Engaging your audience thru silence

We’ve all been there: Stuck in a meeting where the presenter has drifted-off on a tangent, and seems to be rambling on for hours. They have completely lost your attention, and the following thoughts have crossed your mind:

  1. Why are they still talking?
  2. What is the point? Just get to it!
  3. I could have spent this time better!
  4. Could someone please pull the fire alarm so we can get out of here?
  5. You’ve tuned out, and no one can blame you.

The presenter has fulfilled my prophecy: “He who talks the longest, loses.” So how can the presenter grab your attention again? The answer is most likely to shut up and listen.

By giving the audience an opportunity to participate, the presenter feeds into people’s natural desire of wanting to be heard. It’s also beneficial to the presenter, as it provides an opportunity to learn how the material is being received from different perspectives. As a wise person once said, “There is a reason we have two ears and only one mouth.”

When presenting to a group, whether a small meeting or a formal presentation, it’s easy to get on a roll and barrel through page after page of information. But, this approach quickly becomes a situation of information overload, shutting out and turning off the audience. Franklin Roosevelt said it best: “Be sincere, be brief, be seated.”