Attention competition

A lesson in sharing ideas to improve your presentations

Our audience’s attention is getting harder and harder to capture. Whether that audience is our customers, our employees or our friends, our message is competing with hundreds of other messages. Getting someone to focus has become increasingly difficult.

And yet, we need to find a way to get through the clutter if we want to run successful businesses.With over 1 billion videos viewed, TED is one of the leading organizations at understanding how to capture someone’s attention. Its head, Chris Anderson, is at the center of understanding how to get your message across in a concise and entertaining way.

When faced with the question, “What is the key to a great presentation?” Anderson shares in a video posted on the TED website that a presenter’s No. 1 goal is to build an idea inside the mind of the audience. Ideas are complex, but once absorbed, they become powerful and personal.

Your job as a presenter is to transfer your ideas into the minds of your audience in a way that cuts through their distractions. Anderson offers four tips on how to accomplish that goal:

  1. Focus on one major idea. Ideas are complex and people are busy. To really resonate, we need to simplify our message.
  2. Give people a reason to care. Create curiosity with intriguing, provocative questions. Anderson says, “If you can reveal a disconnection in someone’s worldview, they will feel they need to bridge that knowledge gap. And once you’ve sparked that desire, it will be so much easier to build your idea.” Once someone agrees there is a problem, they become engaged in finding the answer. Create curiosity before providing the solutions. People engage completely when their emotions are stimulated.
  3. Build your idea with familiar concepts. Use the power of language to weave together concepts in their lexicon. Be careful of industry jargon, acronyms or slang. Think in terms of the interests of the audience. To be sure your approach resonates, test your talk on trusted friends who are outside of your immediate circle.
  4. Make your idea worth sharing. If the idea only benefits you or your organization, it may not be worth sharing. This is where you really need to be honest. From the audience’s perspective, is there value? Is your idea more compelling than their alternatives?

For most of us, a presentation to a potential customer doesn’t carry the same pressure as delivering a TED talk, but it doesn’t mean we can’t apply the same principles or generate the same impact. Hold your next presentation to a higher standard and see the value of a few more well-invested minutes.

Sam Falletta has developed successful customer acquisition and retention strategies for some of the largest brands in the world, including Microsoft, Ford, Honda and the American Red Cross.