How to Maintain a Sales Prospect’s Attention during Presentations

By Julie M. Hansen

Getting your prospect’s attention is easy compared to keeping her attention. If you don’t work to maintain your prospect’s attention and keep it from lapsing throughout the body of your presentation, you’re at risk of having your case thrown out and being charged with the crime of committing a boring presentation.

Keeping your prospect engaged while you build a persuasive case for why she should buy your product or service and why she should buy it now is critical to the success of your presentation.

So here’s a math question for you: If your prospect’s attention falls to its lowest point after ten minutes on a topic, which research indicates, how do you keep them engaged during the 45 to 90 minutes stretch that makes up the body of your presentation? The answer is you must build in places to renew her attention — ideally, every seven to ten minutes. Some thoughtful advance planning can counteract those natural spots in your presentation where attention starts to wane.

Here are some proven ways to grab attention that can be built into your presentation’s body:

  • Change the subject. The easiest and most natural point to reengage your prospect is when you’re changing topics — moving from one agenda item to the next. In a perfect world all topics take seven to ten minutes to cover, but that’s not always the case, so you need to work in some other places and ways to regain your prospect’s attention.

  • Introduce a prop. If you’ve been talking about one subject for nearly ten minutes and are only halfway through, break it up with something new that relates to what you’re discussing. To do so, tell a quick anecdote or story, show a video clip, or write on the flipchart or whiteboard. New stimulus creates renewed interest.

  • Interact with your audience. One of the quickest ways to get your prospect’s attention is to ask for it. Here are a few ideas on getting your prospect involved:

    • Check in. Asking if anyone has any questions on what you’ve just covered is an effective way to engage your prospect as well as find out if your message is resonating or if you need to clarify a point.

    • Use names. Nothing gets people’s attention like hearing their own name. If your audience is reluctant to jump in after you’ve posed a question, choose an individual in your audience to direct your question to and ask her by name. Doing so usually gets the ball rolling.

    • Take a poll. If your topic lends itself to it, you can do a quick poll or survey to get a consensus before you jump back into the topic or move to the next. Asking your audience to make a choice gets your prospect actively involved and interested in your presentation’s next section.

Interacting with your audience can eat up a lot of time, so be sure and watch the clock. Intersperse audience interaction with other less time-consuming techniques to help you stay on track.