Structuring Your Presentation to Best Engage Your Listeners

Are they even listening?

The next edition of Beyond English Fluency is here.

If you are new, Beyond English Fluency dives into topics and shares strategies around communication that go beyond language.

Every other Wednesday (twice per month), I share a theme related to communication that goes in depth about one theme, strategy or idea. Whether you are a non-native English speaking professional or consider yourself a native looking to excel in your communication- you’ll find a strategy that you can apply to your own situation.

Presenting is not a monologue, but a conversation.

Although, when you present it might feel like no one is listening.

Engaging our listeners will bring many benefits and an essential part of presentations.

Engagement gives us greater personal power and influence. It will lead to happier clients, better relationships, more productivity and more team success.

If you have ever felt like your audience were not paying attention or engaged during your talk or presentation, keep reading. ?

We are competing against all kinds of distractions.

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No one listens.

At least no one will be listening to every single word of your presentation and taking it all in.

It’s hard to get people’s attention. It’s even harder to get them to engage and continue to listen you.

Have you ever delivered a presentation at work to colleagues, clients or stakeholders and as soon as you finish, you are asked questions that you have just addressed in your presentation. Sigh.

There are some steps that you can take and techniques you can implement to engage people during an important presentation or talk.

When do people pay attention during talks and presentations?

Most people are focused and paying full attention at the beginning. But for how long?

Research has indicated that we pay more attention at the start of a presentation. Knowing how to start your presentation is crucial in keeping their attention.

Here are some powerful ways you can grab your audience’s attention and captivate them from the start:

Open with a surprising statement or opinion

Sharing a different way of thinking or an idea that is surprising can be a great way to get people’s attention. Think about click-bait and tabloid newspapers. Some of the most captivating speakers will use this method. Making a statement can help you make a strong case of argument. Just make sure that the opinion or statement that you choose relates to your talk.

Share an interesting fact/data

Depending on your listener, sharing some data or information that could be considered shocking or interesting can be a powerful way to open your presentation. Not everyone will care about facts and data so it’s important that if you use this opening, you have taken into your audience into consideration. Think to yourself, who cares about the data? Does it relate to the big idea that you are sharing?

Asking a question

Another way to grab the audience’s attention right away is to ask a question. It helps to pose a question that is thought-provoking or provocative.

Usually when you ask a question at the beginning of a presentation you aren’t expecting your listener to answer it. This doesn’t mean that they audience aren’t considering it. Posing a question will allow your listener to start thinking about possible answers. As you go through your talk, you will be the one answering it or addressing it.

If you don’t start with a strong opening, you might not be able to leave a strong enough impact by the end.

After the opening is likely to be the moment when your audiences attention starts to drop. The middle of part of your presentation is also probably when you will be sharing some of the most important information

These techniques will help you to create a dynamic presentation that captivates and inspires your audience so they aren’t leaving the presentation feeling more confused than when they first joined.

Keep it dynamic

Once you have put together your slide deck and have your presentation ready, consider which parts of the presentation you can change things up a little.

If you are sharing quite complex information – it is likely your audience will have some questions. Instead of saving questions for the end, you can build in a moment during the middle of the presentation to ask if they have any questions.

Another option is to take some time and consider what questions they might have for you.

If you have NO idea what kind of questions your audience might have that’s okay. Here are some ideas of what people might be thinking:

  • Why should we know more about this?
  • What does this relate to our project or our product or the stage we are in right now?
  • How have you done this?
  • What do you mean by…?
  • What does this information mean?
  • Why is it better to do one thing but not the other?


It’s the middle part of your presentation when people will start to get distracted so we want to keep bringing them back.

If you are wondering how often we should change the pace of our presentations – according to the work by psychologist Susan Weinschenk, we should build in regular changes of pace every 7 to 10 minutes.

A change of pace could be adding a mini Q&A section, sharing a short clip or sharing a story.

After *every 10 minutes of listening, we tend to zone out so it’s important to keep that in mind when you are putting your presentation together.

*This is audience and context dependent and only a guideline.

Important takeaways:

Capture your listener’s attention right away, when their interest and curiosity is higher.

Consider your audience and the reason for the presentation

Keep your points, statements, questions and stories relevant.

If you have difficult concepts or ideas to share, how can you share them in an interesting or different way?

Save some time in the middle of the presentation, and not just the end for questions.

People will be listening at the start, get distracted in the middle and pay more attention at the end. How can you use this to your advantage when you are sharing ideas and information?

What are your thoughts on this? How do you engage people in your talks and presentations? Please share your experience below.

Feel free to reach out as well and send me a DM if you have any questions.


If you would like more support with communicating your ideas and you’d like to build your confidence in speaking as a non-native English speaker, you’ll love The Fluent Club Community.

It’s opening to those on the waiting list ONLY at the end of this month. It won’t be opening up again in 2022.

Click here to read more about it and get your name on the list and be part of our incredible community of like-minded professionals.

Want more resources and guidance on becoming an engaging speaker and have a presentation coming up?

Check out the following episodes:

How to engage people in your presentations

How to Summarise Information and End Your Presentation

Explaining Your Process with Clarity

7 must do's for confident English communication

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