Recently, a training participant talked about a new era we entered – the era of economics of attention. And isn’t he so right? How many WhatsApp messages have you received today? How many videos have you watched? How many potential dates have you swiped away? Economics of attention, a wonderful sound bite. In public speaking though this is not a new phenomenon at all.
In my first 13 years as a public speaker I have learned one unshakable truth: audiences pay (almost) zero attention. Attention is not a given thing. It is our job as speakers to grab their attention and keep it up.
Sad news is: speakers are much better at killing that attention than they are at keeping it.
So what are attention killers, what are attention keepers? Here are seven of my top Ks for both categories.
Yes, Flo, but we have to use our corporate template for PowerPoint presentations – it’s a rule! I couldn’t care less about your rules. Fact is, a corporate template is the Mount Everest of monotony. At least, break the pattern once in a while with full screen images from unsplash.com or the use of black slides. Corporate templates are preprogrammed horror for your audience.
- I will tell you a story.
- I will give you an example.
- Let me conclude.
- I will go back to the beginning.
- There is another story I‘d like to share with you.
- My message for you is…
- My motto is…
Meta speech has no value. At all. Kill meta speech, or it will kill their attention.
Telling people what they already know? Boring. IKIA – I Know It Already. Definitely an attention killer.
- Cliché Gandhi quotes like Be the change you want to see in the world.
- Coming up with the groundbreaking conclusion that change is difficult.
- Telling 200 coders in Palo Alto that they are part of a digital revolution.
Humans move. Or don’t they? Then, why would you be a tin soldier on stage? Always staying in the same position is another exclusive invitation to boredom for your audience. How to move on stage? Here I’ve got some ideas for you.
Amazing how unnaturally speakers come across only because they protect their soft parts (mainly the belly). Even if they do not close up and touch their hands, in the end, they still look like a T-Rex! Did you know that human beings are capable of moving their arms in another angle than 90º?
And then …, and then … , and then …, … Talking about events – narrative – is boring. Reliving them is exciting. Relive moments with atmospheres, people, feelings. Take us right into the action.
Has monotony ever been good? The most ruthless attention killer of all times? Your monotonous voice. Your mouth is a musical instrument. Why would you want to play one tone only? Flatlines belong to hospital rooms, not to your stage.
She creates tension. She nurtures your curiosity. She conveys self-confidence, calmness, charisma. Paradoxically, she is the most powerful word you will ever find. Above all, she will raise the level of attention in your audience – anytime! She is… the pause.
On the content side, definitely the number one attention keeper – your personal stories. Three weeks ago… Everyone will listen. When I was eight years old… Everyone will listen. On the 24th of August in 1995… Everyone will listen. I have taken my storytelling to a whole new level. Today, I anchor literally any piece of content with stories. And the more personal, the more vulnerable I become the higher the impact.
If narrative is a soup without salt, then dialog is a hot and spicy Indian curry. Spice up your storytelling by reliving conversations with other people (and yourself: soliloquy). I learned that the more you personify the other characters the more exciting it gets for your audience.
Showing products, showing processes, showing stuff – that will automatically kick their attention to 100%. Be inspired by the late Hans Rosling, a genius when it comes to showing facts and figures and data.
When I began to discover the scientific art of rhetoric, more or less for the first three years, I was the speaker, and in front of me was my audience. For the last nine years this has changed. Now, my audience and I build one unit. It is a dialog rather than a unidirectional monolog. Ask questions, make references to people in the audience, start one-to-one conversations with members from your audience. You will see how their attention skyrockets every time you touch them.
Even more so, when you involve them. Talking to neighbors, padding their back, dancing, get them to volunteer on stage – the possibilities to make your audience part of the game are endless.
For me, the biggest attention keeper. Ralph W. Emerson, the great American essayist, lecturer, philosopher, and poet nailed it: Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm. In the end, your enthusiasm, your fire make all the difference. How can you ignite your audience, when you are a dead match?
Photo by @nickxshotz