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  • Writer's pictureBarbara Mayfield, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

May I have your attention?

Updated: Dec 8, 2022

An audience attentively listens to a presenter.

Have you ever been in an audience where no one is paying attention? How would you like to be the presenter in that situation? When an audience is distracted, disengaged, or disruptive it is nearly impossible to communicate.

An attentive audience is necessary if a presentation is to be effective.

As stated in Chapter 35 of Communicating Nutrition: The Authoritative Guide:

“When an audience and communicator are in sync with each other – effectively connecting, exchanging ideas, conveying and sharing emotions – the potential to achieve the desired communication outcomes is maximized.”

This chapter, which is titled “Successful Audience Management Promotes Communication,” was the basis for Tip Series #33: 5 Tips for Attentive Audiences. As the chapter states, “Audience management doesn’t just happen – it is planned for and executed deliberately.”

Those teachers and camp directors who make it look easy took classes in group management and have years of experience. This tip sheet can be used as a guide for you as a presenter and as a handout for your participants.

5 Tips for Attentive Audiences

Tip #1 Attention is the first step in learning

Presentations are designed to provide knowledge, build skills, and promote taking positive action. In order to get the most out of a presentation, participants need to attend to the presenter, the message, and one another. Without giving undivided attention, it is nearly impossible for participants to engage with the presentation, understand the message, or take action.

Tip #2 Achieve an attentive posture

Want to get the most out of a presentation? Set yourself up for success. Sit in a location that gives an unobstructed view of the presenter and visual aids. Sit up straight with feet on the floor, and head facing the podium or stage. Have a means for taking notes, by hand for the greatest retention. Make eye contact with the presenter, be responsive and provide nonverbal feedback.

Tip #3 Minimize distractions

Full attention cannot be achieved or maintained if multi-tasking occurs. Minimize distractions by putting away electronic devices, or at least turning off all notifications, silencing the phone, closing social media channels, and ignoring text messages. Avoid side conversations that can be distracting to the presenter or other participants. If possible, alert others to not disturb you.

Tip #4 Take note of expectations

What ground rules or expectations have been conveyed? Is the presentation expected to start on time? If so, show up before it begins. Will there be discussions or participant activities? Plan to fully engage, participate, and encourage others to as well. What are the guidelines for electronic devices? Go above and beyond to contribute to an attentive atmosphere.

Tip #5 Attention = Respect

An audience that gives full attention to a presenter and a presenter who is aware and attentive to an audience exhibit respect for one another. Attention and respect promote effective, free-flowing communication and optimize learning. Conversely, when an audience is disengaged, distracted, or disruptive, respect is lost and learning is minimized. Make full attention your goal.

In closing, for communication to be effective, both communicator and audience need to give their full attention. Chapter 35 describes this as being “fully present.” Are you fully present?

“We convince by our presence.” ~ Walt Whitman, Song of the Open Road

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