5 tips for speakers to improve audience engagement

Audience engagement should be the main focus of any presentation. Some speakers excel and some struggle to achieve it, but in this ‘new now’, where we have pivoted to virtual platforms, it is more important than ever to focus on capturing and keeping the attention of your audience.

There is pressure on a live audience to remain seated and pay attention. Not so for virtual presentations. Online, it’s especially easy to ‘lose’ your audience. An unengaging presentation may result in audience members dozing off or switching off.

We have previously discussed how to become a better virtual speaker, but today we are going to focus on what you can do to make your virtual presentations more engaging.

1. Lure your audience with a ‘hook’

The same holds true for presentations. Any time we are in front of any audience, virtual or face-to-face, it is a great idea to start with a hook, then reel the audience in and get them interested in knowing more.

Hooks can be many things: a simple question, a fun fact, or any other starter activity (Word clouds, polls). It’s a little something to get your audience interested in your presentation.

Experts say you only have 60 seconds to get your audience interested in what you are saying. So focusing on your presentation’s hook from the get-go is a great way to pique their interest before their attention can drift.

2. Create appealing slides

People tend to retain more if there are visuals. For example, a slide with dry data and numbers on it will not be as effective as a slide with diagrams, charts, or graphs when presenting your data.

Also, slides should not be text-heavy, as the audience is there to listen to you present, not to read your slides. If there is too much text on the slides, the audience will be busy reading them rather than listening to what you have to say — they can’t do both at the same time. Rather, your slides should be there to complement and help emphasize your words.

3. Focus on the key takeaways

You can revisit those key points on and off throughout your talk, but do it in a way that doesn’t make your entire presentation redundant. Instead, think of creative ways to include them in your presentation on multiple occasions.

Maybe you can create a fun engaging wrap-up activity around them? Or you could create a social media toolkit, including images representing these key takeaways, which your audience might like to share on their social media accounts post-event. This will also help spread your name.

4. Use Smartphones to your advantage

For example, you can use Mentimeter to help your audience brainstorm and create a word cloud out of their collaborative thoughts. There are many other ingenious apps to choose from.

Other engagement apps include polls, word clouds, break rooms, feedback forms, and so on. They can even be used for questions and answers, group activities, or as a presenter, you can invite input on your audience’s experiences.

5. Give perks to your audience

It would also be nice to have some concrete measurables, like an increased number of connections on your social media accounts, or even referrals for future speaking events. The best way to go about this is to give your audience a call to action, but include a reward or perk for them in it so that they have an incentive to respond.

A call to action can be something like following you on social media, sharing your social media toolkit with their contacts and followers, direct messaging you on a social media platform, or similar.

Perks can range from a one-on-one chat, to access to your eBook for free, or any other reward that you think will be of value to people and provide an incentive to respond to your call to action.

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This was originally posted on SpeakerHub Skillcamp.

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