In attention, body language, eye contact, PowerPoint, sparks

The easiest, most powerful way to get the audience’s attention is to look at them. Eye contact is fundamental. Even very young babies are hard-wired to pay more attention to people looking directly at them. They do this for one reason: survival. If someone is glaring at you with murderous intent, you would probably want to know about it. If someone is making bedroom eyes at you, it might be worth paying attention – even if it’s just so that you can make a quick getaway.

This is where the modern business presentation creates so many problems for itself. So often presenters lose eye contact with their audience. The reason? PowerPoint.

If a presenter puts sentences on the screen, what do you do? You read them, right? While you’re doing that, you can’t do something else: look at and listen to the presenter. If the presenter reads what’s on the screen, then that’s a bit boring. They take longer to say the words than you do to read them. If they say something else – paraphrase what’s on the screen, or add extra details, it’s just confusing – ‘Can’t you shut up while I try to read this rubbish?!’ But far, far more important is the fact that you’ve lost eye contact with them, and with it, the chance to control their attention.

People often think that PowerPoint is a wonderful support. It can be, but mostly it’s not – it’s competition.

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