Business development · 19 February 2019

7 distractions you need to eliminate from your presentations

How easy it is for someone in your audience to switch off and grab their phone?
Distractions are everywhere billboards, advertisements, pop-up ads, posters and, of course, that gadget that over 60% of the world’s population owns. We live in an attention-hungry world, yet we only have so much attention to share, writes Hanieh Vidmar.

When you’re on the stage, it’s no different. From before you get on the stage to a short while after, you’re relying on the attention of every single person in your audience. You need their attention to make an impact and their attention should be on you but, more importantly, on your presentation and its content.

The average attention span has now fallen due to the rise of mobile phones, according to research. How easy it is for someone in your audience to switch off on you and grab their phone, start scrolling and texting? Too easy.

In this article, Ill be sharing seven of the most common distractions in presentations and how, as speakers, we need to avoid them. By knowing what they are, we can eliminate them from our presentations to ensure we have as much attention on us as possible so we can make the impact we want.

  1. What you wear is a huge part of your presentation

Two of the first things we think when we have a presentation coming up is what should I talk about and what should I wear . You need to look smart yet ‘simple? so avoid wearing loud clothes or loud jewellery. it’s irritating when a speaker has on over 30 bangles that jangle all the way through.

The audience need to hear the speaker clearly and any additional noises are an unwelcome distraction. Avoid bright stripes, heavy patterns, silly slogans or bright colours. Being yourself on stage is very important but you can be yourself minus unnecessary distractions.

  1. Communicating with arms and hands are natural for humans

According to former FBI agent and non-verbal communications expert Joe Navarro, gestures are a good thing. He says: research tells us liars tend to gesture less, touch less and move their arms and legs less than honest people.

But too much gesturing is a major distraction. Ask someone next to you to stand up and talk and to constantly use their hands and arms for … every … single … word. it’s quite irritating and, frankly, a major distraction. Your audience will focus more on your gestures than on what you’re saying. If you are someone who uses gesturing a lot try to control it.

  1. Visual aids are useful in presentations so where possible use a slide deck

However, what you put on the slides and how you use them is very important. The most effective ways to use slides are minimal colours, minimal words and content. If you crowd your slides with chunks of text and images and messy layout your audience won’t read them. And it’s worse if you read the text to them.

Have one or two words or one sentence on a slide and face and talk to and engage with your audience. This way is far more effective in delivering your message, making an impact and of course, maintaining attention.

  1. There are some distractions that we can’t control…and tech failure is one of them

It can happen at any time to anyone so there is no need to feel uncomfortable about them it’s how you deal with it that’s important. If something stops working, ask for help openly and immediately. Put a plan B in place just in case something does go wrong and know your presentation well enough so if you don’t have access to your slide deck, the show can still go on.

Spending time fixing an issue whilst the audience are sitting there (im)patiently is an unnecessary distraction. Offer a break or ask for help but keep things moving.

  1. Avoid using jargon, complex descriptions and acronyms

Keep your presentation simple and easy to understand. This doesnt mean you’re patronising your audience; it means you’re delivering your message in a clear, concise and straight-to-the-point manner. Your audience will (hopefully) stop you and ask you to clarify further if you use jargon and complex descriptions.

However, this is an interruption and the time is best spent delivering valuable information. Deliver a clear, well-structured presentation as this allows your presentation to flow smoother and more effectively.

  1. Make sure your handouts are received

If you have a handout that supports your presentation, hand them out before your presentation begins, during a break or as people leave. If you absolutely must hand them out as you speak, then put aside 2-3 minutes for this.



Hanieh Vidmar is a speaker, trainer and former TV Presenter. She's delivered pitches on behalf of other companies, won contracts and raised over ?1m in funds. Her goal is to help as many people overcome their fears of public speaking so they can achieve bigger and better goals with confidence.

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