No matter how good you are as a presenter, I am sure you have been in that horrible situation when you can see your audience fast losing interest in your presentation - from furtive looks out of the windows, whispered interchanges, more intensive glances at phones or simply walking out on you - sometimes with not even a muttered excuse. You start feeling desperate at your critical information being ignored and simply lost. You may be passionate about your topic – but sometimes, your audience is bored.
There are a few simple techniques (perhaps, tricks?) that I have used to reclaim my audience and to re-invigorate the presentation. There is at least one positive – you are aware of this drop-off in interest - unlike many presenters who continue droning on and on and essentially wasting their presentation.
The first one is the quickest
The first technique is the quickest to implement. Come out from behind the comfortable podium or central position you are occupying and move to the edge of your stage. I even move into the audience and stand behind them. You do need to be comfortable with your presentation and be happy not to have your notes freely available, though, as it is hard to carry these around when you are dynamically moving around the room. Your audience will often be surprised by this maneuver and start focussing on you - in case you walk up close to them and ask them an awkward question.
Change the Pace
Change the pace at which you are presenting. If you are presenting fast - slow down and perhaps drop your voice to a whisper. Ask rhetorical questions that you answer after a short silence. The audience will start reconnecting with you as they are uncertain about this change in presentation speed and keen not to lose out.
Throw a Bone out to your would-be listeners
Throw open to the audience a problem which someone can attempt to answer. This is somewhat higher risk as you could lose control, so you may need to be quick to reclaim ground or guide the person solving your problem. The audience will become more interested as they may end up having to join in and there is someone different talking.
A Story is an Age-Old Favourite
Finally, telling the audience an anecdote or story always tends to galvanize their interest. The important point is to be sensitive to your audience and to ensure their time isn't wasted by your message being lost.
Perhaps, Alfred Hitchcock was referring to ensuring good connectivity with your audience with his comment: Always make your audience suffer as much as possible?
Good luck with your next presentation.
Yours in engineering learning,