Presenting in front of an audience can be terrifying. It can also produce an adrenaline rush akin to skydiving off the Burj Khalifa ( so I’ve heard ). However you embrace your particular style of presenting, there are definitive methods that work to ease interaction with your audience.
Adding humour and using props correctly can inject warmth into an icy room quicker than a knob of butter in a microwave.
I’ve also found that being cheeky works well, with caution! It’s all about knowing your audience, knowing what works and most importantly knowing when to deliver.
Ways to Encourage Audience Interaction
‘Going Rhino’ and encouraging people to get on their feet with a group fist pump works in certain circles, but if your audience is more interested in watching Netflix on their phones, what can you do? In theatre there is an imaginary barrier between the audience and the actors called the Fourth Wall. Make it your job to tear down that wall!
Break The Ice
Include your audience in your introductions by asking them to stand up and introduce themselves to the person next to them. Ask them to follow a simple relaxation technique ie- moving the head from side to side. These simple requests will indicate to the audience that the presentation will be interactive and you will be asking for participation.
Questions, Questions, Questions
Before the presentation begins ask the audience to write down a question they would like to ask. This opens the door to participation later on. In between slides or topics, pause and ask relevant questions, questions that you have already thought about. Don’t get caught out by an answer you weren’t prepared for.
Allow time for replies and word the questions in a way anyone can answer- ie “tell me about a good film”, as opposed to “tell me about your favourite film”. This puts a person on the spot and can make them feel incompetent.
Acknowledge the Audience Participation
A good speaker will share their story. A good presenter will allow the audience to share theirs. Whether it’s people up on stage, handing round a microphone or walking around the room yourself, there will always be someone who has a story to tell.
Never move on to the next point without recognising a participant’s input. If possible refer back to audience member’s input later on in the presentation.
Forbes magazine research has shown that
People will pay attention if they know that at some point, they’ll have to participate. And providing the audience the opportunity to interact with each other adds a peer learning dimension to a presentation.
For some audiences, group activities work well:
- A simple show of hands can ease people and set the ‘interactive’ mood
- Asking people to participate in a poll or an online survey at the beginning of the presentation keeps the interest
- Games involving role play are excellent for customer relations, sales situations and interpersonal reactions
- Group exercises open the doors to communication between audience members and the opportunity to learn from each other.
The Role of the Presenter
Be prepared for every eventuality. Remember that you are there to teach or share information so think about your audience and the most effective way to get this across.
I use humour quite a lot in my presentations, and I find being cheeky does work in my presentations. This comes from years of honing my craft and understanding the audiences I address.
Learning how to ‘be’ in front of an audience takes time and practise and for a bit of help there’s a half price offer on my video course on Presenting Skills, or check out my website for tips and tried and tested methods of audience engagement.