Do People Tune Out When You Talk?

Do People Tune Out When You Talk?

Has this ever happened to you?

“In meetings I can see eyes glazing over and sometimes the client gets up and takes a phone call! How can I keep people from tuning out when I talk?”

This question came up in a recent workshop on making meetings more engaging. And it’s not the first time I’ve heard it.

Putting people to sleep

It made me think about my first presentation twelve years ago. A nursing home hired me to share stress management strategies with their administrative staff. As a yoga and fitness instructor I had a lot of insights and strategies to share. As a former research professional, my presentation also included lots of data and statistics.

As I spoke, I could see people dozing, their eyes fluttering as they shifted in their seats to stay awake. Not knowing what to do, and feeling my heart race as a result, I talked louder. That woke them up temporarily but didn’t have a lasting effect.

The program finished and I wasn’t sure what to think. I had prepared for a really long time!

Thanks to the woman who hired me, I didn’t have to fret for long. During our debrief she said, “Well, Stacey, we could tell you’re new.”

I wanted to crawl into a cave and never speak again. When I shared the experience with my husband he said, “Stacey, you are new.”

I really hate it when he’s right. But he was. So began my interest in learning more about how to not only be a confident speaker, but an engaging one.

How to Stop Putting People to Sleep

If you want to make your next meeting or presentation more engaging for your audience, (if it’s not engaging, what’s the point?) consider the following strategies to get started.

Use your voice to convey energy and enthusiasm

When nervous or disinterested the sound of our voice can become monotone. And no one likes listening to a monotone voice. Tap into the emotion behind what you’re saying and let that shine. Audiences will pick up on it and engage.

Tell stories

Most presentations are full of data, which is important and interesting. But as I recently heard at a 3 day story crafting camp, held by motivational speaker Kelly Swanson, “Stories do what your data can’t.” And that is engage people. So by all means share your data. Then figure out how to wrap it in a story about your clients, your company, or an every day situation people can relate to.

Stand up and move around

I talk to people all the time who sit around a conference table as speaker after speaker shares their thoughts and ideas. “I hate sitting,” they tell me. “Stand up and move around,” I say back. At first, they’re hesitant and skeptical. Then they try it. The energy in the room changes, they feel more authoritative and people look up to see what’s going on. Try it and let me know what happens.

The Bottom Line

No matter your topic or industry, your information is important and helpful. If you don’t see it that way, why bother sharing it at all?

Take time to think about how to engage people in meaningful ways. And remember, it must feel natural to you. The three ideas above will get you started on a path to fewer people tuning out and more people tuning in when you talk.

Your voice matters. Keep shining.

Your Turn to Talk to Me

How do you keep people from tuning out when you talk? Leave a comment below and join the conversation.

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About the blog

Humor, stories, and insights, delivered 2x per month, to perform without the pressure.

Topics include mental health, work, human connection, creativity and more.


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