When you’re presenting, how do you keep your audience engaged? What do you do, exactly?
Here’s one of the best ways to engage people – yet it’s one of the most human, too, so it’s among the simplest:
You might still wonder how you should do that though.
So (as explained in more detail in that link), I like to split the process into 3 levels:
- Have a chat – speak informally, so your listeners relax and engage.
- Help them think – give people time (and cues) to reflect on what you’re saying.
- Hear their thoughts – let people have their own say in some way.
In this post, we’ll focus on that last level.
So, let’s break it down some more. To let your audience have their “say”, you can do things like:
- Ask for a show of hands.
- Run a Q&A session.
- Ask people open questions.
Today, again let’s focus on the last of those options.
In fact, I just came across a fab 3-minute video about asking specific open questions:
The video’s by Marcus Sheridan, and the 2 tips he shares in it are:
- Before you present a statistic, ask people to guess it.
- When you’re telling a story, ask people to guess what happens next.
To me, those are brilliant tips!
To me, those are brilliant tips!
I love that they give you lots of scope to involve your audience more. (After all, statistics and stories are such staples of the speaking scene. So you’re bound to have room for one or the other – or perhaps both – in your talk.)
“Open with care…”
Still, despite loving those tips, I don’t go quite as far as Marcus does on their use. Let me explain what I mean…
Here’s what he says in the video (at 1:49):
“…whenever you share a
stat in a presentation,
have the audience guess it…”
Most of the time, that’s great. But there’s a proviso I’d add…
That is, if you’re presenting face-to-face (rather than online), I suggest you “warm up” your audience before you use Marcus’s tips. By that I mean build some rapport with them, and/or give them some value (something they can use), before you make them “work” by guessing a statistic.
So – unless you ask rhetorically, or you’re presenting online (as discussed below) – I’d say it’s best to use Marcus’s tips only after your talk’s opening.
What about presenting online?
If you’re presenting online, it’s a bit different. That’s because people’ve become used to being “talked at” during webinars and other online sessions. So unless you engage them early (with some meaningful interaction) they’ll tune out – either metaphorically or literally.
So when you’re presenting online, during your opening, by all means ask people to guess a statistic you’re about to share. Or to guess what happens next in the story you’re telling.
Over to you
As I said, I love the tips in the video.
- But what do you think of Marcus’s tips?
- How likely are you to use them in your next talk?
Why not share your thoughts in the comments?
I’d love to hear your viewpoint.
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