7 Ways to Keep Your Audience’s Interest

I was recently reading that attention spans for adults are almost ½ of what it was just 20 years ago. That’s crazy! But probably true. So what is today’s speaker going to do when most adults have started to tune us out after only five minutes? Turn cartwheels and do backflips? Since most of us lost that ability just a few short years ago, here are 7 ways that still work today to keep them listening to you.

1.       KNOW Your Audience

Even if the talk you are giving is almost the same for every audience, you should never go in there cold. At Southwestern Consulting, we spend 1 to 1 ½ hours on the phone with a sales manager/business owner before their workshop. We are asking them all about their team members. What are their struggles? What kind of training have they had in the past? Etc. Being able to go in there and truly empathize with them and use their vernacular helps to separate you from the rest.

2.       JOKE Every 5 to 7 Minutes


  • No, it doesn’t need to be a knock-knock joke and you don’t need to study for your professional comedian license.
  • It is always safe to make jokes about yourself as long as it doesn’t turn into a constant throughout your presentation. One of the jokes I always tell is that “I am the mother of 14 and 16-year-old daughters, and surprisingly, they don’t think I’m funny.” It may not sound funny when written, but when delivered, people always laugh because they are either parents of teenagers who don’t think they are funny either or they were a teenager who didn’t think their parents were funny. Either way, it always gets a laugh.
  • You want a joke every 5 to 7 minutes because it spikes the energy level and brings them back to listening to what you are saying.

3.       CALL a Name of Someone in the Audience

One of the things we teach at SWC is memory and name recognition. People love to hear their names. When a speaker calls the name of someone in the audience, then everyone spikes their attention because they don’t want to have their name called next and not be paying attention. They also want to have their name called because it’s our favorite word!

4.       TELL a Story Using the 4 C’s

Every story needs to have Character, Conflict, Climax, and Conclusion. You can shorten a story or lengthen it, but if you use this order, then you will have their interest. People love stories and will remember your stories and that you made them laugh often more than they will remember what you were talking about.

5.       HAVE Them Write

It is not old-fashioned to have a handout for everyone. Start your presentation by giving them directions like, “Raise your hand if you…” or “Tear this sheet in half.” Then when you ask them “write this down”, they are ready to do it. If you see someone not writing, then pretend that you thought they didn’t know which line you were on and point it out for them helpfully. They will take the cue and start writing, and this will keep their attention.

6.       CPR

No, not like doctors think of. CPR is the term we use at SWC to bring up emotion and get the person’s permission to sell them. Remember that people love to buy, but they hate to be sold. We’ll cover CPR in a separate blog post. Until then, don’t assume that just because you have an amazing solution that people want to listen to it. You need to see if they are interested in a solution to their problem before you go trying to fix them.

7.       WATCH Your Tone and Speed

There is nothing worse than listening to someone drone on and on in the same voice quadrant with the same tone of voice.  Simply put, think of the conductor of an orchestra. If they want you sitting on the edge of your seat then they will play louder and faster. To command attention for an important part, they will play loud and slower. If they want you to settle back and relax, then they will play lower and slower. When they want you to move with anticipation, they will play low and fast. You can command attention with your vocal variety. Practice it and use it before you put us all to sleep!

At Southwestern Consulting, we run thousands of one-hour complimentary sales training workshops every year, and we have a Speakers Bureau where after they have heard one of our speakers, they want to hire them all. We know public speaking, so you can trust that following these 7 tips will keep you in command in front of audiences.

Have you tried some of these tips? If so, we would love to see your comments!

One Response

  1. Kitty – this is great – part 2 – implementation.

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