … but being able to respond to what’s happening from your audience, even in a brief way, shows that you care about what the attendees are saying (and, as such, they will continue to talk).

Keeping an audience’s attention isn’t hard as it seems. As long as you prepare, listen and react you’ll engage your attendees and, most importantly, keep them awake.


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