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Smarter change

Get attention when you present!

Get attention from people: You have worked for weeks making your presentation just so.

You have mined the data, and you know it backwards. You have worked hard to understand whatever makes this client tick. You are ready to pace them strongly and lead them to a mutually beneficial outcome.

And now they are checking their phone.

What options do you have to bring their focus back to the presentation, and recapture their valuable attention for long enough to persuade them? Here are eight of them.

1. Do a deal with them

If you have a level of rapport that allows it, consider doing an up-front deal.

Something along these lines “I know you are busy. Every day it seems like there are more demands on our attention. I know you want the best value for the time spent here. I will offer you a deal. I agree to finish this one hour meeting in 45 minutes, on the proviso that you turn off your phone, close down your screen and give me 100% of your attention. Deal?”

This is very direct (only three paces). Feel free to customise it based on what you know about the client and their style, and how well you know them. The less well you know them, the more you should pace them.

It is worthwhile checking if there is any crisis, personal or professional, which may prevent this happening.

2. Offer to pause

You can give them the option of a pause or a break if there is a crisis in progress.
If the emails they are answering are not urgent, then this is their opportunity to say so. Then you can go back to option one.

The words would be similar to option one – several pacing statements that are definitely true for them, followed by “would you like us to pause for a moment so you can deal with this?”

3. Use their name

Use signposts in your presentation so people pay attention.

Say “now I know this is important to Joanna (culprit on the keyboard). So Joanna is it going to meet your needs?” or “Joanna, this next point is sculpted to fit your requirements”.

Make sure you say their name before you say the point.

If Joanna is tapping away, she will hear her name, and that will pull her attention back.

Just saying her name will also focus her: “Joanna and I were speaking about this just yesterday, and she was wise enough to say…”

Remember you can’t go wrong with flattery :).

4. Get interactive

If you have the scope to do so, and believe me you have more scope than you think you do, stop the presentation for a moment and ask a question.

Here are some good ones to keep in your back pocket:

  • What are the three things you think will make a difference to your return on investment with this product?
  • What’s the one thing that stops you using these tools most effectively?
  • What are you happy about with this so far?
  • What group to make this easy to implement? This can suck their attention back.

5. Be entertaining

They put their attention elsewhere because it’s got more pull than you do.

Because the other things have a better pay-off. Or because they mistakenly believe they can multi-task without ill-effect.

Try charming them back.

Make them laugh. Those who have tuned out feel they missed out, and may stay tuned in.

Do something unexpected. Change your tone to a whisper. Sing. Shout.

We all get into communication ruts. Jump right out of it, suddenly.

Speak lower, slower and louder or in a munchkin voice. Be unpredictable.

Use playful gestures like the distractor.

Be entertaining and they can’t look away!

6. Summarise

The signpost words “in summary” usually brings people back.

They are looking for the Cliff notes. They don’t want to read all of Shakespeare. Say “In summary I have three points” and lay it out.

Maybe you do go on too long, they understand, and they are already waiting to you finish.

7. This is important

The words “This is important” or “If you take one thing away today, make it this…” said with a change in tone and an extravagant gesture can also bring them back.

8. Use your energy to shift theirs

If two people are chatting while you present go stand right beside them.

They’ll stop.

If they are emailing, go stand behind them.

You don’t have to read their screen, but you can!

In the end, people have positive intentions when they tune out. It’s not necessarily positive for you, it is positive for them: they want to fix a problem, remove a worry, and shorten a to-do list. Sometimes you will have to cope with them not paying attention.

And now you have some options!

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