Last week a client mentioned that while people think she is a confident speaker, she often feels she is just giving a monologue. She wanted to know how to build audience engagement in a way that suits sophisticated business environment. It’s a darn unfair thing to say, but if you are boring yourself, you are likely to be boring your audience!
The generic answer to the problem is: Change what you are doing. If what’s going on feels too much like a one- way communication, you don’t have much to lose. This doesn’t mean you have to suddenly leap about the place or share your deepest soul-searching – just create a positive change.
Often just a small, low risk change will revive your audience (and you), whereas uniformity quickly disengages them. When you change what you are doing, you are altering the audience’s emotional ‘state’ and thus their learning.
Five easy tips for increasing audience engagement:
- Change your tone, or pace of voice
- Switch from abstract ideas or technical detail, by using an anecdote. Tell the story that lies behind the figures, the diagram, the recommendation.
- Vary your PowerPoint slides so that they build in something unexpected
- Shift the focus of communication to the audience and away from you. Do that by giving them something to discuss or share with the audience.
- Use analogy or metaphor. This enables the audience to see the content in a completely different context.
These are just five suggestions. You could easily find 25 more by just asking yourself the question: ‘Now want could I do to make this more engaging?’
Interestingly, while it will often take more time to prepare for better audience engagement, whatever option you choose will generally make the presentation a lot easier to deliver. Another rule of thumb is that if you are having fun, the audience is probably finding the presentation worthwhile.
There are some other interesting tips on building audience engagement at: Tips on Talking. A relevant book that we have recommended before is: ‘Made to Stick’, by Chip and Dan Heath.