If two thirds or more of your audience are fully engaged with their cell phones, tablets or laptops during your presentation, chances are you’re not connecting the way you expected to do. Other clues include an excessive amount of yawning, coughing, and, nose blowing not attributable to a sudden flu epidemic along with widespread slumping and fidgeting in the seats.

What can you do if you find yourself with an audience that is not paying attention to you and your message?

Above all else, I do not recommend that you ignore their reaction, no matter how painful. It’s not necessary to get on your knees and grovel in apology. It’s also not a good idea to take off your clothes, whistle loudly, or stomp your feet. You do need to change course and move away from the tone and direction you planned or risk things turning even more sour.

One tactic is to have ready in advance a set of purposely stimulating questions that can easily provoke interaction with the audience members. If things are going south, you don’t want to be first thinking of these exercises as you desperately try to save the day. Here are some examples which can re-engage your audience:

  • What have you done when you’ve been faced with this kind of situation? What worked best and why?
  • Would you share what you tried that didn’t work well, and why you thought that happened?
  • When do you think is the best time to change the direction of what your group is doing?
  • How do you introduce a new concept like this at your office?

Another way to try and salvage a presentation is to jump ahead to the part of your message you know that has previously worked well.

Remember, most audiences want the speaker to succeed. By recognizing you’re off track and then getting yourself back on, everyone wins.

*Excerpted from Public Speaking for the Genius by Anne B. Freedman, coming soon. Save 25% with your pre-publication order now! Just click here.

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