One of the most common questions I get from professional speakers and wannabe speakers is “How do I keep the audience interested?” I get it. Nobody wants to be speaking when no one is paying attention or listening. It’s the utmost in rejection!! I will share some super easy tips that will guarantee to engage your audience that you can begin using immediately.
The easiest technique to engage your audience is to ask a question. Think about it – questions are the ultimate in creating curiosity. Why? Because the “mind” wants to answer. Questions never fail to engage people. Speakers who don’t use them or who don’t use them enough are missing a great opportunity to keep their audience interested. Seinfeld bases his humor on questions, as do many comedians. To engage your audience, use questions all throughout your presentations. Keep practicing until it becomes second nature.
Keeping your audience interested is as simple as INVOLVING them. (#1 Rule – Always, always, keep it positive. Never insult anyone in the audience.) Here’s a list to get you started:
- 1. Ask questions, whether your audience answers them or not. Questions are the #1 way to go.
- 2. Make Eye contact – zero in on people and make meaningful eye contact.
- 3. Call out audience members. Especially, in a smaller setting, say audience member’s names.
- 4. Acknowledge people.
- 5. Ask for a volunteer. Have them come up to the front or the stage – where ever you are. Ask someone to write on the white board or flip chart (ask, “who has good handwriting” or “who likes to write on white boards?”)
- 6. Have members of the audience partner up to do a shared exercise.
- 7. Ask them write something down.
- 8. Ask questions like, “how many people XYZ” or “who has ever XYZ” or “who owns an XYZ” and have people raise their hands.
- 9. Ask if anyone has any questions.
- 10. Give a quiz or an assessment “
- 11. Have handouts and ask someone to help you hand them out. Go over the handouts.
- 12. Ask someone to read something out loud – whether it’s on a PowerPoint or in a handout or a book.
- 13. Give an assignment during the presentation or during the break.
- 14. Have people stretch.
- 15. Have them sing a song.
- 16. Have them dance (you supply the music) – seriously!
- 17. Have them share what they learned.
- 18. Have them share what they got out of an exercise, assignment, or paired share.
Notice that successful entertainers do some of the things in the list above. If you are exceptionally funny and entertaining, you have achieved the ultimate in audience involvement. Whether the audience is laughing or raising their hands, to keep them interested, you must have them lean in – and that means, get them involved. Get them involved and connect with them. Be passionate and be authentic (it makes you relatable!).
The most interesting thing happens when you keep your audience involved. The more involved they are, the better they will perceive you as a speaker! Why do you think that is? Because you made your presentation meaningful to them. (You weren’t just lecturing and doing a monologue.) Public speaking can be fun, especially when you make your presentation meaningful for your audience.