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How to Give a Pretty Good Presentation: A Speaking Survival Guide for the Rest of Us by T. J. Walker

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Chapter 18. May I Have Your Attention, Please?

WHAT DO I DO IF MY AUDIENCE LOOKS UNINTERESTED?

I don't want you to panic, but this is not good. If you aren't interesting, then you aren't very pretty, or even a little good. You're just plain awful as a presenter.

But you are ahead of the game if you even realize that your audience seems uninterested. Most speakers are so focused on their own written text or PowerPoint slides that they wouldn't know if their audience was still in the room—much less paying attention.

Here are the things you don't want to do if you sense your audience is losing interest quickly:

  • Speak faster to end the ordeal sooner.

  • Speak softer so they can't hear how boring you are.

  • Look pissed off, as if it's the audience's fault that you are boring.

Instead, let's try to fix the problem—and the problem is what you are saying. There can be a million reasons why your audience is not interested in you. Your subject matter may be too basic or over their heads. Your topic may not match with their interests. You may be the tenth speaker to address the same topic in the last two days at a financial conference. Or you might just remind your audience of the most boring, droning, data-dumping college professor they ever had.

You can try to guess what the problem is, but that's really hard if you aren't clairvoyant (and most of us aren't). Or you can ignore the problem, which only makes it worse. Or you can solve the problem by simply asking an audience member a question or two.

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