Global Leadership Blog

Global Talk: How to Capture (and Keep) Your Audience’s Attention

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been to a conference and found a presenter—even big-shot international leaders—so dry that I spent more time checking my email than taking notes. And it wasn’t because the information was boring,  it was because the presenter did such a terrible job of making drawing in the audience and making the topic interesting.

As a global leader, you have a responsibility to make people care about what you say. This is because what you have to say is important, whether you’re presenting to hundreds at a public conference, holding an important meeting or leading an internal videoconference session with employees from around the world.

Great presenters engage the audience. They make them feel like they’re a part of the presentation and will miss something exciting or new or vital if they tune out for even just a second. So how do you accomplish this? Here are some tips I’ve picked up from my favorite presenters;

1.    Open with a personal story.

This is a great method for creating a connection with your audience right away. The best part is that it doesn’t have to be related to what your presentation is about. If you can tie it in, great, but don’t feel you must.

For example, if you’re visiting an office in a new city, share an experience you’ve had with a common traffic issue, food or unique cultural aspect. In addition, maybe you’re keynoting a conference, and you share a story about teaching your three-year-old how to say “conference.” Just make sure your story is authentic and resonates across generations, gender and culture.

2.    Ask a powerful open-ended question.

This works best in smaller settings, although you can pull it off with a large group. This engages the audience and gets them thinking right from the get-go; they’ll be pondering the answer throughout your presentation, which will (hopefully) give them even more food for thought.

In a small setting, ask the question and then go around the room and have them answer. If you’re presenting to a large group, you can approach this method a couple of different ways. First, develop some prepared answers, and ask the group to stand or raise their hands with the one they associate most with, or ask the audience to shout out a few answers (just be sure to repeat them so all can hear).

3.    Make a destination statement.

Sometimes just knowing what they’ll get out of this presentation is all an audience needs to hear to keep their interest. This can be especially powerful in meetings as it sets the tone for the meeting and makes the outcome known from the start. However, it’s up to you to enforce the ultimate destination by staying on-topic—and keeping everyone else there, too.

 4.    Have a roadmap.

People love clear directions. Bullet points. Numbered lists (see, you’re reading this one, aren’t you?). For example, a talk on female leadership may emphasize three points: 1. Networking 2. Self-Promotion 3. Communicating in Other Cultures. Much like a destination statement, a roadmap makes the topic clear and invests your audience from the beginning. And don’t forget to use transition sentences like, “I just explained A, now I’m going to discuss B.”

5.    Do something unexpected.

As a global leader, you’re expected to be smart, articulate and on the ball. But people (and employees) take delight in seeing high-level leaders show their lighter side. It’s a good reminder that leaders are people too, with a sense of humor and interests beyond the latest financials. When appropriate, slip in a silly picture, quote or dance move that catches your audience off guard and breaks up the seriousness of your topic.

What tips would you add to this list?

Melissa Lamson

About The Author

Melissa Lamson, Founder and President of Lamson Consulting, is an author, consultant, and speaker who accelerates the business expansion goals of today’s most successful companies by developing global mindset, refining leadership skills, and bridging cross cultural communication. More About Melissa Lamson


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