Presence Point: This message will self-destruct in 30 seconds.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it: Grab the attention of your audience (of 1-1000) and make an emotional connection to rivet it — in 30 seconds. In that short time or even less, your audience will decide if they will trust you or dismiss you, come toward you or run away from you.

They will be asking “So what?” You must answer this question from their perspective, right off the bat. According to John Medina’s Brain Rules: “We have the ability to detect a new stimulus, the ability to turn toward it, and the ability to decide what to do based on its nature.”

Emotional connection, obtained by tapping into the limbic system of the brain, is the most effective way to get and keep attention. Get very clear on these things ahead of time: Who is your audience? Why is this information important to them? Then and only then, decide How to deliver it.

Step into the audiences point of view. What are they feeling? What do they need from you? What is your intention – to persuade, inform, inspire, enrage, entertain?

The use of a multi-sensory experience is very compelling. For example: In my Platinum Presence workshops, the first thing I do is ask the audience to stand up, close their eyes and think of a time when they nailed a presentation, interview or conversation. They immediately connect to what it is they want more of – confidence, freedom and powerful presence. Now they are paying attention to find out how to get it again!

Here are some other tried and true attention grabbers:

  • Silently make eye contact with your audience without saying a word. One of the most powerful things you can do is just stand there and look at your audience – no one expects it, and they’ll be very curious about what may happen next.
  • Ask a question. Our brains are wired to solve problems. Name the need or problem right up front, and the audience will jump in. Keep in mind that they dont necessarily want to solve your problem, however — only as it relates to them.
  • Use the word YOU: A Yale University study says “You” is the most influential word in the English language. Make sure you use it in the first 3 seconds.
  • Show a powerful visual. Approximately 65 percent of the population are primarily visual learners.
  • Use an unexpected prop. Jill Bolte Taylor’s Ted Talk is so compelling for many reasons, but particularly in the “best prop” category — when she brings out a real human brain.

What have you tried? What have you found to be the most successful? Please share in the comments below – you all have so many great ideas – no need to re-invent the wheel.

Image credit: poolie

About Cheryl Dolan

Cheryl Dolan is a specialist in Presence, Communication and Creativity. Her mission is to cultivate clients’ innate strengths to develop the powerful communication and creative skills that will enhance personal and professional performance. Her Platinum Presence® Program has been delivered in international corporations, organizations, and institutes of higher education, including Harvard University and MIT Sloan School. Contact her at [email protected] or visit

  • Megan Elizabeth Morris

    This is such a sharp article — I’m pinning this up on my whiteboard this morning!

  • UCSF: The Better Presenter

    I love the idea of “silently making eye contact.” It’s all-too-easy to steamroll through a presentation without meaningful pauses! I just started incorporating props into my workshops, and it definitely does help.