Why is it that your audience seems like their eyes are glazing over? It's a horrible feeling but you think you might have completely lost your audience. And within seconds we begin to question ourselves?
- Am I boring?
- Am I not speaking at a level they can understand?
- Have I lost touch with my audience?
And while the answer to any one of these questions might be yes, I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you aren't boring, you are speaking their language, and you haven't lost touch with your audience. But what you may have done is overloaded their brain!
Every person in our audience has a cognitive load. There is only so much that the "working memory" can handle. Think of it this way, your audience has limited mental resources and without a doubt you are not the only influence on what's going on in their head at the given moment. They walked through the door with lives, with expectation and responsibilities. Without you saying a word they are thinking about something or someone. Their brain is already at work.
Then you start talking.
In that moment, and the moments going forward, your audience begins to multi-task. They will continue to "process" what you are saying while constantly asking themselves:
- Does this apply to me?
- Is what he's saying important?
- Is this something I need to remember?
- How does this fit into what she's already said?
Every time you move on to a new section, new idea, or a new slide, they re-ask these questions. And just like "multi-tasking" we tend to only be able to do one thing at a time. For that split second, you've lost them. Stack a few "multi-tasking moments" together and your audience is slowly falling behind.
So, how do you keep them with you?
1. Limit the text on your slides.
You advance to your next slide and it includes 3 bullets, each consisting of a short sentence. And for that moment, your audience's working memory goes into overdrive. They begin to process everything they see...and guess what, they're not listening. They're reading.
Make it worse by not saying it exactly as it's written on screen and your audience is left guessing.
"Wait, what he's saying doesn't match what I'm reading!" And for that moment, your audience tunes out. They gravitate to the written word.