Presenters – Grab it like you mean it: Your audience’s attention

black man looking surprised

All presenters and public speakers face the same challenge; getting and keeping their audience’s attention.

Psychologists at Princeton University suggest that people make judgments about the attractiveness, likeability, trustworthiness, and competence of other people after looking at their faces for just 100 milliseconds.

No wonder so many presenters are anxious about the idea of speaking in public.

The thought alone can be extremely unnerving

If you were to ‘Google’ the question, ‘How long does it take to make a first impression?’, you’ll recieve 583,000,000 results.

You will be greeted with a myriad of answers ranging from 100 milliseconds to 60 seconds.

Keeping our audience’s attention is a challenge

At Mindful Presenter Ltd we believe that, if you  haven’t grabbed your audiences attention, interest and curiosity within the first 60 seconds, you are likely to struggle from there on.

There are countless ways to open a presentation with impact

Here is a hand-picked selection of 60 second openings from  a few of our favourite presenters on TED.

Carin Bondar: The birds and the bees are just the beginning

“Anyone in the room thought about sex today?”

If that doesn’t grab your attention and whet your appetite for what’s to come next I don’t really know what will.

Fortunately for Carin, the subject matter she is presenting on lends itself to the perfect opening.

It’s probably not appropriate for you to throw that one in for your next quarterly update.

Whilst it may not be a typical opening for your average corporate presentation, the point I’m making is not about sex.

It’s about opening with a question; a bold and thought provoking question.

How about a completely different approach to getting your audience’s attention?

In this video, Hans Rosling opens up with a high energy, multiple choice question, which is supported by technology and game show music.

It’s not for everyone but we believe that you’re probably going to want to listen to what he has to say.

You’ll certainly remember him.

Will Marshall: Tiny satellites show us the Earth as it changes in near-real-time

Perhaps you prefer something a little more subtle but equally captivating.

How about a bold statement, supported by an iconic image of something we all have in common, the earth?

Whilst we are all familiar with what our planet looks like from space, I believe not many of us will know that the very first image of the earth shot from space was taken by the Apollo 17 astronauts in 1972.

The great use of descriptive and colourful language like, “hurtling around the moon” and ” it galvanised a whole generation of human beings” is definitely something that makes you lean in a little.

Kitra Cahana: My father, locked in his body but soaring free

Here is a somber, emotional opening by Kitra Cahana.

She shares how she documented her father’s spiritual experience as he helped guide others even in a state of seeming helplessness..

Ramanan Laxminarayan: The coming crisis in antibiotics

Then there is always the opportunity to share a historical fact and fascinating story that most people will probably never have heard before.

Kelly McGonigal: How to make stress your friend

Some people may even be fearless enough to make a confession; although calling on their audience to do so first.

My final selection is of one of the UK’s best loved chefs Jamie Oliver.

Jamie Oliver: Teach every child about food

He may be a world class chef but he’s not particularly good on his feet, as you will see when you watch him nervously shuffle around.

What’s important here though is how he grabs his audience’s attention

In this case, he chose the route of delivering a shocking and sobering statement.

Remember, you only get the one chance to make a first impression.

Make your first 60 seconds count and grab it like you mean it.

If you need help grabbing your audience’s attention:

– Book yourself onto a powerful public speaking course.

– Invest in some really good one to one public speaking coaching.

– Get yourself some excellent presentation training

Image: Courtesy of

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