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How to Capture Your Audience’s Attention with a Story

Does your audience nod off during your presentation? If so, you’re not alone. 32 percent of audience members have fallen asleep during a boring presentation. The human brain is only wired to pay attention for about 10 minutes at a time. As a presenter, you have to find a way to capture people’s attention and keep re-engaging them in your message. If this sounds like a tough task, it is. After all, we are bombarded by marketing messages every day. But cutting through the noise is also very achievable and well worth your time.  Storytelling is a great technique for getting people’s attention and drawing them back in when their eyelids start to droop.

Storytelling is an age-old craft shared in every culture. Regardless of language, race or nationality, it is a proven method of converting information to a more durable form. Why is this important for your next presentation? Because people don’t pay attention to boring things; we pay attention to emotions.

No matter what industry you work in, you have more stories to tell than you probably realize. Let me give you an example: In 2011 and 2012, PGi won an award for Best Adoption-Friendly Places to Work sponsored by the Dave Thomas Foundation.  I could have merely shared the announcement with our employees, but imagine how much more meaningful it was to share the anxiety and emotion of a real person who actually used the benefit. It wasn’t hard to find someone willing to share their story. A quick call to our HR Department garnered me a few likely participants. Not long after, I had an incredible story with pictures and video of one PGi employee’s journey to a children’s prison in Uganda and how that life-changing experience related to PGi’s generous adoption benefit. Not only did our employees learn an amazing story about one of their co-workers, they also have etched in their memory that PGi topped the list of the Best Adoption-Friendly Places to Work – all because of one story.

Why are stories so effective at capturing – and keeping – an audience’s attention?  Aside from our inability to pay attention to boring information, our brains need a break, just like our bodies.  Ever feel the 3:00 slump only to step away from your desk for a few minutes and feel revived? When told well, stories are also good at refocusing our minds. They are like a Snickers bar for our brains.

If you really want to make your message unforgettable, add visuals. According to Brain Rules by John Medina , you’ll get 6x better recall for information that is simultaneously oral and visual.

You don’t have to talk to a room full of Rain Men to make your message stick. Try telling a story to transform your audience from slumped in the seat to leaning forward with undivided attention. For more easy-to-use tips to take your presentation from blah to great, check out PGi’s ebook of fun presentation ideas.

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About Trisha Zimmerman

Trish Zimmerman, Senior Communications Manager, with more than 12 years experience. In addition to communicating with our employees and clients, I use surveys to gather information from our clients about their own conferencing experiences. With our their feedback, I work with our Service Quality Department to help Moderators use conferencing more effectively. To talk about your own experiences and how you can enhance your communications, please contact me at trisha.zimmerman@premiereglobal.com

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