Make It Interactive
There once was a story about a man who practiced and practiced and practiced his speech until he knew the entire presentation word for word. The day came when he got on stage in front of a full audience, delivered his speech perfectly without forgetting a word, and then walked off stage. He decided his talk was a success because it was delivered flawlessly. His audience, on the other hand, did not agree.
Today, we are going to talk about the importance of including your audience in your talk and how you can increase the effectiveness of your presentation if you ask questions and engage them in a conversation, rather than recite a memorized monologue.
Let’s face it—no one likes to be talked at. We want to feel included, like we’re part of the conversation. If you’re giving a talk and people look sleepy, aren’t making eye contact, or are looking down at their phones, these are indications that you are boring them, and you need to do something to fix it. Here are three ways to make your speech interactive and keep your audience paying attention.
1. Ask a question
Asking, “What do you think about that?” isn’t the best question, because it’s too open-ended and is confusing to the audience. Try asking a more pointed question, like, “Have you been to the library in the last year? If so, raise your hand” or “Is anyone in the room gluten intolerant? If so, raise your hand.” Of course, your question will need to apply to your talk, but if you can come up with a simple question that is easy for the audience to answer, they’ll likely participate. Staying away from opinion questions and difficult concepts will make it easier for them to get involved and feel like you are talking with them, not at them. Try yes/no questions to start.
2. Ask for a volunteer
Creating a scenario that requires you to work with someone in the audience to illustrate an idea is a great way to wake up your audience and get them to pay attention. Remember to always ask for a volunteer rather than pick someone out. Introverts, shy people, and people who don’t do well in front of crowds won’t appreciate being singled out and asked to perform in front of their peers. When you ask for volunteers, you will get to work with someone who is happy to be in front of the group and will likely work with you to achieve your goal. For example, if you wanted to teach your audience how to act in a job interview, you could have a volunteer come up to the front of the room with you and act as the interviewer. You would be the interviewee and model the behavior you are teaching. This is a simple way not only to reinforce your point, but to get your audience to pay attention as well.
3. Get everyone out of their seats
If people are yawning and looking at the clock, they are likely not listening to you and hoping for your presentation to end. If this is the case, tell everyone to stand up. This puts everyone on high alert because now they have to perform in some way. There are a variety of things you can do with them once they are standing, and you want to make sure your plan matches the goals of your talk. For example, if you’re teaching networking skills, you can ask everyone to introduce themselves to the person on their left and their right. If you are teaching stress reduction techniques, you could have everyone practice one or two stretches they could later do at their own desk. You can also put people in pairs to work together on something or have them work in small groups while standing. Getting out of chairs helps your audience pay attention and stay engaged throughout your talk.
If you think you have a topic that can’t be interactive, think again! It’s time to get creative with your presentations and include your audience. Rather than stick to the boring slide presentation, try to mix it up by remembering you have an entire team of people sitting in front of you who can make your presentation even better.
Next time, we’ll talk about the value of including your personal stories and experiences in everything you teach. You’ll be surprised how much of an impact your personal touch can add to the stage!
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