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If you are ever called upon to present at or host an event or make an announcement – do you find it hard to get an audience to pay attention? The audience just keeps talking!
If you organise an event – do you get frustrated that people are not listening to important information OR “instructions”?
Some times you have to be “dramatic” to get attention!
It’s a common challenge – and often the presenters or hosts just read their list or scripts – knowing that their information is being ignored.
Getting attention is a challenge – and I’ll share some tips you can use. I learned these tips from recently co-hosting a fundraiser in Sydney – and working with a wonderful “character co-host”.
We added a bit of drama and dramatic devices to the event. The co-hosting dynamic with a colourful character worked far better than other gigs where I hosted solo!
The event was an ambitious evening with lots of fun components, lots of noise and lots of “instructions/guidance” about how things needed to worked.
The large audience was spread across a large space and seated at tables. It was designed to be a FUN event – and yet needed “control” to keep things moving and on time.
That’s where the dramatic character + the “straight” host combination came in handy to “wrangle” the crowd!
The “character” was a loud and enthusiastic and colourful Texas cow girl – played by Heather – a talented improv actress friend of mine. She is a serious actress too – and the improv skills were invaluable at this “demanding” event!
Now the real Heather is a quiet and polite and respectful woman – too polite to interrupt people – but by playing the character she could be loud and get attention. I know as a host that you can feel awkward trying to get people to pay attention.
1. Stand out from the rest of the event noise through sound. Heather’s character could be loud and draw attention – without being rude or obnoxious. You can even have a noise or sound that let’s the audience know it’s time to pay attention. – e.g. a loud yeeee-haa!
Once Heather commanded attention – she “threw” to the straight man (me) to give the details.
Also, instead of just me reading – we’d often turn it into a conversation where I’d explain event information to Heather and in turn pass on information to the audience.
Now I know some of you make be thinking your event is too dignified for a yee-haa-ing cow girl!
It doesn’t have to be a loud cow girl! It could be a loud socialite or someone related to your industry.
Heather also plays an over the top American fitness instructor. Also, by having a “straight” co-host – you can still have the formality and decorum.
Fun and loud “entrance” music can help too – to draw the audience’s attention to the stage.
2. Stand out visually Every time Heather took to the stage/podium she commanded attention visually with her unusual costume.
Colour and movement attract the eye.
Also, the audience knew every time she would hit the stage – their was the promise of something entertaining rather than just information.
3. Don’t be afraid to repeat information.
By having the co-hosting dynamic with one being a colourful character – you can repeat important information through that “theatrical device I mentioned” – one co-host explains to the other – and in turn the audience hears the information again.
4. Allow for some gaps so your audience can chat
At events, people like to chat. Allow time for the audience to chat DURING THE EVENT.
If you don’t – your audience will talk over your speakers and hosts.
I often encourage event organisers to factor in time to chat – rather than an endless barrage of people on stage talking.
It’s good to have some subtle instrumental music – so there’s a “vibe” going – without other words (even someone singing) competing with chat!
I even encourage a comment at the start along the lines of: “We know you love to chat with people at your table – and there’ll be time for that. We just ask that when it’s time for an important announcement that we all pay attention.”
5. Try to deliver announcements in “short bursts” and ask your audience to pay attention for 2 minutes or 5 minutes (whatever you expect the duration to be)
6. Get the audience to work FOR you
Another “old” technique is to get people close to people making a disrupting noise to help you “quieten” the culprits.
For example: “NEAR THE START OF THE EVENING: I deputise you all to help bring peace and order – to the evening!
BEFORE AND IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT: There’s a table down there still making noise. Can the deputies at table next to them kindly ask them to hush up – just for a few minutes.
It’s hard to get attention. You have to work hard. Sometime you have to take DRAMATIC ACTION!
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