Presenting to distracted people means that you must work harder to gain and maintain their attention. Some of your energy will be wasted combating distractions and competing for your audience’s attention.
“We have so many distractions today it is very hard to focus on one thing.” Marina Abramovic.
We have become distracted people. From cubicles to conference halls, speakers fight against a flood of distractions as they work to engage and connect with their audiences. Some distractions will be totally out of your control, but you need to be aware of their existence and how they affect both you and your audience when you speak.
So how many distractions could there be that prevent your audiences from listening to your message? Take a look at the top 15.
The Top 15 Distractions for Presentation Audiences
Your message – Presentation audiences begin tune out when the speaker’s message does not involve their concerns or address their needs. Keep your message on “WII-FM” (What’s in it for me?), and your audience will stay tuned to your presentation message.
Clothing – Your inappropriate dress for the occasion can be a distraction to some in your audience. Excessive, flashy, unusual, or noisy jewelry can be a problem for both genders. Google glass distracts. Even a small watch can send out blinding flashes of light from a well-lit stage. TED conference dress guide.
Your mannerisms – You’ll only know if you have odd or distracting actions if you video your speaking and then watch the video with the sound off. Look at your gestures and movements and then decide if they detract from or compliment your speaking.
Slides – By their nature, slides are distracting, but do yours have too much text? Do you use fancy slide transitions? Go easy on the eyes of your presentation audiences. Create slides with less text and choose simple transitions.
Laser pointer – Is your use of a laser pointer a little too frequent? Could you reduce those times by adding a more detailed slide to your presentation?
Handouts – Is your audience flipping through your handout while you are presenting? Could you reduce the page-turning noise by passing out your handout after the presentation?
Technical snafus – Tech gremlins can pop up at anytime to blow a projector bulb or cause microphone problems. Dealing with a tech problem in the midst of your presentation is a huge distraction. Spend no more than one minute trying to resolve the problem while in front of your audience and then move on.
J.A.C.O.Ws – Jargon, Acronyms, Clichés, & Overused Words, can be distracting to your audience. Here’s another reason to video your presentation. Review the audio of your video and listen to what you say.
Video: J.A.C.O.Ws = Jargon, Acronyms, Clichés, & Overused Words
Seating – Will your audience be comfortable for the length of time that you are speaking? Does the seating arrangement allow you to be seen by all? You can’t redesign the room, but rearranging the chairs or moving more in the provided space might increase audience engagement.
Lighting – Are the lights in the room aimed appropriately? Do they cast awkward shadows? Do they beam toward the eyes of your audience? Are there lights outside of the space that are distracting? Sometimes a drawn curtain can make a huge difference.
Sound – Is your microphone volume appropriate? Can you hear the presentations from the room next door? Does the door to your room close loudly?
Phones – Remind your audience to put them on silent/vibrate. Ask them to take calls out of the room.
Keyboarding clicking – Lots of people take notes on a keyboard. Sitting between click and clackers can be distracting. Some conferences ask texters to sit in one specific area to minimize the noise distraction.
Food & Beverage – Speaking at a lunch program could mean that the dessert is being served and plates cleared during your presentation. Try to present after all food service has been completed.
Room temperature – Is the room too cold or too hot? Is your audience shivering or sweltering?
Yes. There are lots of things that could distract your audience from your presentation message. Be kind to your audience. Consider the issues and think of possible solutions in advance. Reduce the number of distractions. This will let your audience keep their eyes directed on you and their ears focused on your presentation message.