11 Presentation Tips to Capture and Keep Their Attention


Barbara Bucklin, PhD and Manny Rodriguez, M.S.

bSci21 Contributing Writers

This is the third article in our Presentation Skills series. As we mentioned in the previous articles, this series is intended to help Behavior Analysts increase and grow our public presence to continue making a positive impact on the world.

The first article gave you tips on how to prepare for your presentation. If you missed it, you can check it out here.  The second article discussed tips for designing presentation content to surprise and inspire your audience, which you can find here.

This third article will help you deliver your presentation in a way that captures your audience and keeps it engaged from start to finish. You can use the series of checklists to prepare, design, and deliver a polished presentation; it’s compiled from Behavior Analysts to the Front! A 15-Step Tutorial on Public Speaking (Friman, 2014); 20 Public Speaking Tips of the Best TED Talks (Haden, 2014); and Tips from TED: 10 Commandments of Public Speaking (2013).

As we did in Parts 1 and 2, we start with the checklist and then define each item in more detail. We also provide a few TED Talk examples to emphasize the tips and give you something to model that will help you deliver an engaging presentation.


Capture their Attention

According to Friman, what happens early in your presentation can determine the outcome. To capture attention, start with a punch line, a surprising fact, or a story to ‘hook’ your audience.

Make the Journey to the Front of the Room

The journey from the back to the front of the room can be an engaging part of your presentation. Friman explains, “Speakers should not just enter the room, they should make an entrance with purpose, poise, and dignity.”

  • Make sure all eyes are on you as the speaker when you’re ready to begin. Apply techniques to capture their attention; turn to face the room and loudly say something such as, “May I have your attention, please” or “Hello everyone!”
  • Think of a presidential state of the union address where the President says hello to folks around the room; model that approach during your next presentation.

Show Up and Show the Real You

  • Be present in the moment and available to your audience and your material. Your audience came to hear you speak about your topic and they want to see the real you (Friman).
  • If it’s difficult for you, invent ways to bring yourself into the moment. For example, find a friend or friendly face in the room and talk to him or her.
  • Friman suggests, “Do anything to move consciousness away from the debilitating self-evaluations that compromise performance and toward the material to be delivered and the recipients.”

Take Control of the Introduction

Friman suggests:

  • In most cases, someone else introduces the speaker. If you’re the speaker, control the introduction as much as you can without being rude.
  • Eliminating formal introductions will benefit most presentations, for several reasons:
  • The audience is there to hear from, not about, the speaker.
  • The material in the introduction is usually available elsewhere.
  • A formal introduction may be distracting and put you in an awkward position if it contains inaccurate information.
  • The introduction sets the tone for the presentation, which is a problem when it’s delivered poorly.
  • A formal introduction takes too much time away from your presentation.

Friman’s advice is to take charge of the introduction and make it work for your presentation. The best option is to introduce yourself. If someone else must introduce you, ask for it to be short and concise. If the intro is lengthy, say thank you and move into your presentation.

Stand Up Straight and Smile

Your nonverbal behavior during your presentation can be more important than your verbal behavior.

  • Make your posture work for you. Slouching versus standing up straight makes a big difference. “Additionally, an erect posture seems to suggest confidence and strength – ideal qualities for a speaker” (Friman).
  • Smiling has stimulus functions, as Friman points out, it:
  • Reduces the experience and biological markers of stress; stress is a correlate of fear.
  • Releases pleasure hormones such as endorphins and serotonin that exert a reductive influence on fear of public speaking.
  • Makes the speaker appear more physically attractive and likable, which recruits more helping behavior from others, generates more trust, and increases audience cooperation.

Answer Questions as You Go and Always Repeat the Questions

According to Haden:

  • If a question pops up in the middle of your presentation, that’s awesome because someone is listening! Seize the opportunity.
  • If you were planning to address the question later in your presentation, skip ahead. If you’ve practiced skipping around, and are fluent with your content, it won’t throw you off.
  • The best presentations feel like conversations, even if they’re one-sided. Take every opportunity to foster interaction with your audience.
  • Never do anything to disengage your audience, which can happen if you ignore or delay answering a question.
  • Unless microphones are available, it’s often difficult for everyone in the audience hear questions from other audience members. Always repeat the question and then answer it. It’s not only courteous, it also provides you with a little more time to think of an engaging way to answer.
  • Watch this TED Talk Example: David Blaine – “How I Held my Breath for 17 Minutes”

Always Repeat Yourself

  • Your audience typically hears about half of what you say; create a structure that allows you to repeat and emphasize key points.
  • First explain a point, then give examples to illustrate how it can be applied. At the end, provide action steps based on that point. Because no one can remember everything you say, what you repeat has a much greater chance of being remembered – and acted upon. So repeat away! (Haden).
  • Watch this TED Talk Example: Richard St. John – “Secrets of Success in 8 Words”

Don’t Read your Talk or Slides

If you use slides, don’t let them use you.

  • Slides are only a supplement and have three functions, which are to:
  • Provide sequenced cues for you, which set the occasion for delivering your talk.
  • Give the audience some supplementary material to look at as your speak.
  • Supply data-based evidence to support your claims.
  • Friman points out that, you, the speaker, are the show, not the slides. “Do not read your slides…use lots of pictures with very few words.”
  • Your audience should be able to almost instantly scan your slides; if they have to actually read, you might lose them. And you’ll definitely lose them if you read to them. Your slides should accentuate or supplement your points, they should never be the points.

