A situation many speakers find frustrating is looking out into the audience and seeing faces glued to cell phones. You’ve taken the time to prepare this talk, and their attention is on a device instead of you.
Like it or not, mobile phones are everywhere now and you can pretty much expect at least one person to look on their phone while you’re presenting.
First – what you DON’T want to do is demand that they put their phones away while you speak. This rarely works, and audience members may purposely rebel by making sure they now use their phones.
What’s a speaker to do?!
Here are my top 7 tips for handling this challenge:
1. You want to assess the situation. Is this one person on a phone or 10 people? One person is not a problem. A noticeable amount of people should give you pause.
2. Realize that them being on their phones is not automatically a bad thing. They could be sharing an awesome gem that you gave with their social media followers. This is a GREAT thing for you! The audience is helping to expand your reach and potentially introducing you to a new audience.
3. This next tip is connected to #2. Give them something they can’t resist sharing. A growing number of speakers now have “Tweetable” slides, which just means a slide that is worthy of sharing to Twitter or other social media networks. You may want to go even further and create a special hashtag for your presentation, so people can find all social media content related to it on these sites. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!
4. Audiences are looking to be involved in your presentations these days, and not just talked to. Give them an interactive experience by letting them use their phones for online polls, quizzes, and multiple choice questions. I love using Mentimeter to engage an audience.
5. You could ask the event host to lay down a few “ground rules” if phones (and anything else) really are a concern for you. I’d recommend that such a request come from the host instead of you, so you can focus on opening up your speech with a BANG that will capture their attention.
6. You could use a tactic some teachers use. When you see someone on their phone, you can slowly walk in their direction while talking. Don’t look directly at them, but in their general section. Stand near them while you continue talking. This will typically make someone self-conscious enough to put their phone away.
7. Change your approach. If you do notice more and more audience members zoning out from you and paying attention to their phones, you have to do something different. You can’t continue going in the same direction, lest you risk completely losing them. Shake it up a little by telling that story you were going to save for later, have them do an exercise, ask if they have questions (or ask them one!), or call a quick break.
DON’T beat yourself up if you see a phone rear it’s head. Someone could be on their phone because they’re checking on a sick child, waiting to hear back about a business deal, asking the mechanic if their car will be ready today etc. It’s not always about you. I do understand it’s frustrating though. It’s always helpful to remember to focus on the people who are paying attention, and that will energize you to do a good job!
I’m discussing a VARIETY of situations that can throw a speaker off and how to handle them at my “The Confident, Clear, and Engaging Speaker” workshop happening October 16. This is for Christian female entrepreneurs who are aspiring or new speakers. We’re going to cover 3 major public speaking areas I see you struggling with that’s impacting how you present yourself, potential speaking opportunities, and your delivery.
I’m only accepting 15 women, and have spots still available. Get details and register here.
As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
- 1 Peter 4:10-11
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