Audience Interest

Hamlet (David Tenant) with Yorick (Andre Tchaikowsky)

Presentation Tips

  • Acknowledge individuals:  use people’s names as if they are your friends, and they will be.
  • Know your subject:  have a list of talking points prepared, not a script.
  • Take charge:  act as if your job depends on the time being well spent — it does.
  • Start on time, waste no time, and end on time. 
  • Be intimate:  the closer you are to your audience, the closer they will pay attention.
  • Speak with enthusiasm:  act as if your topic is crucially important, even if it is not.
  • Speak for the benefit of the deaf:  face your audience, raise your voice, and gesture vigorously.
  • Pronounce your words clearly:  distinct sounds can be understood, mumbles can not.
  • Project your voice:  stand, and speak from your belly (use your muscles to advantage).
  • Speak slowly:  your audience needs time to absorb and consider your message.
  • Be direct and clear:  say exactly what you mean, in simple terms.
  • Announce your agenda:  say what it is you have to say, as three or four key points.
  • Deliver your message:  say what you have come to say, with the necessary details.
  • Tell a memorable story:  your audience will repeat what they can recall (as with a good joke).
  • Pause for effect:  let your audience consider your point, and wonder what is coming next.
  • Confirm understanding:  ask questions, so key points are re-stated by the audience.
  • Summarize your message:  review what you have just said, by listing the key points.
  • Use illustrations sparingly:  one high impact image is better than one-hundred that are not.


Politics and the English Language  (George Orwell)

  1. Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which   you are used to seeing in print. 
  2. Never use a long word where a short one will do.
  3. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
  4. Never use the passive where you can use the active.
  5. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if   you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
  6. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.


The Greatest Speech Ever Made   …   Charlie Chaplin finds his voice.

What Can Be Done About Listening?   …   The audience must work as hard as the speaker, if they are doing an honest job.

Internet Archive   …   Speeches, debates, discussions, and music.

Speeches (Audio Recordings & Written Texts)   …   Ancient and modern speeches of import.

C-SPAN   …   Political speeches and debates.


Focus on your audience.  

As social creatures, we are aroused to a heightened level of alertness by the proximity and gaze of others.

Have participants move in as closely as possible, and speak only when you are looking at them.


Mingle with your audience. 

A mind that is actively tracking your movements is too active to daydream or sleep.


Prepare your room and seating arrangement to allow yourself a perimeter pathway and a central pathway, as well as multiple places to sit.


Inject humour throughout your presentation.

Understanding humour requires the mind to be aroused to a higher level of alertness, and to process information with attention to details, subtleties, and possibilities.


Laughter is contagious, and energizing.  Individuals are not prone to daydreaming or sleeping when they, or the people around them, have been laughing.

A mind that got the last little joke will get the next big point.


Pose questions to your audience.

Questions force the mind to work at a higher level of alertness in reviewing and evaluating information while formulating an answer.  New information becomes integrated and embedded with old information in the process.

Rhetorical questions can serve this purpose.  However, a mind that knows it may be called upon at any time to respond will push itself to stay alert and prepared. 

People will mentally and physically shift their focus to the person responding, and will generally turn to look at that person.  These mental and physical activities keep people alert.  Additionally, as people shift their focus and gaze to the person responding they also scan the rest of the room.  The impact of the glancing eye contacts among the audience has the effect of heightening the level of alertness overall.

Hours of Maximum Alertness 

When possible, choose presentation times that coincide with times of maximum alertness.    

Generally speaking, the hours of maximum alertness are between 7:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m., and between 4:00 and 9:00 p.m.  After lunch, from about 1:00 until 3:00 p.m., is generally a time of drowsiness.

Drowsiness is exacerbated by sleep deficits.  Shift workers are especially prone to sleep deficits.

To stimulate alertness, do the following:

  • Provide bright, full spectrum, lighting. 
  • Get people on their feet, and laughing.
  • Use group work activities that involve every one.
  • Change activities:  lecture, brainstorm, group work, discussion….