Four ways to engage your audience

A few nights ago I attended a meeting where we heard from a number of speakers. They each had quite different styles and all of them had potentially useful topics. Two of the speakers were very polished in their delivery – they gave virtually faultless performances. But neither of these talks stood out for me.

In fact, the talk I found most useful was delivered in a bit of a rush and the presenter had a few rough edges. But his talk involved ME! He got me involved – he had tailored the talk to reflect my interests. As he spoke, I was getting ideas that I could put into action the following day.

I believe the other speakers probably had useful material too – but neither of them made an impression. Why? Because they didn’t craft their talk in a way that involved me.

How do you weave your audience into your talk?
  1. Use a short interactive exercise – ask them to talk to their neighbour about how they could use this information. The important thing here is to be specific in your instructions. Ask them to discuss “How could you use this information?” By the way, including this exercise ensures that you provide information that the audience can actually use!
  2. Ask a general question about what they’ve learned so far – then get audience members to answer. It’s amazing how often people learn something quite different from what you expected. If this happens, someone else in the audience might find their perspective useful as well. Use a flip-chart to store the ideas.
  3. Invite an audience member or members to come up to the front and do an exercise or demonstration with you. This is often the most entertaining and memorable part of a talk because the interaction is fresh and no-one (including the presenter) knows what’s going to happen.The demonstration concept works because audience members unconsciously feel connected to each other. When you positively involve one person in the audience, you involve the others by association.
  4. Tell stories that the audience can relate to. We know the value of stories and examples in presentations but you create mega-impact if your story relates directly to your particular audience. For example if your audience are work colleagues, tell a story about a work event. If they’re retailers, tell a story about something that happened in a shop.
An engaging talk is much more than performance and delivery skills. It’s about creating content that involves and includes each audience member. Do yourself and your audience a favour – choose one of these ideas to make your next presentation more valuable and memorable.

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