Laptops: Your Worst Enemy

Imagine you're standing in front of a room full of people who've got their laptops opened, and you're supposed to deliver an important presentation.

Last week, I went through the exact same experience. At 9.00 a.m. in the morning, I tried delivering my Marketing presentation to a sleep-deprived group of students, most of whom had their laptops open. Big mistake!

I believed that I could use my humorous opening and exciting delivery skills to capture their attention and get them to focus on my presentation. Although a few of the students looked up and made eye contact when I started speaking, most  continued to browse the internet. After an agonizing 5 minutes, I brought my presentation to a premature end, wrapped things up and walked away defeated. 

Afterwards, I came up with a brilliant idea! What if I simply asked the audience members to turn of their laptops? This may sound like a simple thing to do, but most speakers don't actually do this. Instead of politely asking their audience members to put away their laptops, they immediately proceed to compete for attention.

If your audience members have laptops in front of them, you will always be competing for attention. 

Unfortunately, not even world-class speakers can deliver a fantastic presentation when they have to compete for attention. The best way to ensure success would be to eliminate the competition for your audiences' attention by asking your audience to kindly put away their laptops.

This may sound like obvious advice, but think about how many times you've heard people use it. I've personally not heard anyone else ask audience members to put their laptops away. Sure, speakers will ask audiences to turn off their mobile phones. But not many will explicitly ask audiences to put away their laptops because they're uncomfortable about asking. [Below, I'll show you get audiences to comply with your request without offending them].

Today, I was the emcee for an event where many of the audience members had their laptops open in front of them. As an emcee, my job was to make sure that the audience was ready to listen to the speakers who were going to be speaking that day. After a quick 30 second "Welcome", I proceeded with the following request:

  • I can see that many of you are busy on your laptops and I can imagine that you have lots of stuff to do. I do believe that this event will be better for both of us if I could have your full attention and in return I promise to make tonight an entertaining evening for you. Now, you don't have to do this, but I think that it will be more respectful for the speakers if you could put away your laptops so that we can give the speakers the undivided attention they deserve. 

After I made this request, everyone in the audience except for one lady proceeded to turn off their laptops. I had successfully managed to gain everyone's full attention simply by asking them to get rid of a device which would prevent them from doing so. There will always be people in the audience who don't want to be there and who don't want to comply with your requests, but most people will comply if you make a legitimate and straightforward request.

Most speakers and emcees will, at the start of their presentation, ask audience members to turn off their mobile phones. At your event, you may also want to respectfully ask your audience members to put away their laptops because laptops result in divided attention, and that results in a poor presentation.


P.S. Only 6 seats left for the awesome two-day Unleash Your Persuasion Power seminar! You might not want to miss this event because you're going to pick up some valuable tools: