How to give a presentation in the age of smartphones

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The advice is to picture the audience in their underwear. However, in the days leading up to your presentation, you dreamt the audience took pictures while you gave a presentation in your underwear.

There are better ways to stay calm and avoid distractions.

Put on your clothes, and consider these tips for keeping the audience focused, even when phones start to ring. When you stay focused, the audience will, too.

Check in with the audience

When you begin a presentation with a bold statement, humor, or a question, the audience almost always tunes in immediately, and you start on the right foot. Losing the audience after delivering an attention-grabbing beginning can happen because of distracting devices like a smartphone diverting their attention.

Continuously check in with the audience. When the audience begins losing focus, take action by directing their attention back to your message through clever use of silence, hand gestures, a change in your rhythm, or an interesting personal story that goes along with your speech.

Acknowledge the disruption

Audience members with cell phones can disrupt a presentation in several ways. Ringing phones annoy everyone, and the audience member who answers a ringing phone can ruin your presentation.

Accidents do happen, and people sometimes forget to silence their phones, so the best thing to do is pause while the embarrassed audience member scrambles to turn the phone off. However, on the rare occasion when an audience member answers the call during your presentation, it’s beyond distracting for you and your audience.

To keep the focus on your presentation, suggests using humor. This trick of comedians not only keeps your presentation on track, but also stops others from being tempted to use their phones for the rest of the speech. You can stop and ask, “Is that for me?” Then quietly wait until the audience member ends the call or the person leaves the room.

Phones aren’t only real-time distractions. They are can also affect the way you present. Here’s one way they can detract from your presentation, and one way they can improve it:

The dark side of smartphones

Smartphones can cause another problem. Studies show that speakers who spend a lot of time on their cell phones give weaker speeches than those who use a laptop or desktop computer. When you spend a lot of time emailing, texting, and Web surfing on your smartphone, your posture becomes hunched and defensive. This posture goes on stage with you, and the audience will not respond well.

When you use a laptop or desktop computer for email and Web surfing, you sit with an open posture, which works to draw the attention of audience members. To shake the bad habit of going on stage with the cell phone posture, practice texting in an upright position with your head held high and your arms out. This may feel awkward or silly, but you will find your future audiences hanging on your every word.

The better side of smartphones

When used correctly, smartphones can improve your presentations. For example, the iPhone 5c comes with helpful tools to build your confidence. HD video capabilities make it possible to record your entire presentation before the event for practice. You can watch the video for weak points and to make sure your posture is open and welcoming.

You can also use your phone to get the word out about your speech. Tweet updates or promote your presentation on Facebook and LinkedIn.

You can use your phone to record your presentation, by audio or voice recording. Audio recording lets you listen to how you emote during the speech. You can listen to hear whether your voice was loud enough to reach the back row, and you will catch any parts of your presentation that should be changed.

The cell phone can distract, but it can also improve your overall stage presence.

A version of this article originally appeared on