One of the Public Speaking Super Powers is Audience Engagement. When you have this power, your audience is actively listening, engrossed with your information and participating in any activities you present. They are involved, mentally, emotionally, intellectually and/or physically with your presentation. In this post, I’ll present a few suggestions for keeping an audience involved in your presentation.
Be Interesting, Unique and Engaging to Get Your Audience Involved
Allow your passion for your topic to shine through your vocal variety and body language. You want to be a speaker who is fun to watch and listen to — not a drone who puts you to sleep with your monotone voice or statue-like stance, fixed at one point on the stage. You want your delivery to help get your audience involved with your presentation.
When you practice your presentation, video record yourself. Watch the recording and ask these questions:
- Am I interesting to watch? Or am I a “cardboard cutout” rooted to one spot with little or no body language? If the latter, figure out a way to incorporate some movement into your presentation that will enhance your points.
- Am I interesting to listen to? Do I have enough variety in my voice — highs, lows, fast and slow — that my points are emphasized? Or am I droning on from one point to another? Learn how to use vocal variety to authentically enhance your presentation.
- Am I predictable? Or do I have a unique way of expressing my message? You don’t want your presentation to be a rehash of material they’ve heard before. Brainstorm ways to incorporate your unique personality into your presentation.
Audience Involvement through Feedback Before, During and After Your Presentation
If you want to give an engaging presentation and improve it for the future, get your audience involved in the planning and presentation of the information.
- Send out a survey before the presentation: Send a survey to audience members asking them what kind of information they are hoping to gain from your presentation. This will help you tailor it to that specific audience.
- Ask questions during your presentation: Ask the audience questions that will lead them in the direction you are going. This will not only provide you feedback on how to present that information in a way that will meet their needs but also refocuses their minds on your next topic.
- Send a follow-up survey: Solicit an evaluation from your attendees so you can see how well you met their expectations. You can use positive comments as testimonials. And use relevant suggestions to improve your speech for the next audience.
Use Passive and Active Engagement Strategies
There are two ways to engage an audience: Passively, through mental exercises and techniques, and actively by getting them out of their chairs and interacting with you and each other.
- Discussion groups (Active): When the room’s configuration includes round table seating, you have the opportunity to create breakout sessions for group discussion. At various points in your presentation, ask questions or give instructions for small group participation. This fosters participants getting to know each other while learning something new from you. Be sure to allow time for a debrief of information after the entire group comes back together.
- Speak to individual participants directly (Active): This method works in smaller groups. Make eye contact and ask a question that anyone can answer easily. Then call on someone to get the ball rolling. Be sure to thank them for their answer before continuing the discussion.
- Use fill-in-the-blank visuals (Passive): Your slides can include incomplete information, such as fill-in-the-blank sentences and partial images, where the audience gives their take on what they see. This gets them paying attention to where you are going with this information and gets them actively involved in solving “problems.”
Audience engagement leads to better outcomes for both you and the audience. When the audience feels like they matter, they will take the time to listen. And they will be more likely to take the action your presentation is leading them to take.
Recommended Reading for Audience Engagement