10 Ways to Engage Your Audience

In this blog post, you’ll discover all the different ways you can incorporate engagement into your talk so your audience hangs on every word you say.

 

Have you ever sat in an audience listening to a speaker who obviously knows their material and has the information to back it up, but for some reason you just couldn’t pay attention? It happens all too often. Speakers bring excellent content to their presentations but they forget one of the most important aspects that really should be their top priority: audience engagement.

No matter how interesting your content might be, if you don’t incorporate ways to generate engagement, your talk quickly becomes monotonous and your audience’s attention will inevitably start to wander. 

When you step on stage, the purpose of your presentation is not to have a one-sided conversation. Your audience should feel like you are speaking with them rather than talking at them. So how do you give them that feeling from the stage?

Speaker Nation has compiled a list of different ways you can make your audience feel engaged throughout your presentation, without having to pull everyone aside and have a one-on-one conversation with each of them. 

Here are some of our favorite techniques that we see speakers use to engage audiences and keep them paying attention until their very last word.

01

Rhetorical questions

If an audience isn’t being prompted to use their brains, they can quickly start to feel disengaged. As a speaker, it is crucial you build opportunities into your talk for your audience to exercise their thought muscles. 

If an audience isn’t being prompted to use their brains, they can quickly start to feel disengaged.

Rhetorical questions are a great tactic to use to make sure your audience is actually thinking about what you’re sharing with them. This prompts them to use their minds as you speak. They can see themselves in your content. This practice can also help make your points stick in their minds longer. 

You don’t want your audience to feel like you are just grilling them with constant questions, but rather sprinkling some throughout your talk strategically. This will help keep people engaged and paying attention for the full length of your presentation.

02

POLL THE AUDIENCE

You have probably seen speakers use this technique a lot. “Raise your hand if…” or “Drop a yes into the chat if….” Polling an audience is one of the most common ways speakers engage their audiences, and for good reason! It works.

By taking the time to ask your audience if certain situations apply to them, or asking them simple yes or no questions, you’re instantly making them feel special because you cared enough to even ask. You’re wondering about their lives outside of the presentation room. This also helps you learn a little bit more about the people in your audience, allowing you to incorporate your newfound knowledge into the rest of your talk. And most importantly, of course, it engages your audience. 

03

MOVEMENT

Have you been to a presentation where the speaker has you get up and dance, stretch, or just get moving? At the time, it might’ve felt like they were making you jump up and down just for the sake of doing it, but what they were actually doing is helping you to stay engaged. 

The human body was not designed to sit for long periods of time. So when people have been still for too long, they naturally start to lose their focus. The solution? Get people moving! 

When people have been still for too long, they naturally start to lose their focus.

Physical activity stimulates the brain, releases endorphins, and energizes people so that when they sit back down, they’re ready to engage again and it’s easy for them to do so. 

Not only do movement breaks help people stay engaged, they can also be a lot of fun too! And this practice certainly helps to break up the more tedious segments of your talk. Try incorporating it after you speak about something heavy or share some statistical figures. If you lost some people along the way, reigniting their energy by getting them to move will help them re-engage. 

04

Impacts per minute (IPM)

Impacts per minute is a system Speaker Nation uses to measure the quality of a talk. To put it plainly, IPM is the average number of emotional moments you create for your audience within a minute of your talk.

Think about a great standup comedian. As long as they’re making their audience laugh in a consistent way, it’s rather easy for them to hold people’s attention. But on the other hand, if they go too long without creating one of those impacts, the audience starts to lose interest.

The same applies to a talk. If you speak for too long without letting the audience feel something, their attention will wander and their engagement will drop. Whereas if you maintain a high IPM throughout your talk, you will find it’s much easier to keep your audience engaged.

05

EXERCISES & BREAKOUT SESSIONS

Another popular method to stimulate engagement is to incorporate exercises or breakout sessions for your audience. Oftentimes after a speaker has focused on explaining a particular concept or theory to the audience for an extended period, they’ll have them take some time to do an exercise based on that concept. 

It can be an individual exercise where participants sit and write down their answers to a particular question, it can be partner or small-group exercises where participants discuss something together, or it can even be a game of some kind for the audience to play. 

The options for exercises and breakout sessions are pretty much endless when you get creative. Especially when used in longer presentations, these mindful minutes can be a great way to change the energy of the room and add some variety to the day, which in turn will help keep the audience engaged in the long run.

06

MUSIC

Music is a powerful tool for creating engagement. There are songs that will make people want to get up and dance, laugh, or cry; really there are songs for whatever emotion you wish to evoke in your audience. 

