Tuesday, March 1, 2011

How to Capture Your Audience's Attention

Another great guest post from a sabha.ology reader. If you have some ideas you would like to share, let us know and we can post. Also we are looking for anyone who would like to write on a regular basis for sabha.ology. The focus could be giving helpful ideas on any syllabus topics (any mandal, any language) and/or insights both original and reposts on speaking skills.

Getting attention is arguably the most important part of doing a speech. No matter how brilliant your ideas are, you can’t even convey them to your audience unless you’ve made them look in your direction first.

You have to get your audience’s attention before you can turn them into a "believer."

Your reader can’t pay attention to everything.

The brain is funny like that — in order to understand, the brain has to focus on specific information.

Attention helps us screen out the irrelevant and choose which information will enter, and stay, in our awareness. Our attention decides what to “pay attention to,” because human focus is limited, and we just can’t give our attention to everything.

Your audience’s minds are very selective. So we have to give them a reason to pay attention to our content instead of everything else out there they could be listening to.

There are many obstacles in the path to gaining your audience’s attention.

Even if you have the best content or information on the planet, it’s still difficult to get people to give you the time of day. Here are some common obstacles to getting your audience’s attention:
  • The relentless proliferation of other distractions - i.e., smartphones
  • Information overload
  • The desire for instant gratification
These are all roadblocks you face in the attention-getting game, so you’ve really got to be good at showing your audience why their limited attention should be directed to you.

Try these attention-grabbing strategies.

1. Help them see what you see.
You might be focusing on yourself when creating your speech, thinking that everyone sees things the way you do. But they don’t. People won’t “hear” you, or pay attention, until they perceive what you perceive. So you’ve got to make your position crystal clear — help them to see what you see, using storytelling, description, personal experiences, prasangs, and anything that will put the audience in the right position to understand your message.

2. Make it personal.
When you make your talk personal, you make it important. Personally interesting or perceptually meaningful information can grab attention, bring clarity, and help it slip right into your audience’s awareness. You don’t have to do a lot of explaining to tell someone his house (or his hair) is on fire — because it’s so personal to him. You immediately get attention.

3. Use emotion.
Emotion is a great way to bring clarity to your messages while making them personal. Emotion also comes with the triple bonus of adding clarity, giving the audience a reason to talk about your topic, and triggering the circuits in the brain that activate behavior and decisions — emotion is much better at that than logic is. Emotional messages get attention.

Don’t take chances with attention.
You only have a few seconds to capture someone’s attention, so don’t take chances with clever, cute, or insider
language or visuals, which are often lost on people. These tactics only tend to confuse audiences, if only for a few seconds, which is all it takes to lose them — and a confused mind does not pay attention.

Follow up with a strong second.
Once you’ve managed to capture your audience’s attention, don’t waste it. Getting your audience’s attention is like the first strike of a One-Two punch — if you don’t land the second part, you’re not going to "knock them out." Make sure your second punch, the actual information or message for which you grabbed their attention in the first place, is worthwhile.

If it’s valuable, you’ve paved the way for easy entry into their attention. If it isn’t, it’ll be that much more difficult to capture their attention the next time, as their brain has already filed your information under “not worth our attention.”

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