While I was thrilled to be invited to do a workshop at the Women’s Business Conference in San Antonio last week, I was not thrilled to be one of the last speakers on the final day.

A woman standing next to some signs at an event.

Why? Attention span tends to shrink as the day and conference go on and on. Knowing my late afternoon slot, I’d totally revamped my presentation on leadership speaking and story-telling, making it even more interactive than I normally did.  Gratefully, despite the hour, everyone stayed until the end except for a few attendees who had announced at the start they had to leave to catch a flight.

My purpose was to help those attending to dig inside and find useful stories and experiences they could share that would help establish themselves as authorities when speaking to key audiences.  Most of those present were members of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO).  I was also there to invite people to sign up for a new coaching program for the first time.  To that end, I had taken an expo table at the conference, also for the first time, and found the experience surprisingly rewarding. (See the photo attached!)

Here are some ideas you can try out, too, to help maintain your audience’s eager interest:

  • Turn a word into an acronym – where each letter stands for something meaningful.  I used the words EXPERT and STORY, and created a handout for each that the audience members could fill out as we went along.  (Send an email to [email protected] and I’ll gladly send you the handout, also.)A group of people raising their hands in the air.
  • Build in opportunities for your attendees to become part of the “show.†I asked for volunteers to share their responses to many of the questions posed in the handouts. Their comments were thoughtful, funny and helpful to the others as well.
  • Keep your watch or cell phone in plain sight (with the volume turned off!) so you can be aware of your pace and how much time you have left. You don’t want to race at the end or run over.
  • Rehearse both your speech and your “ask†if it’s a part of your presentation so it seems natural and not practiced. I was advised to remember that what I was offering had value and would really help people, and not to feel “icky†about trying to “sell†something at the end. This approach applies to fundraising for a charity or cause as well, of course.

Wishing you much success at your next presentation!