“Thank you all for taking the time to meet today,” you begin. As you continue your presentation you notice that one by one, your co-workers are gradually losing interest. Some are checking their phones not-so-discreetly, others simply have a glazed look in their eyes. You try to rein everyone in by slightly raising your voice and making dramatic hand gestures, but it’s too late. Even your boss has completely checked out. Exasperated, you vow to never let this happen again. Later on your lunch break, however, you find you can barely get two words in without someone else interrupting you. It seems like everyone else has more important and exciting things to say, so you just shrink back and let them do all the talking.
Commanding people’s attention is a difficult but necessary skill to master, especially if you want to advance in your career. Whether you’re in a high stakes meeting or chatting at a networking event you’re in a constant fight against ever-shrinking attention spans. All this can be even more overwhelming if you’re an introvert, but don’t let shyness stand in your way. Here are a few simple tips to encourage people to listen to you, no matter the circumstances.
Speak clearly. It’s really hard to concentrate on what someone is saying if they’re mumbling. Enunciating your words and projecting your voice a little will make it easier for people to hear and understand you. A great way to facilitate this is to have a sip of water and avoid chewing gum, particularly during a presentation.
Use confident posture. By now you’ve probably heard about power posing and how certain postures can make you appear strong or weak, confident or insecure. Of course don’t do anything that feels uncomfortable, but try your best to sit or stand up straight when you’re talking to people. Proper posture will help you speak more clearly and will make you appear more engaged.
Make eye contact. Another way to draw people in to you is to maintain steady eye contact. Looking someone in the eye is a subconscious indication that you’re focused on them, so they should focus on you too. If you’re speaking in a group shift your gaze from person to person. Not only will they pay more attention to you, but they’ll also be more likely to contribute to what you’re saying because you’ll make them feel included.
Be succinct. This is key if you’re talkative. People are impatient and will definitely lose interest if you start rambling. Stick to the most important points, embellishing only when necessary. That’s why agendas are so crucial for work meetings. Having an idea of what you’re going to say in advance will help you be more articulate and confident.
Choose your words wisely. What sounds better: “Our sales are good” or “Our sales are increasing”? In addition to being succinct, aim to use language that is simultaneously efficient and informative. This shouldn’t come at the expense of your personality, though. Stick to words that you’re comfortable with, but that also convey a high level of professionalism.
Listen. Nobody is going to listen to you if you don’t listen to them in return. This goes beyond giving everyone a fair chance to speak. The best communicators are able to internalize what they’ve heard and build up on the conversation by asking relevant questions, making related observations, agreeing/politely disagreeing, etc.
Relax. Don’t for a second doubt that you’re a great person. You got the interview, or the job, or the date, so you’re clearly doing something right. Cut yourself some slack and relax a little bit. If you come across as high-strung, whoever is around you will feel your tension. It might be cheesy advice, but honestly, just be yourself and people will naturally gravitate toward you.
For your next presentation
Now that you know how to keep a group engaged, you’re pretty much ready to knock your next presentation out of the park. For good measure, though, sign into your LifeSpeak account to access our videos on public speaking. If you don’t have an account, click ‘Book a Demo’ below. Best of luck!
Also published on Medium.
Originally published at lifespeak.com