Grabbing the attention of your audience is key to getting your message across. If you fail to do this immediately, you won't have the engagement of your audience. Your audience will move onto some other content without even giving your blog post or article or video a chance.
Let me tell you of a story of how this went incredibly wrong for someone, who lost her audience as well as her credibility because she failed to grab her audience's attention.
A few months back, I had this fantastic opportunity to travel to a big city and attend a large conference for entrepreneurs. There were a few thousand attendees, and we all met in a large auditorium at a big city venue.
The conference was a daylong event with different, world-class speakers stepping up every hour. I was excited along with everyone else to hear all the amazing speakers that had been lined up to share with us their entrepreneurial secrets to success and strategies.
I was impressed with how the event facilitators kept the energy up throughout the day. They played great music, they were dancing, and they gave such great introductions for all the speakers. I felt fully engaged with what was going on.
Throughout the day, I could all feel the excitement build. Each speaker built upon the energy of the last, creating more and more enthusiasm. The MCs kept the crowd moving. The building was electric. Finally, near the end of the day, I knew the keynote speaker was coming up soon and I was so excited to hear her! She was the primary reason I bought tickets to the event! I was pumped to see her live and in person!
There is nothing like being in a place with like-minded people. It makes you feel like you are floating on air and nothing is impossible! I was feeding off the energy from not only the facilitators but also the other entrepreneurs attending the conference. It felt like a magical time of learning and growth.
Finally, the moment was here! The last speaker left the stage, and it was empty. I knew the keynote would be on any second.
I waited for the MCs to come back and introduce her.
After all the amazing introductions all day, how could they top it? What song would they bring her out to? What would the lights do? Everyone in the audience was silent, waiting.
And then two people walked on stage. This was it. I was so ready!
They started taking turns reading a bio of the final speaker and strangely, disagreeing with much of what it said.
And then I realized, this was the final speaker!
I was so confused.
What was going on?
THIS was that person I was looking forward to most?
All day long, we had this grand event, great introductions, great music, great energy, great speakers, all this excitement.
And then when the keynote speaker went on stage, all that energy just seemed to evaporate, and we were all just left in confusion. Was this a joke? I had never seen this person speak before, so I wasn't sure if she was trying to do something clever or innovative in her approach, but it did not work.
She began to ramble about something. I’m not even sure what.
I heard whispers in the audience, what was going on? What was she talking about? This was the famous ---?
But I realized what had happened.
In her possible attempt to do something different she failed to do anything at all.
She failed to grab her audience’s attention from the start and completely lost their engagement
And what did this cost her?
For me, it was confusion and the rapid depletion of all the energy that had been built throughout the day.
For the speaker, it cost her the ability grab onto the energy that had already been created and in the room. Instead, it was all sucked away.
She lost engagement and interest in her presentation. People cut off and were no longer paying attention because they were so baffled as to what was happening.
Most importantly, she lost credibility. Her inability to draw in her audience, reduced her impact, her potential reach as a thought leader.
This unfortunate failure in public speaking shines a light on what many people end up doing when presenting new information to their audiences--they just dive right in without any preparation or making sure that they have the attention of their audiences… Hooking them in.
Before people are going to listen to you, you have to make sure they are even looking at you!
(Because, your message, isn't all about you, it's all about your audience!)
To successfully ensure that your audience is with you, you have to give your audience a roadmap of where you’re going.
Say that you are giving a training session to some employees. You don't just jump in and start teaching. You introduce yourself and the topic you'll be discussing. If your audience knows why they are taking the training, then there's a better chance that they'll engage with your material (eLearningIndustry.com 2017).
This reminds me of how kindergarten teachers can get the attention of their students. They start to clap their hands and then the students know they should clap their hands and pay attention to what the teacher has to say.
So how do you play the hand clapping game with your audience?
On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest. This is the secret to the power of your title, and why it so highly determines the effectiveness of the entire piece. (CopyBlogger, 2017)
We can take a page from educational psychologist Robert M. Gagné. His book, The Conditions of Learning, laid out the 9 Events of Instruction. These nine events help people who are delivering information to better engage with their audiences. So naturally, you can guess what the first event is--grab your audience's attention.
It's crucial to get that attention from the start because otherwise, they won't make it through your video--or even watch it. They won't read your excellent blog post if there isn't a great title or headline pulling your audience in. Your readers will scroll down to something else.
Remember that you want to gain their attention also as a way to prepare them for what information they will be receiving. So a snappy intro can both engage and inform your audience.
Here are a few ways that you can grab your audience’s attention from the start.
4 Ways to Gain Your Audience's Attention
Create an Engaging Title
Create a title that grabs's the audience's attention. Whether it's a social media post, a blog or video make the first words that your audience READS catchy; something that they will WANT to read. What's in it for them? Let them know right away!
So that great headline can’t be: I’m so excited that I’m going to be talking to you about this today! That is all about you, and not about your audience. Your audience may not even know you, but even if they do, stating your excitement isn’t the way to engage and hook your audience in.
Go back to, WIIFM; what's in it for me [your audience]?
Be Bold in Your Writing
Kick off your content with a bold paragraph stating where you are taking your audience and what they can expect from your content. Let them know the path to success and give them confidence you will help them achieve it.
Grab Them With a Graphic
Include an eye-catching graphic that emphasizes your headline with words and relevant imagery. Try to capture the emotions they may be feeling.
Internet marketer Jeff Bullas says that you can get 94 percent more traffic with articles and blog posts that have images than without.
If you're creating any digital content, consider using eye-catching images and video to enhance your written content and make it more engaging. Adding infographics to your written piece is another way to get your audience's attention all while giving them new information and using a variety of senses, which is very important for learning retention!
Activate Your Audience with a Video
Four times as many consumers would prefer to watch a video about a product than to read about it (Forbes, 2017). Set your audience up with a video to active their engagement and get them excited about your content.
Provide additional resources for your videos, such as visual summaries (back to the graphics) or downloadable worksheets and summary documents.
The use of video is rising each year. HubPost states that 78 percent of people are watching videos every week, with 55 percent watching videos every day.
Think of every content piece you create; whether is free or people are paying for it; as an ad… nobody purchases products or services from a crappy ad. We buy from those that engage and entice our emotions. How can you do this with your content?
And remember: you're not giving this information just because. There's plenty of content out there online, and you don't want to become part of the background noise or have the "wahh wahhh wahhh" effect. You want to be a signal that your audience can recognize and respond to. You want to give vital information that can impact and empower the lives of those who are actively learning from you.