Eliminating Audience Distractions One At A Time

Millennials often get a lot of stick for being easily distracted.  But, according a Brown University study, it gets increasingly difficult to ignore external stimuli and retain focus as your brain ages.

So, how do you eliminate audience distractions during your live presentations?

As with a lot of presentation-related issues, pre-planning is key!

EXTERNAL FACTORS

An audience member may find it difficult to focus on your speech when:

  • The seating is uncomfortable or their view is blocked.
  • The room has poor lighting, cannot effectively filter sound, or has extreme temperatures.

You may wish to look at our previous blog post on seating arrangement to combat these variables. In short, you should ensure that you either visit the venue beforehand or have a good understanding of the environment you are presenting in.

PERSONAL FACTORS

Necessary breaks play an important role in determining whether you audience remains focussed or not. Make sure you are giving your audience ample:

  • Bathroom breaks during marathon sessions.
  • Delayed refreshment breaks during day-long training programmes.

Ensure the schedule provides necessary time-outs for people to recharge or relax. If you’re presenting, avoid stretching your speech through the break time.

PRESENTER DISTRACTIONS

As a presenter, you may unwittingly cause audience to focus elsewhere. They can’t help but get distracted by:

  • Your inappropriate or flashy attire, chunky or heavy jewellery and noisy accessories.
  • Your repetitive hand movements, facial gestures, and high or low pitched voice patterns.
  • Your use of clichés and jargons, filler words, or mic-related

DISTRACTING AUDIENCE MEMBER

Sometimes your listeners can cause disruptions whether they realise it or not. The rest of the crowd, including the presenter/s, can be affected by this.

  • A member re-informing a latecomer on previous speeches or topics covered in current presentation.
  • A team member explaining a complex point to another within the earshot of other people.
  • A smartphone user who is busy texting or talking on the phone.
  • Audience members whose mobiles devices constantly emit noisy pings from messages and missed calls.
  • Hecklers who disrupt speeches with irrelevant questions, long-winded answers, unwarranted laughter and lame attempts at humour.

These issues can be mitigated by discussing them at the beginning of your presentation or addressing them throughout. A polite reminder can stop side conversations. Reduce phone related distractions by requesting the audience to place devices on silent mode.

Handling troublemakers calls for a different approach. Ignore them at first. Next; move closer to them, and then slowly move away, forcing the rest to focus on you. Regain control over your presentation.

Distractions can happen anytime, anywhere. Turn them into positives, show your human side, and connect better with your audience.

Have you ever faced a distraction during your presentation? Care to share an anecdote with us?