The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, the “greatest show on earth,” is dying. After a century and a half of holding audiences spellbound, with acts ranging from a hyena billed as a “Mammoth Marauding Man Eating Monstrosity” to “The Living Skeleton” to its controversial elephants, the circus is closing.

Clearly, Ringling Bros. was a master at reading their audience and delivering the kind of entertainment audiences wanted. But times have changed. Today, circus audiences prefer the human acrobatics of Cirque du Soleil to elephants and lion tamers. And in the end, Ringling Bros. can no longer keep its audiences’ attention.

Fortunately, you, as a businessperson, don’t have to hold your audience’s attention for over one hundred years! But, you do have to keep your audience engaged — even if it’s only for a thirty-minute presentation. While grabbing your audience’s attention doesn’t require being a “death defying stuntman,” it does demand you have a handful of strategies in place, to keep them engaged. Here are some of my tactics that will help you achieve your goal:

Five Tactics to Attract and Maintain Your Audience

1. Be a Storyteller: Use the Gab

Human beings are by nature interested in hearing stories. Perhaps, in your work, you may need to convey a considerable amount of tangible information or data. Even so, to do that you need to use the most human communication tool: stories. Anecdotes that thread a presentation together may well be the reason your audience takes an interest in the information you wish to convey. Being a storyteller is an essential part of being a good business communicator.

2. Be an Artist : Create Images with Words

We remember what people tell us in large part because our senses have been stimulated and a visual image has been put in our mind. Your stories need to use image-based words, words that describe what something looks like (or smells or sounds like). Jargon or abstract terms frequently found in business communications don’t connect with people as powerfully as image-based language. To give you one famous example, consider Winston Churchill’s vision of the future, when Allied forces would “fight in the fields and in the streets.” Had Churchill said Allied forces would “engage in extensive combat” no one would quote that phrase in the year 2017.

3. Be Up Close & Personal: Show You’re Human

Share something of yourself. It helps the audience to connect to you as a person, not just someone dispensing information or trying to win over a crowd. A personable approach helps you to establish who you are, what your experience is, and consequently makes you more credible in the audience’s eyes. So does being open to feedback from your audience and responding thoughtfully and personally. It is the human connection with an audience that makes an audience remember a presentation.

Of course, none of the above is achievable overnight, and there are other factors, such as the following two, that come into play as well. Your presentation has to be well researched, for example. You have to know the key points inside and out, and practice delivering those points until you have your presentation down cold. Ultimately, your presentations don’t need to be the equivalent of a three-ring circus. They just need to be the greatest show on earth that you are capable of delivering.


Do you need advice on making your presentations great? Contact me, Sandra Folk, at The Language Lab. [LINK:]



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