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Want a Better Presentation? Appeal to Your Attention-Deficit, Entertain-Me-Now, Wait-While-I-Post-that-on-Facebook Audience


In February 2011, I came up with at “tagline” for myself that goes like this…

In an attention-deficit, entertain-me-now, wait-while-I-post-that-on-Facebook kind of world, the typical business presentation is lame.

It has seemed to resonate with a lot of people.

Have you heard people complaining about how attention-deficit people are today?   Like in the “old day” people were better because they weren’t like they are now.  Yeah, me too.

Here’s the thing.  It’s our new normal.  We are not going back to the good-old-days… Ever.

Like it or not, people today want to be engaged, entertained, enamored.  Since our audience are made up of these people, we need to take this into account — even in business presentations.

What does that mean for your?  Try introducing these elements to hook your audience.


People love to laugh.  How can you surprise and delight them?  Learn about their world and tell some inside jokes about their world — ones that won’t offend of course, but ones that wouldn’t be funny to anyone but them.

One of my favorite formats for doing this is the light bulb joke.  How many ___fill in the blank____ does it take to screw in the light bulb.  Then use elements of the processes your audiences are familiar with to create an absurd number of people needed to screw in a light bulb.

For instance, I once wrote a light bulb joke for Florida Head Start Association leaders.  One of the big things the leaders were dealing with at the time was the use of the ARRA dollars – American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  The last number needed to screw in the light bulb was “and five people to file the ARRA paperwork.”  They howled.  You or I might not think it was funny, but it was from their world.  It was funny to them.

What’s a mundane part of your audience’s world?  That’s perfect fodder for comedy that doesn’t offend — and show them that you cared enough about your presentation that you researched their universe.

Fun and Games

Games are a way to get your audience involved and offer them the chance to feel smart.  Whether you make up a twist to a conventional board game or TV game show, a game from childhood or grown-up board games, play helps relax people and bring out their sense of competition.

Personally, I’m not a big fan of games that serve as an analogy for something else.  How is building this igloo like programming software…feels contrived to me.  I prefer games that will test knowledge, add levity, and/or illustrate a specific point better than lecture.

Maybe in future posts I’ll include examples of some of my favorite ways to use games.  If you have favorite games you use, we’d love to hear about them in the comments section!!

Add Video

Assuming you have legal permission to use a video (you would, right?), video can be a great way to add interest and entertainment to your presentation.

You don’t have to use other people’s video – you can create some yourself.  Macs and often PCs now come with video editing software.  Interview some of the audience members and put their responses on the screen.  Show scenes from the group you’re speaking too.  They’ll start looking for their face in the crowd.  Add some fun music underneath (as long you have the legal right to do so).

When you take this advice, pay attention to how the professionals do it.  Don’t stay on any one scene too long.  Tell a story with the video.  Have some action adventure elements to the video.  But don’t let the video drag on for too long… unless you’ve got the Cohen brothers writing for you, you’ll loose the crowd if you overdo it.

The New Normal

Like it or not, the attention-deficit, entertain-me-now, wait-while-I-post-that-on-Facebook kind of world is here to stay.  Lean into it.  Find ways to be more adventurous in your presentations.  You’re attention-deficit audiences will appreciate it!