Why Presentations Die After 10 minutes and How To Save Them

Juraj Holub

To deliver a message at your presentation, you naturally need the attention of your audience. But attention is a very scarce commodity these days and to keep it is usually even harder than to simply attract it. According to biologist John Medina, given a presentation of moderately interesting content, your audience’s attention will drop to zero after 10 minutes of your speech.

I already hear you saying: “Wait wait wait… but my presentation will last 30 minutes. There must be a way to save it…”

I was in a similar situation myself. I was standing on the stage and no matter how much engaging I tried to be, I suddenly got a feeling that I was losing my audience. And the harder I tried, the more awkward it got. Subconsciously, I stopped what I was saying and created a break to change the dynamic of my talk.

It worked great. Since then, I deliver my presentation in bite-size content pieces and insert short mental breaks in-between.

Here are 5 types for your inspiration.

Leverage the power of video

With Over 6 billion hours of video being watched each month on YouTube, it’s truly hard to believe that so few presenters use them in their presentations. Videos are a great help to all presenters. They not only engage the audience, they also help to evoke emotions that are otherwise super difficult for speakers to elicit by themselves.

You’ll stand apart by incorporating videos and it’ll help you to keep audience’s attention if you space them out every 10 minutes. However, make sure that they are not lengthy and that they evoke feelings that are consistent with your presentation.

Demo your product or use props

Don’t wait until you click through all 257 slides of your slide deck to demo a product. Your audience will be dead by then and not in mood of test-driving your product. Show them what your product can do for them and how it can help them achieve their goals during the presentation.

If you don’t do a product demo, but you hold a presentation on a certain topic, bring props and use them during your presentation. If you have a smaller group of people, pass the props along so the audience can wire in another sense to absorb your presentation subject.

Have a mid-presentation Q&A

Take a break from your slides from time to time and involve your audience in an open discussion. However, people are naturally shy and fear public speaking more than death. To get questions from them, use an audience engagement tool that allows everyone to ask a question without speaking up. Don’t wait until the very end but incorporate the questions from the audience to create soft breaks and keep them engaged.

Poll your audience

Live polling is another effective way to involve your audience and create a soft break. Take instant surveys related to your presentation topic and discuss the results with your attendees. They will love seeing what the rest of the audience thinks and you as a presenter can gain incredible insights that you can work with after your presentation.

Invite presenting partners

Don’t steal the entire “show” for yourself. Share the stage with other presenters that will help you to narrate the story. Steve Jobs never pulled off the entire presentation by himself, he always invited several speakers including designers, partners, executives to help him introduce their latest product and create soft breaks. Do the same. Ask your colleagues if they could help you cover certain parts of your presentation and re-engage your attendees by their input.

Wrap up

It’s cruel but you’ll run out of the audience’s attention in 10 minutes. These simple techniques will help you to create mental breaks and regain the attention of your crowd. Use them wisely at your next presentation and you’ll have your audience hanging on the edge of their seats.

What techniques do you use to keep the attention of your audience? Did we forget any? Please share your thoughts with us.

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