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August 19, 2008
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Shaun Whitehouse:Commanding attention




Here at the Commonwealth Club, our long history has led us to being the UK's recognised centre for the exchange of ideas and knowledge. So I thought it would be a great idea to canvass the opinions of the experts involved in the many events we hold and feedback tips and observations.

With this in mind, my colleagues and I recently asked a number of our leading presenters how best to hold the attention of delegates if you’re speaking at a meeting or conference. Here are their excellent suggestions…

Involve the audience!

Ask a polling question about their opinions, experiences or needs. Getting the audience to respond physically gets them moving and mentally involved as well.

Ban the PowerPoint presentation!

There's nothing quite like PowerPoint to help a presenter become completely isolated from their audience.

Talk to the audience, don't read to them!

If you read out your presentation as if it were an essay, your audience will probably understand very little and will lose concentration quickly.

KISS – Keep it simple, stupid!
The aim is to communicate, not to show off your vocabulary.

Be aware of how your audience is reacting
Are they interested or bored? If they look confused, ask them why. Stop, if necessary, and explain a point again.

Check the audience is still with you

Ask: “Does that make sense?” or “Is that clear?”

Ask questions designed to get a verbal response

Pick questions delegates can answer or have an opinion about. Getting the audience to respond verbally gets and keeps their attention focused on your message.

Tell people up front that their questions are welcome any time during your presentation
And when they ask, be sure to answer. This helps them know that you are interested in them and their problems, not just in completing your presentation.

Shaun Whitehouse is the manager of London meetings and conference venue The Commonwealth Club.


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