Hey! How to instantly grab your listener’s attention

Oh great, you opened this blog post. I've got Barack Obama to thank for that! 

And he's got some invaluable lessons for all aspiring presenters.

In this article, I share Obama's specific techniques in fundraising millions of dollars and how to use them when presenting.

Read more to discover how to motivate your audience before you even start speaking. 


Motivating your audience

Wouldn't it be great if your audience were genuinely eager to hear what you have to say before you even start?

Sadly, too many presentations are doomed before they begin.

Most of us are bombarded with 'important messages' daily. Constant attempts to grab our attention through emails and social media etc. As a result, we prioritise our time and attention to what is most relevant or beneficial.

We make snap judgements on whether to engage with a speaker, an email or news article. Above all, it's the headline that motivates us to read more.

How many emails have you deleted recently after only a cursory glance? How many presentations have you sat through wondering what's in your inbox rather than listening to the speaker? 

The best copywriters recognise this. They understand the sole purpose of a headline is to get potential readers to open the email or read the first paragraph.

Likewise, the best public speakers know the title of their presentation must grab the listener's attention. Their opening is crafted to motivate the audience to hear what they've got to say.

Obama's fundraising team employed this exact same strategy with some surprising results.

Creating a platform for success

When running for President, the Obama campaign raised over $600 million online. The majority came from fundraising emails that peppered inboxes of ordinary people asking for donations.

Obama employed a team of copywriters and a sophisticated analytics system to measure each email and improve their effectiveness.

Over recent years, the secrets of their most successful emails have been revealed.

These secrets can be applied to your own emails. The same fundamental principles also apply to all public speakers.

Here's how you can apply these techniques to your own presentations.

Obama's surprising technique to gain attention

The first step for the Obama campaign was to grab your attention long enough to get you to open the email.

They tested different headlines to see which ones resulted in the most number of emails opened. The most consistently successful headline in grabbing attention was simply "Hey!".

Yep, that's it; "Hey!" got more emails opened and raised more money for Obama's campaign than any other.

Casual language that doesn't sound like it's an official business email can often work. People are often curious to learn what is inside with such a casual tone.

Countless emails are deleted without being read and newspaper articles ignored simply because the headline doesn't grab the attention.

The same is also true for presentations. Your title or opening lines can switch people off. If that happens, you've got an uphill task to win their attention back.

How many meeting or presentation invites have you seen lately that are along the lines of "Monthly team meeting", "Quarterly business update" or "Project update"? Hardly inspiring for most busy people is it?

In conclusion, the key lessons from Obama's campaign are this. Getting people's attention takes effort and sometimes, it takes an unexpected approach to be successful.

Your headline, or the title of your presentation is the first, and perhaps only, impression you make on a prospective listeners.

Without a compelling promise that turns a perhaps only vaguely interested participant into a motivated and engaged listener, the rest of your words may as well not even exist. 

So, what's the best way to craft an engaging title and opening to your presentation?

What this all means for public speakers.

Gary Bencivenga, one of the world’s greatest copywriters, has said the formula for grabbing interest is:

Interest = Benefit + Curiosity

Even if you have a strong, specific emotional benefit, you’ll lose a prospect’s attention if it’s not also combined with curiosity.

It’s curiosity that motivates your audience to learn more from a speaker. 

For instance, here's a couple of examples:

“German Scientists Discover Simple Secret
To Younger, Healthier & Beautiful Skin!”


“What Jeremy Clarkson Taught Me About Marketing And
How It Boosted My Online Sales”.

Both of these examples create elements of surprise or curiosity combined with potential benefits for the audience.

With some thought and planning, you can apply this formula to your own presentations (and emails for that matter). ​In this way, you can motivate your audience before your even begin your presentation.

About the Author Paul Lucas

For over 20 years, I’ve been helping leaders, managers and sales teams get better results by improving their communication and influencing skills. My training is founded upon extensive research and analysis. Helping you to understand the specific behaviours, techniques and strategies of the world’s best speakers and influencers provides the platform to transform your presentations and sales skills.

Leave a Comment: