One plus one equals great presentation

How to keep attention when presenting

Image credit: schramm_ShoredUp_7287 by Montclair Film Fest

Using interactivity is a great way to learn. Contrary to what you first might think, interactivity does not have to be between the learner and another source, it might just as well be between third parties alone. This kind of passive interactivity is not as effective as normal learner interactions, but it does provide an extra dimension to passive listening.


As an example, assume you are eavesdropping on a phone conversation between two people. When do you think you will remember the most of what was said: when you can hear only one of the people or when you can hear both people?
Likely you would be able to remember the dialogue better than the monologue. Why? With the monologue you have only little variation in speech and the content to work as memory aids. With a dialogue you can use the different voices and their interactions as the clues you need to recall, on top of what you can use from the monologue.


In a training session the same technique of having a dialogue instead of monologue may help the audience remember better. Some uses of a dialogue for two presenters are these:

  • Taking turns presenting the subject, seamlessly continuing where the other leaves off.
  • Debating the subject, giving different points of view.
  • One interviewing the other as an expert.
  • One presenting facts while the other offers in-depth analysis or viewpoints.

A very successful presentation I held combined these elements: We were two presenters both offering facts but at the same time discussing what we were saying, giving the presentation a very attention-grabbing format.

What to do when you have only yourself?

Resource-constraints will often mean that you can not get a second presenter, but using elements from this technique is still possible. One way is to subtly move from one side of the stage to the other when presenting different views, and standing in the middle when concluding (this technique is sometimes referred to as the speaker’s triangle). Another way is to bring in fictional people as in “one might argue that”. I’ve been doing this myself during technical trainings by alternating between how to do it and why we do it. So first explaining how to do it and then going in to depth on the reasons why.


Don’t overdo this! If the are two of you then make sure you have a good chemistry and know how to work together. Watching two presenters who are unsure of who does what is as painful as seeing just one of them trying to present an unknown subject. If you are trying this as a one-man show then you better get your structure clear and easy to follow, or your audience will fade away to something easier to follow (like daydreams 🥱).

Let me know your thoughts on this and how your presentations went in the comments below!

Loving leading learning. Find me on LinkedIn:

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store