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. Use the following techniques to do just that!
Grab Your Audience. The opening of your presentation is extremely important because it is during those few seconds that the audience decides—are they going to actively listen or quickly tune out? Grab their attention by opening with a punch. State a relevant, shocking statistic; a personal experience that makes a business point; or a quote by a famous person that will pique interest. The goal of the opening is to grab the audience’s attention to engage them.
Ditch the PowerPoint. Speakers count on PowerPoint’s familiarity and ease of use; however, audiences have seen this format far too many times. Unfortunately, these presentations tend to divide the audience’s attention, make the speaker appear more like an instructor than a leader, and hinder relationship-building with the audience. As it turns out, the most effective speeches given over time have been made in the absence of slideshows. No matter your field, the subtraction of a PowerPoint lends itself to new challenges, forcing you to think of alternative and imaginative ways to communicate your point—but what you lose in slide content, you can compensate for in your verbal clarity.
This approach will keep your audience intrigued and captivated more easily.
Remember, Less is More.
If you are using a PowerPoint slide show, remember to make your slides pop by using intriguing visuals and concise language. Streamline your slides and use no more than five to ten slides per 30-minute speech. You also need to have each slide make just one main point of 15 words or fewer. Too much talking and your audience will tune you out, so get to the point quickly and concisely.
Involve the Crowd. Dale Carnegie’s 3rd Human Relations principle is, ‘Arouse in the person an eager want.’ Imploring your audience to want to listen can be accomplished in a variety of ways for maximum engagement. Try asking questions such as “By a show of hands,” or type questions or poll your audience. Altering your position on the stage every few minutes instead of pacing and asking volunteers to come up on stage to demonstrate something will maximize the audience’s level of engagement as well.
Pepper in your Personality. Everyone’s unique traits should be sprinkled into the presentation wherever possible to maintain the audience’s interest. If you are a funny person, let that come through. Humor is always a good way to keep your audience from falling asleep. Whether you are quirky, energetic, excited, etc., allow those traits to shine through!
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 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!