Well-planned and well-executed music interludes tied into your presentation can improve engagement like almost nothing else can. Music ignites feelings, triggers memories, gives people perspective on a situation, and overall has the power to spark some wonderful engagement in your audience. 

Music ignites feelings, triggers memories, gives people perspective on a situation.

And though you might love the sound of your own voice, including music in your talk gives your audience a new sound to listen to, which helps them stay engaged and pay attention to your voice with more ease throughout the rest of your presentation.

07

STAGE POSITIONING

As a speaker, you have the power to dramatically shift the energy in a room by simply changing your position relative to the audience. 

If you’ve seen speakers come off the stage and walk around the room, or sit down on the edge of the stage during a more intimate segment of their talk, these are the types of techniques that prove incredibly powerful when it comes to maintaining engagement during a presentation. When well executed, these moves can really make your audience feel like they are involved in your presentation rather than just sitting there listening to it.

Even if you’re presenting in a virtual environment, you can use similar concepts. Moving close to the camera can make your audience feel as if you are speaking directly to them, whereas moving away makes it feel like you are addressing the whole group. 

Strategically adjusting your positioning relative to the audience throughout your presentation can shift the energy of your talk, and it’s those energy shifts that will keep your audience engaged and focused.

08

SHOW YOUR PASSION

Have you ever watched a speaker deliver a talk about something they clearly weren’t very interested in? In a situation like that, it’s nearly impossible to pay attention and stay engaged.  

On the other hand, think about when you’ve watched someone deliver a talk about something that excites and engages them; it’s nearly impossible not to pay attention and their excitement becomes contagious!

If you want the audience to feel, you have to feel. So if you feel uninspired and disengaged about what you are speaking about, then the audience will feel the same. But if you’re fired up and focused, the audience will naturally feel that way along with you.

If you want the audience to feel, you have to feel.

It seems like a simple concept, but this is quite possibly one of the most critical concepts in public speaking, and one of the most important keys to maintaining good engagement and holding attention with your audience.

09

BE ENTERTAINING

This seems like it would go without saying, but we’re going to say it anyway because it’s a message some speakers seem to have missed. 

If you want to engage your audience and keep their attention, you need to keep them entertained! Children with no entertainment get distracted very quickly and move on to other activities. Well, the same goes for adults. When a live audience gets bored, they start chatting with the person next to them, scrolling through their phones, or even leaving the room entirely… Those 3-minute bathroom breaks quickly turn into, “Where’d Steve go?”

Virtual audiences are even trickier. When they get bored, they have the distractions of their device right at their fingertips. They can start scrolling through Instagram, surfing the web, catching up on other work and, ultimately, tuning out your presentation entirely. 

To be engaging and hold people’s attention, you have to earn it by entertaining them. This means you have to work on your storytelling skills, you have to be willing to go all in on your delivery, and you must be committed to bringing your highest level of energy.  

As a speaker, you are an entertainer who educates the audience. Take ownership of that role and show up with the intention to entertain so you earn their attention and keep them engaged.

10

LIVE INTERACTION

One of the most effective ways to engage your audience is to interact with them directly. You can use technology to prompt them to submit questions through their smartphone, you can call on specific audience members to interact with them directly, you can open up the room to all questions, or you can do live demonstrations with the audience. Each way brings participants further into the talk on a personal level, making them feel special and heard.

There are a number of ways you can directly interact with your audience, and doing so draws people into the conversation you are having with them and makes them feel like they are involved in what you are doing, making people more willing to engage since it’s something they feel involved in.

In Conclusion

There are a plethora of ways you can get your audience engaged with your talk. Remember, there are no right or wrong ways to do it. So as a speaker, it’s your responsibility to experiment with different ideas and nail down which techniques work best for you and your style of speaking.  

The thing about engagement is that what works for one person won’t necessarily work for someone else. So pay close attention as you watch other presentations, keep track of moments when you stop paying attention, moments when you are completely wrapped up in the presentation, and everything in between. Most importantly, pay attention to what the speaker is doing at those moments. 

You can then go back to your talk and use your knowledge to craft your own personal style. This will help you determine the best way to engage people that suits your presentation personality and, ultimately, works best with your speaking style.

The important thing to keep in mind is that you have to do more than just talk when you are giving a presentation. Talking to a disengaged audience is about as effective as talking to an empty room.

One of the most effective ways we see people create engagement is leveraging a concept we call The Stage Effect. The Stage Effect is a form of influence that naturally makes people want to pay attention to you.  

If you want to learn how you can model The Stage Effect to your advantage, we’ve created a free guide that will help you understand and implement it so you can dramatically level up the quality of your presentations.  

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