How to Deal With a Distracted Audience During a Phone Presentation

Here’s a question I was asked in a recent teleseminar about dealing with a distracted audience when presenting over the phone:

Question: I’m a market researcher and do a lot of phone presentations of numbers. When I’m presenting, I often hear computer pings in the background and the sound of the audience typing. I lose my confidence quickly and feel like I have to kind of rush through what I’m saying. They’re distracted so it’s hard to keep their focus on me while I’m giving my presentation.

A distracted audience can be a real issue, whether you are presenting in person or over the phone.  

First of all, make sure you are as engaging as possible.  Speak in an energized tone that is loud enough to be heard easily.  Use inflection to vary your voice and give meaning to your words.  Involve the audience by asking questions and giving them opportunities to participate.

Second, make sure your content is valuable and relevant to the audience.  Organize it clearly so it makes sense and supports the main message you want to communicate.  Help them understand how your material is useful and applicable to their work.  

Third, sometimes you just have to accept the reality of the situation – audiences tend to be distracted when they are listening in to a phone presentation.  Oftentimes it’s not you.

I’ve had distracted audience members even in in-person presentations.  I once had someone sleeping in the front row.  I had 2 choices.  I could say, “He’s sleeping because I’m boring,” and rush through the rest of my presentation.  Or I could assume that he’s sleeping now not because I’m boring but because he didn’t get any sleep last night.  Maybe he worked the night shift or there’s a new baby at home or he took medicine that’s making him sleepy. It’s not me, it’s him. (Now if most people in the audience were asleep, I’d have to assume it’s me!)

If you’re hearing computer notification sounds and typing occasionally, just ignore it and don’t assume it’s because you’re boring.  Don’t focus on it.    

And if it becomes too distracting, mute everyone on the line or ask people to mute themselves.  I often mute the line anyway, except for questions, to block out the inevitable background noises – static on the line, honking cars, barking dogs, loud air conditioning units, etc. – that are part of the reality of phone presentations. 

For more help with phone presentations, check out Gilda's audio course, Virtual Presentations - How to Develop and Deliver an Effective Presentation Over the Phone

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