8 Easy Tips on How to Engage the Audience in a Presentation
A post from our Presentation Skills blog
Written by Ashley Andrews
The goal of any business presentation is to grab the attention of the audience and keep them engaged throughout the speech. However, it's not always as easy as it sounds. If the crowd isn't engaged with the things you are saying or if they aren't paying too much attention, nothing will really get through to them. No matter how fancy your visuals or your material are, you won't be able to get them to act and they will simply tune you out.
So how can you make sure your speech achieves the desired effect? Here are some easy tips on how to engage the audience in a presentation.
When you start your presentation, always clarify which aspects are the most important to your audience and understand what things they are hoping to accomplish or solve. To do that, you could say something along the lines of "Your major issues are the ones that will be addressed today. Apart from the ones you can see listed on the agenda, can you think of anything else that you would like me to add to the list?"
Make a note of all the things they say and make sure these are addressed during your presentation. Alternatively, you can promise to follow-up too, and begin your presentation by telling your audience that you expect interaction. It seems like a simple enough technique, but you will find that the audience is paying much more attention and will come up with various questions too.
2. Ask a great opening question
The easiest way to get people talking at the start of your presentation is to ask a great question. Have you noticed how, when we attend presentations, we are largely being talked to, instead of being asked to go ahead and share our thoughts? This is something you should always keep in mind when you are the presenter.
When it comes to opening questions, the aim is to position them well and get your audience talking. If you want to make more of an impact, ask your question and wait a couple of seconds for the answer. If you remain silent and your expression indicates that you are expecting a response, you'll find that someone will answer you.
3. Listen to the audience's opinion
One of the most important rules of presenting is that you should always know your audience. One way to accomplish that is to simply ask them what they think about a certain thing or idea. You can either do this by selecting one specific person, or just asking one segment of the room.
Although this this technique can sometimes put people on the spot, there are ways to do it tactfully. The easiest way is to encourage people to share. For example, you could say "John, I think you are highly experienced in this aspect and your perspective on this subject is invaluable. Would you mind sharing your thoughts with the group?"
4. Use audio or video
Whether it's a promotional corporate message, a customer testimonial or even a company advertisement that enforces branding, adding a well-produced video or audio clip to your presentation is an excellent way to make your content more interesting. Not only does visual media add a welcome change and break the monotony of your presentation, but it will also give the audience the opportunity to learn from experts, leaders or clients.
5. Get creative with using different props
It's important for a presenter to be creative; which is especially true when there are just too many facts and figures in your presentation. If you are talking about a product, and it's feasible to bring the actual product or even a prototype to the venue, it can add to the effectiveness of your presentation.
6. Incorporate a group discussion into your presentation
It's a proven fact that when the audience is encouraged to participate in a presentation, it makes them a lot more engaged and interested, and it's quite common to see people enjoy an opportunity to talk with others seated around them while they are listening to someone's presentation.
If you want to build a discussion into your presentation, you can get the audience to divide into groups and then discuss a certain concept for a few minutes. They can then share what they have discussed with the rest of the people present.
7. Encourage physical activities
Physical activity is not something that is generally associated with presentations, and that's exactly what makes it so engaging. Even simple movements like a show of hands can catch the attention of wandering minds.
Based on what kind of presentation it is, you can ask people to either stand or sit to show agreement. You can also divide the audience into groups based on what they have in common, or have people change seats. All these things break the monotony of a regular presentation and encourage interaction among the audience.
8. Focus on things that will benefit the audience
Last but not least, ask people to confirm benefits which are of importance to them. Pay attention to how and when listeners take notes and nod affirmatively or even when they smile in agreement. Ideally, you should take this as an opportunity to check-in and say things like, "Adam, I can see that you have some very solid suggestions about how to reduce downtime. How does this translate into money savings within your department?"
Giving a presentation is akin to storytelling with a factual twist, and the best way to keep your audience engaged is to tell a well-crafted story. As you start to think about how you will weave your "story" and make it more engaging, keep in mind that being a good presenter may come with some practice.
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