Capture My Attention Or Lose Me Forever

The first car stolen or “captured” in the movie “Gone in 60 Seconds” was a 1999 Aston Martin DB7. While Nicholas Cage had an entire minute to capture the car in the movie, in the corporate world, you have just ten seconds to capture your audience’s attention. In my last post, we showed you why capturing attention is critical. If you can’t drive into your conference room in a Monaco Blue Aston Martin, this post will give you four other ways to capture attention effectively.    

Paint a picture and engage as many senses as you can. Get your audience to use their imaginations in a way that they are seeing, hearing and feeling what you are talking about. For each sense you engage, you light up another set of neurons and synapses in the brain. Make it as vivid as you can. Describe a positive or negative future state tied directly to the success or failure of your proposal. The more tactile you can be the more memorable your opening will become.

Tell a story. I know, you’ve heard this one before. I’ll spare you the studies, but stories are a more effective way to transmit ideas than an antiseptic rundown of the facts. Story is how we have passed down human knowledge for tens of thousands of years. We are pre-programmed to attend and remember stories. Pixar, Disney and LucasFilm have done pretty well with stories. It doesn’t have to be funny, but if you can lighten the room with humor, especially humor that ties directly back to your main point, you will meet your objective and  “have the room.”

Frame the moment. MLK started his “I have a dream speech” with the declaration that the March on Washington was “the greatest demonstration of freedom in the history of our nation”. Right from the beginning, he drew legitimacy and power from the large crowd in front of him, and he made both those in attendance and watching from afar feel the import of the moment. No, you aren’t likely to have a large crowd, but if there is a high leverage moment in your business, it’s important to make sure that everyone understands what’s at stake. Strong communicators can describe what’s at stake with clarity and brevity right from the top and that earns them the audience’s attention.

Ask a question – real or rhetorical. Asking a question engages the audience immediately. If you think about the audience’s needs first, you won’t go far off the path. “Do you remember the moment you decided to become a doctor?” “How many of you will be happy to never log-in to the old database again?” Questions trigger attention and, in smaller groups, it gets even more effective when you direct questions to a particular person.  Don’t ask individuals “gotcha” questions; ask questions you know will be easy to answer and offer an opportunity to describe a recent success. This is also a great tactic on conference calls where attention deficit is most acute.

You don’t need to steal a car, just capture the audience’s initial attention. Paint a picture, tell a story, frame the moment or ask a question.  Once you have their attention, you are well on your way to achieving your communication goal. May the speaking odds be ever in your favor.

At The Latimer Group, our individual Coaching services are highly customized and designed to help you achieve your specific goals. Typical engagements focus on developing skill sets in Leadership Communications, Public Speaking, and Executive-Level Business Presentations. To learn more, e-mail us at


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Dan Cooney

A book about change

The Latimer Group’s CEO Dean Brenner is a noted keynote speaker and author on the subject of persuasive communication. He has written three books, including Persuaded, in which he details how communication can transform organizations into highly effective, creative, transparent environments that succeed at every level.