Laptops: Competing for (and winning) your audience’s attention

By Catherine Welborn

Cell phones rings have been interrupting presentations since the 1990s. However, with the availability of Wi-Fi in so many buildings, many speakers now have to combat an additional disturbance: laptops. As wireless internet becomes more prevalent, so do laptops at speaking events.

Of course, there are people who use their laptops as note-taking devices, which I applaud. Unfortunately, many of the audience members you see with open laptops are engaged in other activities: checking email, surfing the web or playing games. Those audience members cannot be fully engaged in your presentation—if they’re listening at all.

Is there anything you can do?

Akash Karia at the blog Communication Skills Power recently discussed his experiences with that situation. After trying unsuccessfully to connect with an audience of laptop-focused students, he had an epiphany: What if he simply asked audience members to turn off their laptops? Speakers ask the audience to silence cell phones before presentations all the time. Why not do the same with laptops?

Check out Communication Skills Power to find out what happened when Karia made the request at his next presentation.

How do you deal with audience members using laptops during your presentations?

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