Speaker Rules of Engagement

8 Ways To Engage Your Audience

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8 Ways To Engage Your Audience

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Have you ever been asked to get up and speak to an audience that didn’t appear that ready for you?  Ever have trouble getting them engaged?

 

Yesterday I wrote a post about the “rotten things” people (audience members) do while you are speaking.  I want to thank James a fellow member of the Professional Keynote Speakers group on LinkedIn for a great comment he left on the discussion. You can also find James on Twitter.

 

In fact, in his comment, James wrote a great list of 10 things speakers have done to waste people’s time:

 

1. Having a PowerPoint presentation that just isn’t loading and you fumble around for five minutes.

 

2. Having mic or other audio/visual equipment problems. Delaying the presentation.

 

3. Talking too much about your accomplishments and not getting to the topic I came in to hear.

 

4. Taking up too much time in a panel discussion (3 people in 90 minutes and you took an hour and ten minutes with your 120 slides – thanks a lot. Especially if I am one of the speakers on the panel)

 

5. Reading off of a paper with NO visual presentation (lawyers are great for this at conferences talking about compliance or some other regulatory issue – BORING!!!)

 

6. Sales pitch of your product or service – hey if you are giving me a sales pitch, you should be paying me to attend not the other way around.

 

7. Reading notes off of 3×5 cards. Hey, unless you’re in junior high school, 3×5 cards are totally below any presentation standard at a conference.

 

8. Know what you are talking about – acronyms, definitions. You’re supposed to be the expert on the subject.

 

9. TYPOS – worst thing you can have on the big screen.

 

10. TYPOS – again. Once I start seeing typos I start to focus on your incompetence in putting together a presentation, I stop listening to your message.

 

And he is right that bad speakers or mistakes from good ones can drive some of these “rotten things”.  In fact, I wrote a blog post after attending Blog World last year that highlighted 3 Presentation Mistakes You Have To Avoid.  Now I will add to the ideas from James with what I promised I’d offer in yesterday’s post.

 

Here are 8 things you can do to keep an audience engaged during a presentation:

 

1. Speak up (making sure that the audience can hear you) – anyone who can’t hear you will tune you out.  Or worse, scream from the back something like “we can’t hear you!”.  Embarrassing.

 

2. Have a contemporary and interesting message to share – your topic has to be interesting, relevant to the audience and delivered in a compelling format.  Filled with dynamic stories and real examples.  If you are not sure, share it with a few discriminating friends.

 

3. Make eye contact with as many people as possible – if you connect with people, they are often more likely to keep their eyes on you (vs. their last text message).  Those who stare at the back of the room or their slides as they speak do not maintain audience eyeballs.

 

4. Use voice inflection and strategic pauses to maintain mind share – how do people know if you’ve just made an important point?  Or are about to make one.  Use your voice to help the audience know when to look up (if they are looking down) or when to perk up their ears.

 

5. Move around the room (get away from the podium) – Guys like Scott Stratten and Gary Vaynerchuk explode off the stage for a number of reasons.  But I like the way they both move on the stage.  Keeps me visually stimulated.

 

6. Simplify and get the attention back on you – Too much data on any slide is enough to give most people a headache.  And any content smaller than a 36 pt font is likely to be ignored.  So use your slides (if you have them) to pace yourself.  Not to read from during the hour.   Rather to get people’s focus on you.

 

7. Use pictures or video to stimulate more than just the ears – If you are not the only speaker that day, remember how much content your audience is being asked to absorb.  So mix in some fun (still relevant) photos or videos to make your points.  It acts to break up the hour into smaller chunks.  And may provide a laugh or two along the way.

 

8. Involve your audience and get them to contribute something . . . but don’t make them uncomfortable – It’s great to give people something to do.  An ice-breaker, a short role play or asking questions to get them involved and committed to the subject.  If they want to be involved, that is.  Some speakers get people standing up, high-fiving their neighbor and doing jumping jacks.  My advice?  Be careful.

 

What are your ideas to engage and keep an audience on the edge of their seats? 

 

What’s worked for you as a speaker or audience member.  Please share!

 

Thanks chascow for the great photo via Flickr.

Tim Tyrell-Smith focuses on marketing, brand development and business strategy for emerging and established organizations. A veteran executive in consumer marketing, Tim started his marketing career with Nestle USA and has since worked in product management on premium brands including Nestle Quik, Tree Top Apple Juice, Mauna Loa Macadamias and Meguiar’s Car Wax. He was most recently Vice President of Marketing for a private equity owned food company in Southern California. He lives with his wife and three kids in Mission Viejo, California.

Tim Tyrell-Smith – who has written posts on Fix, Build And Drive™.


About the Author

Tim Tyrell-Smith focuses on marketing, brand development and business strategy for emerging and established organizations. A veteran executive in consumer marketing, Tim started his marketing career with Nestle USA and has since worked in product management on premium brands including Nestle Quik, Tree Top Apple Juice, Mauna Loa Macadamias and Meguiar’s Car Wax. He was most recently Vice President of Marketing for a private equity owned food company in Southern California. He lives with his wife and three kids in Mission Viejo, California.

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