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Generations in Your Audience


By Kelly Vandever

I was talking to a colleague recently about having different generations in our training sessions.

“You know these young people today.” She said, “They have such short attention spans.”

To which I replied, “Young people. Heck. I HAVE a short attention span! If I notice a YouTube video goes a 6 whole minutes, I sigh and think, ‘Gosh, do I really want to invest 6 whole minutes of my time watching this video? Ugh?!’”

I went on to tell her about Mary from our church. She’s the one who arranges for elders to serve communion. She’s 87 and she’s texting me with questions and replying with emojis!

We may think that it’s a “young people” thing, but it ain’t just young folks that are looking at their phones every time there’s a lull in the conversation!

So if there are all ages of people in our audiences, how does that impact the way we deliver a presentation?  Here are 3 quick tips to consider…

Update Your Material

If you’re making references to a television show that a 20-year-old has never heard of, it’s time to update your material.

Maybe that series from your teen years perfectly illustrates the point you’re trying to make. But if you have to stop and explain the premise of the show and why it makes your point, you’re probably going to bore us older folks and the younger audience members still won’t really get it.

Look for a more current reference to make your point.

Make Your Presentation Interactive

Just because us old folks grew up with someone talking at us, it doesn’t mean we ever liked it. Everyone wants to be engaged and involved. Look for ways to have your audience interact with your ideas and let them bring forth ideas and solutions themselves.

Interaction leads to a better experience for the audience and even though they’re doing more of the talking, they’ll think you’re brilliant the brilliant one!

Stop Telling People to Turn Off Their Phones

Instead of being bothered that people have their phones out, use the phones to liven up the presentation. Here’s how a couple ideas…

Poll the Audience

Consider using a PowerPoint plug-in to poll your audience, ask their opinion, and display the results. Two examples are Poll Everywhere and Mentimeter. The tools require an internet connection and may be a little clunky to use. But you can also benefit by collecting valuable feedback from your audience and give them a chance to see how they compare to their contemporaries.

Provide Real-time Access to References

Sharing great information with your audience? Make it easy for them to access it by providing a location either on your website, a sharing environment such as Dropbox or Evernote, or a QR code that directs them to the location. Give them access to the references right there while you’re sitting in the room. Imagine how grateful they’ll be that you’ve made it so easy, they can access your content through their phone!

It’s not a young or old thing.

We all want to be engaged, entertained and valued. Look for ways to meet your audience’s needs, regardless of their age!


Kelly Vandever is a leadership and communications expert who helps leaders and organizations thrive in today’s attention-deficit, entertain-me-now, wait-while-I-post-that-on-Facebook world. Learn how opening up and speaking practically can bring you better business results. Connect Kelly by phone at 770-597-1108, email her at Kelly.Vandever @ SpeakingPractically.com or tweet her @KellyVandever.