Twenty minutes later someone echoes your own suggestion and everyone stops as if they’ve heard the Divine Word and praises the speaker, leaving you totally flummoxed.
‘Why aren’t they listening to ME!’ cries your inner voice.
Here are a few tips to grab and maintain the attention of others: use in meetings, when managing up, down or sideways…
Vocal emphasis is key to speaking with enthusiasm and conviction.
Once you learn to use emphasis, your speaking will:
*look more engaging
*sound more interesting
*feel more comfortable
In order to emphasise effectively….
- use gesture in tandem with vocal emphasis
- vary vocal pitch and pause to underline important words/phrases
- maintain eye contact to the end of the sentence
Levels of information
Sometimes people go right for the detail when the listener wants the big picture or headlines. When there’s a mismatch in the level and quantity of information required, it can be a cause of communication frustration and is enough to flick the ‘off’ switch.
If you get too much detail, try phrases such as:
- ‘So, what you’re saying is…’
- ‘From what you’re saying, the main points are that…’
- ‘Right. Essentially, what I need to do is…’
If you need more information than you’re getting, use any of the following phrases:
- ‘Could you give me an example?’
- ‘Could you tell me more about……?’
- ‘What exactly would that be like…?’
‘BUT HOW DO YOU GET PEOPLE’S ATTENTION IN THE FIRST PLACE?’
I think the easiest way to answer this is to think about why we wouldn’t want to listen to someone before they even open their mouths. Here’s a list of considerations:
- You don’t trust or like that person: you’re basing your opinion/feelings on previous contact.
- They physically cower, dominate, seem aggressive or passive aggressive or don’t look ‘genuine’: how are they sitting/standing? is there a false smile, slightly tightened jaw line or narrowed eyes? Is there a ‘hard’ facial expression – that look in the eyes? Does the person inappropriately mismatch the tone of the gathering, either physically or vocally? Note, mismatching can be appropriate. For example, if you want to energise a slumping group, you wouldn’t get very far if you slumped along with them!
- And…while I’m on mismatching…the pace of movement or speech seems to bother the listener. Is it too fast and making you feel nervous? Too slow and you feel frustrated?
- Vocally, they’re difficult to listen to: from the moment they open their mouths, you can’t understand the accent, hear the speech or the vocal tone is gruff or grating in some way.
- There’s inappropriate dress e.g. the probation officer giving a presentation as her top continued to ride up over her pregnant belly. This slightly detracted from a serious message… or, and shall I be blunt here…? Yes, why not…poor hygiene. If someone has a strong personal smell, listening may be rather challenging since your sinuses are being coated with acidic aromas.
- You have external influences: these could include too much noise from elsewhere distracting you; limited time; other priorities that you need to consider such as a deadlines, debt or darlings. Or whatever – you get the picture!
- Physiological needs: lack of sleep, needing the toilet or food, being too hot or cold could override anything going on around you, no matter how attention-grabbing the speaker may be. In that case, deferring a conversation, allowing comfort breaks, breaking in food etc. will help immensely.
- From the speaker’s point of view belief and conviction in your message go a long way. No matter about your posture, eye contact or voice, it’s the belief and conviction that you’ll project before you open your mouth and that can go a long way to drawing people in.