Why would you not involve the audience in your presentation? Regardless of whether you’re presenting to a few colleagues in a small conference room or whether you’re presenting to thousands of people in a large ballroom, here are eight ways you can engage and involve your audience:
Ask Them A Question
Questions pique the audience’s curiosity. Sometimes questions help the audience to forge a personal connection to your content. Sometimes it’s more fun to ask a question that the audience will only be able to answer if they pay close attention to what you have to share with them throughout your presentation.
Make Them A Promise
Within the first 30 seconds of her TED Talk, Jane McGonigal promises to increase her audience’s life span through the content of her presentation. What kind of promise can you make about your content, hot shot?
Unravel A Mystery
Did you ever see the movie Memento? It’s about a guy who has lost his short-term memory. As you watch the movie, you’re just sitting in your seat in the theater, but you’re trying just as hard as the main character to figure out what’s going on. Some of the best presentations I’ve seen employ this same storytelling technique – beginning by sharing a major challenge or problem, then revealing the solution, piece by piece.
Small Group Discussion
The larger the audience, the easier it is for individual audience members to mentally check out (through emails, texting, checking Facebook or simply daydreaming). Break people up into a small group for a short discussion and it’s a lot more difficult to “check out” (plus, it’s kind of rude to check your Facebook account on your smart phone as two or three other people are trying to have a discussion with you).
This is one of my favorite ways to start a presentation. It involves the audience from the very beginning of the presentation. Curious to know more about this strategy? Unravel this mysterious presentation technique by reading a prior blog post entitled: Training Tip: The Messy Start.
I can’t think of a better way to reinforce soft skills such as coaching or mentoring or customer service than through role plays. I also can’t think of a better way to illicit groans from the audience when you tell them you’re going to ask them to role play. So think of a better name for this activity. Call it a “simulation” or something.
Large Group Activity
I was so impressed when Jane McGonigal (yes, the lady from the TED Talk above) got two thousand people up during a keynote speech I attended in order to engage us all in a game of massively multi-player two-handed thumb wrestling. I’ve been successful in getting a ballroom full of about 300 people to work in groups and do some flipcharting. If you have the guts, getting a large group up to experience what you’re presenting on can be fun and engaging for a room full of people.
During my train the trainer sessions, I can assess whether my participants understand the concepts I’ve taught when they can correctly use a feedback form to identify what their peers are doing well during practice facilitation segments.
There you have it, eight ways to involve your audience for in-person presentations. If you ever present via webinar, you may be interested in these prior blog posts:
- “Why are people checking their email when they should be paying attention to my webinar?!”
- When Webinars Are Worse Than Communism
- “What would have made that webinar better?”
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