Capturing Audience Attention

By Mark Mason

Ways to spruce up your presentations and engage your audience like they’re in the room

Irrespective of the countless presentations that have allowed you to come to this point in your career, you often find yourself held back by that recurring fear that seems to arise 30 minutes in – are they still listening to me? As your eyes scan the room for comfort, it only gets worse. We’ve all been there. 

Adding a screen to the mix, although great for expanding reach and saving time, makes the burden on you, the presenter, even heavier. The lack of proximity takes away tools for effective presentations that would normally allow you to connect and feed off your audience. 

Therefore, we sought expert advice from television presenter Rania Barghout, renowned in the Middle East for her 30-year-long career in the most prominent channel in the region, MBC. She is best known for her work in “Al Aalam Cinema” The World is a Cinema or “Kalam Nawaem” Sweet Talk in more recent years. 

Pretend the person listening to you is someone you love and respect. Love because your facial expressions will soften and become familiar. Respect because you are entering someone’s home and speaking to them as a guest in their space.  

Make friends with the lens and your attitude will shift from a rigid robotic performance to a relaxing mutually respectful relationship.” 

So, after deep consideration, here are the top 10 tips on capturing and maintaining the attention of your audience through a screen that go beyond “eye contact”. 

1. Act as if your audience is in the room 

As Ms. Barghout said earlier, make friends with the lens and appear more personable. The connection you have to your webcam or camera is the same relationship you are passing to your audience. 

2. Don’t talk at your audience… talk to them 

In other words, the goal behind your presentation should not only be to share the information with those you are addressing, but to ensure that is resonates with them for future retrieval and use. Be aware of who you are talking to and adjust your language, tone and style to best suit them.  

3. Break away from reality  

According to specialist in psychology, Jessica Borelli, it has been proven that our attention span in 2018 has dropped to 8 seconds, therefore, breaking away from continuous speech by adding relevant animations, videos, guest speakers and other eye-catching elements is imperative to maintain audience attention.  

4. Ask questions 

Give your audience something to think about along with your discussion – for example:  

If you are training employees online, give a hypothetical situation and ask them to each envision how they would approach a given situation prior to giving them the protocol. The  bonus is this will open the opportunity for questions at the end of the webinar!  

5. Be expressive  

Elevate your pitch and use your hands…body language is important! Be enthusiastic, the audience will be more interested in listening if you are excited about what you are talking about! 

6. Maintain talking speed and enunciate  (& don’t read) 

If you talk to slow or too quickly, you’re going to lose them.  A comfortable conversation pace is 120-150 words per minute (wpm).  If you’re presenting, the pace may be 100-150 wpm depending on the emphasis you wish to place.  For example, at his inaugural address, John F. Kennedy slowed his average speaking rate from well above 150 wpm to 100 wpm.   

Similarly, if you aren’t enunciating, you’ll end up eating your words.  Do pronounce the whole word. If you’re presenting a global webinar, you’ll likely be speaking to an audience whose mother tongue isn’t English.   

7. Practice with a camera…not a mirror. 

Talking to a camera is uncomfortable…period. It feels weird and you know that any mistake you may make will last forever, so get used to the concept and use it to your advantage. Watching yourself back or even showing footage to others for feedback can be a great tool for seeing any errors or cringe-worthy moments that may have gone unnoticed.  

8. Ad libs – be ready! 

Don’t stick to a memorized script…although notes are more than helpful and can often be your safety net, it’s important that your audience finds you talking to them naturally. If you have handy metaphors in the spur of the moment, use them. 

9. Use purposeful movement and relevant visuals 

Help your audience attach visuals to concepts for future recall. This is done by keeping your slides simple and using onscreen movement effectively. Since movement draws your viewers eyes to different areas of the screen, learn how to do it in your favor.  Random jerky movement such as rapid transitions or moving your mouse frantically during screenshare will work against you. 

10. End on time  

Punctuality is a sign of respect and professionalism.  Start and stop on time.  As an attendee, there is nothing worse than sitting 15 minutes after the lecture was promised to be over.  

You can almost guarantee that they will tune out (if not log out) after the specified end time –  they have busy lives too.

If you have an important online event coming up, we’d be delighted to discuss how to maximize its effectiveness.  Please contact us at

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