Monday, November 23, 2015

6 Tips to Engage Your Audience

You thought you had your speech worked out perfectly. The content, the cadence, and the visual aids all aligned perfectly. And yet, just a few minutes into your presentation, you start to notice a few audience members glazing over or nodding off.

How can you keep them plugged in? The good news is that you have several tools at your disposal that can help pull the audience in and keep them in. Some of them require preparation, so they might not all be an on-the-fly fix, but they can all help engage your audience.

Move Around

Audiences have a more difficult time tuning out an active speaker. Someone delivering a dry lecture from a stationary podium almost encourages the audience to ignore them. On the other hand, a mobile speaker causes the audience track their movements with their eyes which keeps them engaged with the speech as well. You can get bonus points if the setup of your venue allows you to leave the stage and move through the crowd itself.

Ask Questions

You can engage the audience directly by making them a participant. Ask them a question. Make them think. Encourage answers to be shouted out, and you have actually made your presentation into a form of conversation.

Take a Break

If things are hitting the snooze zone, your best bet may be to encourage a break, if time permits. Maybe you have been droning on too long. A quick, timed, break may result in an audience returning refreshed.

Have Playtime

Structure an activity into your presentation that requires the audience to participate, or even better, to get up and move around the room or auditorium. Then get interactive feedback on the results of the activity. Not only will the audience have an interruption that prevents them from snoozing in their chairs, but they might start to own some of the content themselves and find a higher level of buy-in to your message.


You know the old trick of looking just over the audience as you speak? It may help your nerves, but it kills your audience engagement. Instead, look your audience members in the eye (don't actually stare at one member too long) as you move through the content. See if they are engaged, and let them know you appreciate their attention.


Silence can work wonders. A pause in your presentation forms a natural break. Letting the pause hang for a few seconds longer than necessary, though, can pull even the sleepiest snoozer out of drone-monotone-talk-daze to wonder why your constant verbiage has stopped. Make yourself uncomfortable with the pause for a second or two and you've probably hit the right length.

There are many other ways to engage with an audience, but these quick tips should get you started. Remember, you want your presentations to be a conversation, even if you are doing most of the talking. The body language and other cues of your listeners should be responsive feedback on their end. Take it, run with it, and get your message out there.

Image credit: kherrmann via Pixabay