20 Great Ways to Engage and Involve Your Audience

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    Not long ago I worked with an energetic, creative group who, while focusing on presentation skills, wondered how to best engage their audiences. I asked them what engagement strategies they appreciated when they were in the audience. They had plenty of ideas about engagement techniques that I think any speaker could benefit from. These are relatively simple, and I think most of them are pretty “foolproof” as long as you approach your audience with confidence and curiosity.

    As you read the list, take note of which ideas appeal to you. Which ones have you tried? What is one new idea that you might want to try? I would love to hear your ideas so we can add to the list, and also your results, as you involve and engage your listeners.

    1. Plan an interactive opening using questions, asking for a show of hands, etc.
    2. Ask participants to introduce themselves
    3. Ask participants to write down their burning questions before you begin
    4. Do a paper or online survey prior to meeting to engage them in thinking before they arrive
    5. Focus on benefits to the audience, asking them to confirm the benefits that are important to them
    6. Ask questions of the audience during the presentation
    7. Welcome humor that happens (but avoid jokes or forced humor)
    8. Enliven your slides with pictures you have taken of people, product, or locations (a great suggestion was using pictures of your team when presenting to customers)
    9. Insert short video clips to hear from clients, experts, or leaders
    10. Create a “Round Robin” discussion to hear from everyone, especially when brainstorming or seeking opinions
    11. Ask listeners to discuss concerns or topics with one another or at tables
    12. Tell a story to illustrate your points
    13. Format your presentation like a story with a problem and solution
    14. Ask listeners to guess certain facts or data or leave blanks on your slides and ask them to fill in the missing words
    15. Set up a demonstration that audience members participate in
    16. Ask for volunteers to write on a flip chart, track the time, or record action items
    17. Give a quiz or a test, either at the beginning or end
    18. Provide practice or application opportunities
    19. Engage them physically by asking them to stand, raise hands, clap, etc.
    20. Use slides only as a backup; the audience and you come before the slides

    Gail Zack Anderson has nearly 20 years experience in training and coaching. She provides individual presentation coaching, and leads effective presentation workshops and effective trainer workshops. See her website and LinkedIn profile. Contact her via email.