Tag Archives: audience participation

Draft a more engaging speech

Giving an effective presentation depends largely upon how well you know your audience. As you write your speech, ask these questions:

  • Who are they? Are you speaking to younger or older people or a mix? If you’re dealing with a mixture of ages and backgrounds, speak directly to certain parts of your audience at times. Example: “Some of you folks born before 1980 may remember …”
  • What do they know? What kind of knowledge do your attendees have? Are they well-versed in your topic? Do they have the needed background details? Will you need to simplify your message?
  • Why should they care? What benefit are you offering your audience? Consider the audience’s level of investment and their needs and wants; then cater to them.
  • How might they respond? Anticipate their questions and prepare answers ahead of time. If they could become negative, you may want to address potential objections upfront.

— Adapted from “Match Your Presentation to Your Audience,” Guest blogger, http://hbr.org.


Invite the audience to speak first

Engage your listeners by having them speak first. Pose a question for them to answer before you launch into your remarks. You can even display it on the screen as they enter the room, to start them thinking and talking with the people around them.

Then invite the audience to share their thoughts, concerns or experiences by answering the question in front of the group. That immediately involves them in what you have to say, building their interest.

Throughout your presentation, refer back to their comments to show that you listened to them and that what you have to say is relevant to their situations.

— Adapted from “Have Them at ‘Hello’” Elizabeth Mortensen, Forbes, http://www.forbes.com.

Ask your audience for feedback

Improve the quality of your presentations by specifically asking your audience for feedback on what you did and didn’t do well.

Example: Create a slide that asks for opinions on which parts of your presentation could be shortened or lengthened, and insert it at the very end of your deck, right before you give out your contact information.

Tailor the slide to the audience, and avoid requesting generic feedback. Ask participants to email you directly or to speak with you after the presentation to share their thoughts. Then incorporate what you learn into the next version of your presentation.

Quick tip: Move your audience—literally

When you make people move, you engage them in your presentation both physically and mentally. You can ask them to stand up or raise their hands, say “Hello” to the person next to them, shake hands, stretch or perform any action that’s appropriate to your specific topic. Never let them sit in their chairs without doing anything but fidgeting or taking mental flights of fancy.

— Adapted from “Six Quick Tips for Introvert Speakers,” Thomas Murphy, www.introvertsuccess.net.


Open with a dramatic statement


Audiences decide within the first 60 seconds whether to pay attention to your fascinating speech or daydream during your boring presentation. Don’t waste that time by stating your name, organization and what you plan to talk about. Those details were likely covered in your introduction and speech announcement.

Instead, after someone introduces you, smile, take a long pause, look over the audience and then deliver a grabber that will wake up audience members and give them a reason to listen.


  • Recite a staggering statistic.
  • State an extraordinary fact.
  • Deliver a fascinating quote.
  • Pose a rhetorical question.
  • Present a unique observation.
  • Tell an emotion-packed story.
  • Juxtapose drastically different images.
  • Suggest that they use their imaginations as you describe a scenario.

— Adapted from “Introduction: The POW! Statement,” Eliot Shapiro and Eric Schor, Speaker’s Digest, http://www.presentationtrainers.com.

[Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/adactio%5D

Apply the Goldilocks formula to engage listeners

A daylong event to interest girls in science, technology, engineering and mathematics was great fun for my daughter and her friends, but like most conferences the presentations had highs and lows. One presenter, in particular, created the ideal mix of information and activity.

A presentation can be:

  • Too hot, with lots of “Wow” but little learning. All of the speakers offered hands-on activities, and the more you can involve the audience’s senses, the better. The girls will remember eating ice cream made with liquid nitrogen, but they learned little of the science behind that experience. If you can play a video in your presentation instead of flashing a photo or telling a story, that can be a great choice. But don’t let the show overpower the substance.
  • Too cold, with a data dump. Speakers who are passionate about their subjects sometimes miss the clues that the audience is starting to tune out while they talk. Even with an audience of adults who are interested in what you have it say, mix up the style of your presentation every 10 to 15 minutes. Assign them an exercise to complete, switch speakers or do something else so that you aren’t speaking for long stretches.
  • Just right, with a mix of information and application. The best presenter of the day took the girls on a journey in the form of a murder mystery. Whether they watch one of the CSI television shows or read Nancy Drew mysteries, each could relish the role of playing detective. Step by step the presenter introduced them to soil science as they tested samples and narrowed the suspect list. She explained and asked questions, requiring them to think and draw their own conclusions. Not every subject lends itself to handing out pipettes and PH strips to the attendees, but you can involve the audience members in their own learning.

How do you find the right mix of speaking and other activities during a esentation?

Engage your Gen-Y audience

By Kendall Martin

There is an increasing demand for interaction between public speakers and younger-generation audiences. You can’t simply talk at a Gen-Y audience. Younger people, with access to Internet and social media wherever they go, require more participation in order to become and remain engaged. Learning how to effectively interact and engage with audiences is crucial for any presenter who speaks to that demographic, but it’s really a skill that will prove useful with all audiences

Follow these tips for an interactive presentation:

  • Invite interaction. It may seem obvious, but you can’t assume your audience will know that they are welcome to ask questions, give comments or interact with you. Tell your audience that you want their feedback. Ask for questions. Give them cues to engage with you.
  • Use physical activity. Ask for a show of hands. Get the audience to stand up or—for select groups—to participate physically, and you will automatically grab their attention. If an audience is made to sit still in their chairs for the duration of your presentation, they likely will become bored, distracted and disengaged.
  • Connect directly. Make eye contact with audience members and return smiles. Take cues from your audience, and determine your next move accordingly. If you see yawning or fidgeting, then it’s time to shake things up. Direct a question or call to action to your audience.
  • Break into groups or pairs. Some people may be intimidated to participate in a large audience. Ease their fear by breaking the audience into small groups or pairs where they can discuss a topic or participate in icebreakers.

What tips or tricks do you have for encouraging audience participation?

[Image Source: adactio]