Monday, July 18, 2011

Top 6 Tools to Engage Literally Any Audience

Your audience needs you to be skilled at earning, managing and maximizing their attention. Whether they pay attention to you and/or retain your message or not is primarily your responsibility.  The following six tools are invaluable resources for highly effective trainers, speakers and teachers needing to engage any audience of any demographic - students or adults.  Especially in today's noisy world, just asking your audience to sit and listen is not enough.  If you want them to hear, process, retain and take action on your material, you must be skilled at getting them actively involved in the experience of the moment, not just the content of the message. 

6 Audience Engagement Tools

1. Turn to a partner and...
(Social and physical engagement)

The audience members interact with someone next to them.  This interaction could involve talking about a content piece or doing a two-person activity. Remember to allow groups of three if necessary, give clear instructions on what they are supposed to do and be extra clear on how they know when their interaction is supposed to end.

2. Have you ever...
(Emotional engagement) 

High-level interaction doesn't always mean getting up and moving around or doing an experiential activity with a partner or a team.  Engagement can also be emotional.  When you tell stories they can directly and emotionally relate with, you are painting them into the picture of your message instead of simply asking them to watch you paint it.

3. When I start the music...
(Social and physical engagement) 

Obviously an effective method for getting them engaged in your presentation is to lead an activity.  Always have music available to set the mood of the activity and to intensify the experience. Two of our favorite resources you can access to find great activities to lead are:  The Activator book - includes our top 50 activities with instructions, material needed, debrief options and more.  Thesource4ym - this site includes a search query that lets you quickly filter through their hundreds of activities and games. 

(To access the music we play at our programs, just search "YourNextSpeaker" in the search box in the iTunes Music Store.)

4. Take a second and write down...
(Emotional engagement.) 

We don't learn at a high level by just hearing something or doing something - we learn by talking, reflecting, processing and/or writing. These are the elements that allow inputs to sink in and become part of who we are.  If you can, have your audience members take notes or do reflective writing during your presentation. This also gives your message legs as they take their notes back home.

5. Raise your hand if...
(Physical and emotional engagement) 

Similar to "Have you ever...", this technique involves the audience actually responding to you as you ask questions or run through a list.  Getting the audience to physically demonstrate their connection to your message or a portion of it also serves to break down any barriers between you and the audience.

6. This is difficult to say, but...
(Emotional engagement)

When you are bold and transparent and share a personally moving story (tragedy, failure, etc.), you earn a load of attention points from the audience. Make certain it is the right time and place for it though. This is difficult to read, but there are certain venues or events where it isn't professional to share deeply. However, if you believe in your heart it is the best way to get your message across and it fits the venue, go for it.  When you risk big, the audience can win big.


If you read this post thinking, "These techniques would never fly with my group because this is not how its always been done," it is probably because your group has historically been subjected to presenters who either simply talk at them or talk at them while also talking to a PowerPoint. These are safe, acceptable and, most of the time, horribly boring experiences.  Be better than most, include some audience interaction, watch your presentations turn into turbo-charged learning machines and your way will become the new "this is how its always been done." Good luck!