Your Audience Has Stopped Listening… What Now?

Standing up on stage can get your heart racing at the best of times. But when you’re only half-way through your presentation and you start noticing that people are no longer paying attention… The panic sets in! This can be debilitating, so let’s talk through some of the ways to handle this situation, before it gets out of hand.


Their tuning out signs aren’t subtle. As long as you’re paying attention, you’ll notice it. They will fidget in their seats, check their mobile phones, look around the room, and seem more interested in admiring the carpet.

If your topic is dry, technical, or your speech is on the long side (20 minutes and more), the chances of your audience drifting off are higher. They either lag behind or have jumped ahead.

Their attention gets scattered either way, and you’ll need to act fast to pull them back into your presentation.


Don’t pretend everything is alright and ramble on. If you’re feeling flustered, irritated or impatient, don’t reveal it to your audience. Stay cool, and press the pause button. Just stop speaking for a couple of seconds. Silence will activate their attention button. Most of them will sit up and take notice.


If you’re speaking from a lectern, grab the mic, and move away. Move closer to your audience. Change your position on stage, walk to the other side and start speaking again. Reiterate your previous point to allow your now-perky audience to catch up.


  1. Ask them a question or request feedback if the topic allows it. Ask your audience to share their experience or opinions.
  1. Get them involved and interested. If possible, turn them into co-presenters. Ask them what they would like to know/learn about your topic.
  1. Do you remember what we said about memorable opening statements? They work at any point in your presentation, provided they are relevant. Use humor, tell a story or make a transition statement.
  1. Change your visual aids. Ditch the slides for a while and use a whiteboard. Use physical cues and symbols rather than an image to emphasize a point.
  1. For lengthy presentations (45 minutes or more), give your audience a short break–a real one. Let them stretch their legs, stand up or refresh their drinks.

With your audiences’ attention span rapidly decreasing, you may have to use more than one attention reset technique to breathe fresh life into your presentation.

Have you lost your audience before? What did you do to manage the situation?