3 Ways to Engage All Audiences (NO MATTER WHAT YOUR TOPIC IS)

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3 Ways to Engage All Audiences (NO MATTER WHAT YOUR TOPIC IS)

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Actively engaging an audience during an F2F (face-to-face) presentation, speech, or training is not as difficult as you might think. All that matters is your commitment to do three simple things.

Contrary to what many presenters and trainers say, F2F audience engagement is NOT dependent upon group size, the room environment (theater-style seating versus table groups), or the topic you’re talking about. Keeping an audience interested and engaged really comes down to YOU taking the following three simple steps.

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What You Need to Do to Keep People Engaged

To actively engage your audience, follow these three steps:

1.  You have to STOP talking so that audience members have time to DO something: talk, read, write, draw, move.

2.  You have to give your audience SPECIFIC instructions so they know EXACTLY what to do and how long they have to do it.

3.  You have to CHOOSE activities that are both relevant and topic-related – no fun but irrelevant activities allowed!

How to Engage an Audience

Here are three quick ways to engage audiences in both theater-style and table-group seating:

LEARNING BUDDIES: Before beginning to speak about the topic, direct your audience to form a seated group (if in theater-style seating) with folks in front and behind them or seated near them. If they are already seated in table groups, skip this step. Then, instruct them to quickly introduce themselves to their “learning buddies” and to tell them one or two facts they already know about the topic. Give your audience two to three minutes to do this. Return to this activity by having the audience members chat with their “learning buddies” about what they’ve learned. Do this at least one or two more times during your presentation.

FOLLOW THE LEADER: After you’ve talked for about 20 minutes, stop the presentation and invite the audience to stand and do a quick stretch with you (you lead, they follow). Explain to them that this is an “oxygen break” – stretching gets more oxygen flowing to their brain. Then, direct them to form small standing groups of two to three people with the folks nearest them. If in theater-style seating, they can do this with people in front, behind, and to the side. Tell them to each take a turn leading a stretch while telling their standing group the most important thing they’ve learned so far. The others in their standing group are to “follow the leader” and mirror the stretch. When done, they thank their group and sit down.

WRITE IT DOWN: Before your presentation, hand out blank index cards. (Or small note-taking cards with fill-in-the-blanks that you created ahead of time.) When you’re talking about an important concept, say, “This is profound, so write it down.” Then, STOP talking and give your audience time to write down the major point you’ve just made. Or, give them the words they need to use to complete the fill-in-the-blanks card. On the back of the card, they can later write their “action plan” (how they plan to use what they’ve learned).

This article was reposted with permission from Training from the Back of the Room.

Sharon L. Bowman
Sharon Bowman

Sharon L. Bowman, MA, is the president of Bowperson Publishing & Training, Inc. An expert in the fields of accelerated learning, brain-based instruction, and participant-centered training, she has over 40 years of experience helping individuals to polish their presentations, improve their instructional skills, and develop exceptional professional development programs. Sharon has authored several HR books, including The Ten-Minute Trainer and Using Brain Science to Make Training Stick. High-energy and engaging, she is a popular speaker at industry events, including the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD) and Training conferences.

Connect with Sharon on LinkedIn.

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