In some “once upon a time,” could anyone just talk endlessly at an audience? Maybe audiences were more compliant “way back when.”
Lately, I think it is hard to find an audience that can be engaged by someone talking at them. People now interact daily with data and info. They expect to be a part of the creation of the conversation. You could complain because it’s more work to speak to an audience these days or you can actively engage them in the presentation. Here are some techniques to help you do that, to light a fire in your audience.
1. Invite listeners to share what they see and hear you speak.
When you want to really drive home a point after you present it, look at your audience and suggest, “I’d like to check in with you. Talk to someone near you and tell them what you are hearing right now. We’ll see if I am making any sense.” Do not be stern when you ask them to participate. Watch your audience cement your topic into their minds and see the energy they develop. You can repeat this several times. Keep their talking time short.
2. Let your audience share their ideas about your subject.
Try this at the start of your talk. Begin with, “Right now, we will be talking about (subject matter at hand). When have you encountered the ideas we are about to talk about? What was your reaction? How might (the topic) fit into your life? Share your thoughts about this with the person sitting near you.” As well, this fits at the end of your presentation when you can ask the audience to think of new memories you have triggered.
3. Let your audience make immediate use of your topic.
I was presenting a marketing workshop to some performers some time ago. It is fun and a challenge to talk about marketing with other artists. I first taught them about marketing materials then had them create some examples. Their small groups used paper and markers at the back of the room. While they did get to create samples of flyers and the like, they also were talking and absorbing more insights from each other. They had made the leap from just being an audience to being part of the creation of the workshop.
You can teach any subject matter you need to and still use the audience as part of the process. When you add senses to information, you increase the amount of information remembered. An engaged audience is a great audience. An engaged audience makes a better experience for the presenter, too.
I have has been teaching and performing since 1986. Find me at seantells.com This article originally appeared in a now-gone website back in 2010.