How to Lose the Attention of Your Entire Audience in 5 Seconds Flat


How to Lose the Attention of Your Entire Audience in 5 Seconds Flat

Recently I was at a staff Christmas function for a company I do some consulting for. The day started with a company debrief, followed by a session on personality profiling, and ended with a party (yay).

The session in the middle on personality types went for a few hours and was facilitated by an external group who were a team of three Psychologists.

I’m going to be really honest here at the risk of any of those people attending that day, reading this. The man who was the main facilitator for the external group, definitely did not present himself in a way that communicated professionalism. His hair was somewhat disheveled, his shirt was unbuttoned too far and he was overweight with a big tummy that you could see through his overstretched shirt buttons to his hairy stomach. His jacket was too big and he simply didn’t look like a person I would sit up and listen to.

I found myself thinking so much about his appearance that I realised approximately ten minutes into his opening speech that I hadn’t taken in much of anything he had been saying. I may have a short attention span (oh look, squirrel), but I’m pretty sure most people in that room would have been making similar judgements as I was.

Is it fair? Maybe not. Is he a nice guy? Probably. Is he credible at what he does? Quite likely. But the big question is… Can he avoid people making assumptions about him and judging him negatively the way I did? Absolutely.

If you are presenting to a professional audience, you absolutely must make the effort to look professional and tidy if you want people to take you seriously. Think its ok to present in your jeans and t-shirt in a corporate setting? Well (in my humble opinion), it’s not. Maybe if your office is relaxed and you know people very well it could be a little less formal, but to me it all comes down to the impression you want to make and the example you want to set. Do you want to come across as someone who knows what they’re on about, or someone who likes to be cool? If you work at Google, maybe it’s different, but when you’re presenting to a group of people you have never met, you simply need to make an effort.

A few weeks ago I saw a reunion concert played by one of my favourite bands, Crowded House. I couldn’t help but notice how awesome they all looked up there on stage. All in suits, I thought they were fantastic. Showing my age here, aren’t I?

If you can’t bring yourself to make the effort, you may well be presenting all your awesome information and the only thing happening around you is that everyone is mentally discrediting everything you say. It doesn’t even give you a chance. So why go to the trouble of putting together a presentation and getting out there in front of people, if all they’re going to do is judge you poorly?

If you get up there in front of people and you look professional, your hair is neat and your outfit is well groomed, people will usually come in, sit down, look you over, accept that you know what you are talking about and genuinely be interested in what you are about to say. Wouldn’t you rather that than the other scenario that I recently experienced?

Things to be aware of:

  • Make sure your clothes fit you correctly. An oversize jacket looks really bad.
  • Ensure you don’t have marks on your clothing.
  • If you wear makeup, take care to ensure you do not have lipstick on your teeth, or blotches of mascara on your eyelids.
  • Check your shoes and remove any scuffs.
  • If you have presentation materials, take the time to make sure they are of high quality.
  • If you are handing out participation notes or similar, take care to ensure they are clean and neat.
  • If you are a man wear a tie with your suit and don’t give people the opportunity to sit there wondering why you picked that tie. You want their attention, right?

That old saying ‘first impressions count’ has held true over the years. If you don’t believe me, and you’re one of those quirky people who thinks they’ve got it totally sorted with the weird outfit or the bugs bunny tie, don’t just take my word for it, check this out.

It basically comes down to whether or not you want people to listen to what you’re saying and take it seriously, which I’m sure you do. So make the effort and you will be rewarded with a captivated audience and a commanding style.

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