Franklin Delano Roosevelt once gave this pithy advice for making a good presentation:

"Be sincere. Be brief. Be seated."

As a professional speaker and presentation coach for the past two decades, I agree with this public speaking wisdom, and I would add one more tip:

"Be memorable."

Whether you're pitching a potential funder, lobbying your boss, or delivering a conference keynote, you need to find a way to cut through your audience's distractions to make sure your message registers.

What distractions?

  • The emails buzzing in their pocket (or on the desk right in front of them)
  • The mountain of paperwork awaiting them after your presentation
  • The tough feedback they have to give their direct report
  • The tough feedback they just got from their boss
  • The big presentation they haven't started working on yet
  • The business trip they have to reschedule - again
  • The sight of a birthday cake in the conference room

No matter how topical, relevant or pressing your content is, you're often fighting an uphill battle for the audience's attention. Whether their distractions are an internal monologue ("And just where am I supposed to find the time to teach the new guy how to use our Learning Management System? At midnight? Five in the morning?") or an external dialogue ("Those two sitting in the back row will not stop chatting, and I cannot concentrate!"), they need you as the speaker to help catch -- and keep -- their focus.

Now, of course you can make yourself memorable by perfectly executing a magic trick, blasting your walk-on song (mine is Kelly Clarkson's "Miss Independent") or flashing the lights for a strobe-like effect. And while a professional speaker might be expected to use bells and whistles (literally or figuratively) to get the audience's attention, most "regular" professionals wouldn't feel comfortable resorting to such theatrical, over-the-top methods. 

The good news you don't have to.

You can get your listeners' attention by thoughtfully, strategically and sparingly using key phrases that show that you're paying attention to them - their strengths, their concerns, and their priorities. These phrases also demonstrate that you understand that their focus is a limited resource, and that you're committed to making it easier for them to know what really matters most.

What do all of these phrases have in common?

The word "you".

"You" cuts through the clutter of internal and external noise to pull your audience's attention back to what they often care most about - themselves, their priorities, and their impact. (Think about it. When you read the word "you", who do you think about first? Yourself! And chances are, you are one of your favorite people to think about.)

Here are 12 phrases that will catch your listeners' ears, and keep their attention long enough for you to share your key message in a way that educates, illuminates and inspires action:


1. "One thing that you've taught me is" or "One thing that I've learned from you is"

2. "One thing that I appreciate about you/your company is..."

3. "You know better than most people/companies that..."


4. "I'm going to let you in on a secret..."

5. "You may already know this, but just in case you don't..."

6. "Because time is tight, you may want to consider..."


7. "Here's what's most important about this for you..."

8. "Why you need to know this is..."

9. "Let me bottom-line this for you..."

Call to Action

10. "You may want to write this next part down..." 

11. "If you're only going to remember one thing, it should be..."

12. "If you're only going to do one thing, it should be..."

Making a presentation to any audience can feel intimidating. Making one to a distracted audience can feel overwhelming, With these handy phrases, you now know how you can make yourself and your message memorable.