According to the TED commandments:

  • Notes are fine if you need to refer to them now and then.
  • As a last resort, if the choice is between reading or rambling, then read!

Leave Your Ego at Home

  • This one is simple. According to the TED commandments, don’t flaunt your ego and don’t boast. It’s the surest way to turn off your audience.

Use Your Voice as an Instrument

Listen to TED Talk examples and model how the speakers use their voices.

  • You can manipulate volume, tempo, and tone to draw attention or convey a message.
  • Use the dramatic “pause for effect.” Friman describes it as follows, “stopping cold and saying nothing for a moment will typically draw every eye to the speaker.” He says if you use this tactic, “it is important to reward the attention with something funny, meaningful, or satisfying.”

End your Talk on Time or Early

According to both Friman and the TED commandments:

  • Be organized enough to fill your time and respectful enough to end on time. If you go long, it steals time from the audience and the speakers who follow you.
  • If you happen to end early, don’t worry. An audience is rarely upset because a speaker ends a talk early.
  • When you practice, time your presentation and hone it until you’re able to deliver under your allotted time slot. As a guideline, if you have 30 minutes, take 25; if you have 60 minutes, take 50.

Look for the next and final checklist, which will provide skills to help you create clear and concise slides to supplement and enhance your presentation, and be sure to subscribe to bSci21 via email to receive the latest articles directly to your inbox!


10 Tips on How to Make Slides that Communicate your Idea, from TED’s In-House Expert. Posted by: TED Staff July 15, 2014 at 3:57 pm EDT. Retrieved from: http://blog.ted.com/10-tips-for-better-slide-decks/

Friman, P.F. (2014). Behavior Analysts to the Front! A 15-Step Tutorial on Public Speaking. The Behavior Analyst, 37, 109-118.

Haden, F. (2014). 20 Public Speaking Tips of the Best TED Talks. Published June 26, 2014. Retrieved on July 8, 2015. Retrieved from: http://www.inc.com/ss/jeff-haden/20-public-speaking-tips-best-ted-talks

Rodriguez, M. (2016). Bring ABA to the World Through Public Speaking. Retrieved from: http://www.bsci21.org/how-to-bring-aba-to-the-world-through-public-speaking/

Tips from TED: 10 Commandments of Public Speaking http://www.simswyeth.com/20130424-tips-from-ted-10-commandments-of-public-speaking/. April 2013. Retrieved July 8, 2015.


Barbara Bucklin, PhD is a global learning and performance improvement leader with 20 years of experience who collaborates with her clients to identify performance gaps and recommend solutions that are directly aligned with their core business strategies. She oversees design and development processes for learning (live and virtual), performance-support tools, performance metrics, and a host of innovative blended solutions.

Dr. Bucklin serves as President and is on the Board of Directors for the Organizational Behavior Management Network. She has taught university courses in human performance technology, the psychology of learning, organizational behavior management, and statistical methods. Her research articles have appeared in Performance Improvement Quarterly and the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management. She presents her research and consulting results at international conventions such as the Association for Talent Development (ATD), International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI), Training Magazine’s Conference and Expo, and the Organizational Behavior Management Network.  You can contact Dr. Bucklin at [email protected]


Manny Rodriguez, M.S. has worked with many organizations across the globe over the past 15 years.  He is an accomplished practitioner in the field of Behavior Analysis, highly regarded by his customers, and colleagues alike.  He has earned a reputation for his quick grasp of behavioral challenges and how to solve them offering a practical “real-world” approaches.  He has held positions both as an external consultant at the largest behavior based consultancies, Aubrey Daniels International and the Continuous Learning Group, and as a Global Environmental Health and Safety leader within FMC Corporation, an international specialty chemicals company, and today is Vice President of ABA Technologies, Inc.

Manny’s experience spans various industries working with some of the largest organizations in the world such as Chevron, Exxon Mobil, Kraft Foods, Syncrude, Cigna, Heinz, Canadian National Railway, Duke Power, ADM, Blair, Bell Canada, Stewart Enterprises, and FMC Corporation. Manny has led large scale change efforts, providing one-on-one coaching with executives and senior managers, developing and delivery engaging professional development learning events, and led teams of professionals to achieve significant performance.   His leadership in the science of human behavior has impacted the lives of thousands leaders and employees nationally and internationally.

Manny has worked with organizations across the globe, lending his expertise in behavioral science to make a difference in the workplace.  Manny’s experience spans various industries such as human services, nuclear power, government, oil and gas, transportation, telecommunications, banking, and chemical within the Fortune 1000.  Today, he focuses his time on bringing behavior analysis to executives and leaders through online learning, consulting, and training practitioners.

Through his leadership, Manny has consulted to various clients, launched Operant Leadership, the business consulting service division of ABA Technologies, co-authored with his Operant Leadership colleagues Daniel Sundberg and Shannon Biagi the four volume series OBM Applied! a practical guide to implementing organizational behavior management, and most recently co-authored with Dr. Paul Gavoni the book Quick Wins! Accelerating School Transformation through Science, Engagement, and Leadership.

In addition, Manny volunteers his time as the current Executive Director of the OBM Network, and as a member of the board of directors of the space coast human resource association. You can contact him at [email protected].

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