Public Speaking and the Art of Audience Involvement

Effective public speakers come to grips with the reality that they need to employ a variety of techniques for ensuring that the audience stays focused, involved, and entertained. In this article, we will look at a number of techniques you can draw on to keep audience members involved in your presentation.

Exercises and Ice-breakers for Audiences

For speakers who prefer to have audience members interact with one another to get everyone loose (and perhaps awake), exercise variations are endless, including:

Some speakers have everyone in the room stand and meet one new person and exchange information such as why they are here today, what they hope to get out of the session, one unusual hobby they have, and so on so that participants have a better chance of remembering one another.

For long sessions with significant audience participation, speakers have directed audience members to find out even more about each other:

—Where they were born.
_What hobbies they have
—Where they went to school.
—If they have any brothers or sisters.
—Where they were first employed.
—Their favorite movie, book, food, and so on.

In all cases, the underlying goal is to have audience participants become more vocal and involved in the day’s proceedings. Giving everyone the chance to interact with everyone else, however brief and minor the exercise, can significantly increase the probability of greater audience participation for the balance of the presentation.

Audience Involvement and Being Yourself

Audience members have an instinctive capacity to immediately determine when someone is putting on an act. You’ve heard the expression, “Who you are speaks so loudly that I can’t hear what you say.” In front of a group, if you assume a persona that does not reflect the real you, people will feel uneasy.

If your focus is on you, it can’t be on the audience. So, your need for approval limits your ability to connect with your audience and strips you of any authority you may have had. However relevant your message, it comes across as less so.

How do you work yourself out of this dilemma? Rather than crawl for audience approval, strive to offer your approval to them. Sincerely acknowledge them for being there, for listening, for the work they undertake, for the challenges they face.

Your ability to embody your genuine self might be the single greatest factor in generating high levels of audience participation.

What’s in a Name?

In any type of speech or presentation, use names of audience members when it is practical to do so. If you are giving a keynote speech or a general session presentation, while you may not be able to actually see individuals or their name tags, undoubtedly you know the names of meeting organisers and top officials.

In smaller settings in which you are able to read name tags or place cards, freely use names throughout your presentation. Besides keeping people awake and alert, you also increase the odds of them staying tuned in to your presentation. Think about the times when you were in school and your teacher dropped your name into the middle of a sentence. Thereafter, you approached that lesson on a different plane. It is no different with adults today.

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